December usually heralds the build-up to the wet season and here’s hoping we actually get one this summer. Typically, the weather will be a combination of hot, calm days, storms and sudden downpours. Whichever one dominates will significantly impact the fishing.
In the main it will be hot and still, so fishing tactics need to be adjusted to accommodate the conditions. If you are feeling hot and bothered, so are the fish, so stick to the cool times for best results. Changes from the searing heat will be what sparks the fish, like with the human population, so fish around any weather change, especially storms and down pours. If there is an extended period of doldrums, then dawn, dusk and night time are the right times, with the change of tide, along with moon rise and moon set, the best fish stimulants.
The reef will be inviting during these calm periods, but there are a few hazards to be aware of. Overheating in the middle of the day is an often overlooked but a real hazard, so if it’s a day trip, find some shade and cool off regularly through the worst of it. Overnighters are definitely the pick comfort-wise, but be very aware of the possibility of storms. Keep a very close eye on the horizon and the weather radar, as storms can built rapidly and come from any direction.
Even the tiniest red or black spot on the radar can pack a real punch, so be prepared to make a run for it, if necessary. Squalls are another consideration and can contain some incredibly strong winds in the build up to the wet, so if the radar is showing a lot of small rain patches, take care.
Reef fishing this month will generally be a bit patchy, with no species dominating proceedings, with the possible exception of trevally or sharks. Bottom fish will not be schooling in big numbers and so it will require a bit of moving about to build a feed.
If you pick up a few fish on a spot and it goes quiet, or the picker fish, sharks or trevally take over, it’s time to move. Trevally can often dominate the action at the reef this month. While the focus won’t be on quantity, there should be a bit of quality on offer, especially with trout and large mouth nannygai. Be in a good location for the tide change, as it will often spark a bit of action. There will also be a sprinkling of red emperor, spangled emperor, mangrove jack, cod, stripeys, Moses perch, cobia and cod, depending on the day and location.
Pelagic action can often be better than the bottom fishing this month, so those who prefer to chase ocean speedsters can expect to rustle up some action, with yellowfin tuna, wahoo, dolphin fish and Spanish mackerel out wide, along with a few left over black marlin and the odd sailfish. Giant trevally will be patrolling the reef edges, pressure points, wrecks, pinnacles and current lines, so adrenaline junkies can get their fill chasing them with surface poppers.
The inshore rocks, wrecks, reefs and wonky holes will hold a few quality largemouth nannygai and the golden snapper will be around for those prepared to put in the time and effort. There will also be the odd monster cod trying to steal your catch.
The very large tides around the full moon on 14 December should be enough to open up the breakthrough creeks along the beaches, especially if it coincides with a bit of rain. Once these creeks open up, there will be some action for land-based anglers around the mouths, especially towards the top of the tide. Creek mouths holding bait will be the best bet if you have the mobility to check out a couple of creeks. The northerlies should bring the salmon in and they have been around in much bigger numbers since the Net Free Zone was established just over a year ago.
The estuaries can be an uncomfortable place to be at this time of year, so forget about fishing office hours. Light winds and searing heat make a pretty poor fishing formula, especially if you throw in a few sand flies and mosquitoes for flavour! If a pre-dawn start is too much for the body, then hitting the water after 4pm and fishing into the early evening is the next best option. The afternoon sea breeze invariably kicks in and an afternoon shower or storm freshens everything up and stirs the fish from their slumber.
Mangrove jack relish these steamy conditions and an afternoon or early morning spent flicking the snags and rock bars with soft plastics, prawn imitations and small, flashy, hardbodied lures will see you with a hot chance of nailing a red devil. Just like humans and dogs, fish will seek the shade when it’s hot, so concentrate on working shady mangrove bank overhangs, heavy snags and rock areas that are in the shade. Anywhere where there is shelter in the water and shade over the water will be worth an investigation.
Golden snapper are another great fish to chase over the Christmas period, but are not a fish to target on a family outing. If you are taking the kids out on the water, stick to the smaller, more plentiful targets, like bream, grunter and small trevally, which will be moving around the estuaries. Golden snapper are for those prepared to put in the time and effort. Live bait and lures are the only real option in the Cairns area and at night is the right time.
Live prawns, mullet, sardines, mud herring and squid are all prime baits. The bite is usually intense but short-lived, so chasing these mangrove jack on steroids requires a lot of patience, but readiness for sudden action. It’s sudden death fishing, with the battle often won or lost in a heartbeat. Deep rough bottom sections in the estuaries, rock headlands, deep rocky areas, coral edges, wonky holes and wrecks are their favourite haunts.
Those in need of a barra fix can head to Tinaroo Dam, but be careful of the trees with such low water. Unless there is a major weather event between writing and publication, there is a six-knot speed limit on the dam, with a limited exception area for skiing until further notice. The full moon in mid-December will be the best time to hit Tinaroo and you have the added bonus of being able to safely jump in for a cool off.Reads: 477