Reef fishing in Cape York
  |  First Published: December 2016

Fishing reef and offshore areas on Cape York’s east coast will be the pick of the options for fishers. Heading out wider than usual is possible during much of the year – however, storms on the horizon can be a constant companion. Rewards in the deeper reef areas and current convergences will go to those rigged with trolling lures, surface lures, metals slices, soft plastics and jigs. After a long and hot dry season, January will be a crucial month in breaking the rain deadlock, with early rain models suggesting a transition year between El Niño and La Niña, we could be in for yet another wet season across the far north.

Cyclone seasons tend to be hard to predict, and no doubt there will be a few flurries circling around either the Gulf or Coral Sea. Typically, January will be a good indicator month for how much rain will fall in the following months. There will often be a lag period between a good or bad wet season and the corresponding fishing. Typically years with a lot of monsoonal rain fish better than those without. Those torrential downpours required to stimulate food webs and enable fish recruitment into fresh and brackish waters will typically come between January and April. With warm water temperatures, shallow bays and reef areas can stagnate a little. Fish such as coral trout, stripies, tuskfish, tricky snapper, golden snapper and spangled emperor will still be feeding around shallow reefs and shoals. Deeper grounds will be more likely to yield red emperor, nannagai, jobfish, large cod and even some pelagic species more typical of shallow areas.

Looking for pinnacles and isolated lumps in areas deeper than 35m will be productive up the East Coast, adjacent to the large barrier reefs marked on the charts. Contour lines and deep shoal patches are a great place to begin your search and returning to marks, which looked good during the cooler months, but failed to fire. Large blue-spot trout and leopard trout can be targeted with jigs and baits on these deeper spots. In the gulf of Carpentaria, offshore spots such as isolated rock lumps and rubble patches will be the stand outs, especially in water deeper than 20m. Fish such as longtail tuna and Spanish mackerel may have moved well offshore this time of year, only to return inshore once conditions settle back into dry-season patterns. Look for flocks of birds on the horizon once you’re a few nautical miles offshore.

Fly fishers walking the deserted beaches of the West Coast will be rewarded this time of year. Flat morning conditions coupled with clean water will make sight fishing a pleasure. Silver flashes and dark smudges can be clearly sighted with the sun behind you – especially on mornings clear of heavy cloud. Shrimp and small baitfish presentations will tempt most fish in feeding mode up on the flats – Just be a bit wary of box jellyfish and other dangerous critters swimming around this time of year.

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