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Santa’s endless mixed bag of species
  |  First Published: December 2016



The New Year in the tropics means great fishing on the reefs, in the bays and up the rivers. Wherever you choose to go, pack plenty of extra water and find shade, because it gets hot. When you pack, keep a close eye on the weather forecasts, because an odd storm can pass over and dump a lot of rain in a short amount of time. If this happens, the roads will become very greasy and slippery. You might need a couple of extra days to get out of some locations while you wait for the flooded causeways to recede.

From this time of year through to March, the winds taper down and there can be complete stillness for a few days. If this happens, the ocean surface completely glasses out and boaties can travel great distances. Adventurous anglers willing to go the distance can be rewarded with Jurassic Park size fish. Make sure everything is mechanically up to scratch and you’re well equipped for any unforeseen incidences, because help could be some time away before they get to you.

On the reefs, try fishing deeper in the water column if the conditions are calm. Coral trout, nannygai and Spanish mackerel are the most common catches for boaties. Anglers who know what to look for usually come home with quality size fish with the species I mentioned. They might throw in some red emperor catches as well. If it’s your first time off Cooktown, try trolling around the reef fringes for mackerel and log any fish-holding bommies you pass over while you cruise along.

Once you’ve got a few mackerel, go back and fish the structures you’ve just plotted. Spangled emperor, coral trout, nannygai, reef jacks and tuskfish are common keepers for this fish searching technique. There are loads more species that are great to eat too. While you’re hanging on your bommie and bottom fishing, try floating a livie out the back for cobia, Spanish mackerel or even a marlin at this time of year.

The estuaries in the Cooktown region have great mangrove jack fishing at the moment and this will only get better through this month and January. Throw soft plastics around the snags for jacks, or try berleying into snags and rock bars while floating strip baits down the berley trail for these red dogs.

Mud crab catches are reported more often now and the Annan River produces more frequent catches of full bucks. Have your crab pots ready to run out in the drains after a good shower of rain. Queenfish and big trevally are also quite prolific throughout the river systems, terrorising baitfish. Weightless live baits and trolling shiny metallic lures are the best methods to catch these sporty crusaders. Mackerel are still being caught from Cooktown Wharf with weightless live baits for those land-based fishers.

Lakefield National Park has produced quality barra catches for this year’s annual Sovereign Hotel Barra Competition in Cooktown. All those who entered had a lot of fun and many won awesome prizes, including a new boat that was up for grabs. This year more than doubled last year’s attendance, which clearly indicates this competition is going to become a major event that people will travel miles to attend.

If you would like current information while you’re visiting Cooktown’s region, or more information about a particular place in the neighbourhood to fish, then simply like my Facebook page, Stacky’s Fishing Adventures, or send me a message.

Picture courtesy of Sovereign Hotel.

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