Weather’s warming up in Cooktown
  |  First Published: October 2016

Cooktown’s breeze has shown signs of backing off, enough for boats to begin hitting the reefs. Currently we’re averaging winds below ten knots one day a fortnight. If you manage to align one of these lulls in the winds with the weekend, then make the most of the reefs. If the lull in the winds falls during the working week, then have your gear pre-prepared and hit the reefs straight after work. Fishing the reefs yields good success at this time of year, because the reefs have had plenty of time to recover and replenish during bad boating weather in winter.

Coral trout is being caught according to various reports. To catch this delicious table fish, try hanging your anchor near coral bombies. Float pilchard baits down beside the bombies and use only enough lead to get to the bottom. Another method for catching coral trout is to bounce soft plastics or small metal jigs around structure. However, this can become expensive once you’ve been bricked on the reef a couple of times. Coral trout can be found in depths from 0.5-40m.

Troll a couple of hardbody lures around the reef fringes for pelagics, and search the bottom with your sounder for structure holding fish. Once you’ve found some good places to hang the anchor, don’t forget to put a float line out the back for passing Spanish mackerel. Lately, I’ve caught more mackerel using this technique, rather than trolling lures. That’s not usually the case.

The water is crystal clear around the river headlands and estuaries at the moment. Queenfish have been chasing the bait right up into estuaries and 1m specimens are being caught. Trevally can be caught in prolific numbers using the same method as chasing queenies. Down towards the mouth of the Annan River is a well-known spot to find these sporty crusaders.

Another good spot to fish for queenies and mackerel is at Cooktown’s Wharf, or the open beaches if the winds allow you to get a cast in. Using metallic coloured poppers is one of my favourite methods. You can see the queenies and trevally busting the surface while chasing the poppers. Metal slugs with a high-speed retrieve are also effective for these speedy crusaders.

The water has warmed up for the barramundi and mangrove jacks. Some quality catches have come from the wharf in Cooktown. Simply send down live bait around the pylons and wait. Landing big fish at the wharf can be an issue around many oyster-covered pylons. If you have a boat, head up any of the rivers and work the snags for barramundi and jacks. Use lures, soft plastics or live baits.

Barramundi will be actively chasing their meals to fatten up in time for the breeding season, and that’s a pretty good reason to get in there and chase a few. Remember, only take what you need for a meal and let the rest go. We are now in our last month of catching barramundi before the season closes at midday on 1 November , so get amongst it while you can. Chasing mangrove jacks, mudcrabs and other estuary species up the rivers or around the wharf is still awesome after 1 November.

Lakefield National Park will be quite warm for camping during October. The warm weather chases most of the crowds away and you’ll have a lot of the campsites to yourself. If you choose to go to the park at this time of year, make sure you have plenty of shade, drinking water and an emergency kit, because there are no facilities except Kalpowar. There’ll be less people around for help too.


The author’s solo trip produced his first barramundi cod. This fish was released after the pic.


Paul and Alice with a nice cobia.

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