Extended shelf life
  |  First Published: February 2017

The build up to the wet season has been progressing nicely since the start of the year with decent rainfalls falling across the region without causing any major flooding. It is what many would call a traditional wet season.

In fishing terms, this translates to a transitional period of new life from the ground up with plenty of food available along the coastal systems and extending out to the Great Barrier Reef.

Inshore, the rains have stirred up the rivers and creeks and in between the heavy rainfall when the water settles, this has been prime time to target our predatory species. These species include mangrove jack amongst the snags and now the barramundi, which are now in open season since 1 February. The two iconic species have welcomed the abundance of fresh bait like prawns and other small fry and have been a regular catch for those who have collected similar live bait or used similar imitation lures.

The mouths of smaller feeder creeks running into the main stretch of water have been great spots and the edge where the dirty water meets the clean has been the ideal strike zone. Out in the mainstream, there has been a steady supply of mid-sized queenfish and trevally and they have been most active when the waters begin to clear. Small soft plastics and hardbodied lures have been successful.

With a lot of new bait showing up, the beaches have really come on and we’ve seen tarpon, queenfish, trevally and now barramundi. There has also been a lot of shark activity, as groups of small sharks have been born in the shallows and they smashing the bait. Black tip and bull sharks have all been quite active, especially later in the day. The next couple of months should see a few big GTs enter into the shallows taking advantage of the rich food supply.

Further offshore, the rains have assisted in revitalising the reef scene, with a wide range of species biting with more regularity. Coral trout have been consistent, with the nannygai, both small and large-mouth, also improving considerably following the hot dry spell.

On top of these species, there’s always your bread and butter species on the chew. These have included sweetlip, Moses perch, stripies and various trevally species. The cobia have continued to show up consistently and their numbers have been really good for over six months now. The Spanish mackerel have almost dried up completely, with only the odd big rogue one being caught here and there. Even light tackle efforts trolling lures have often gone unrewarded in and around the outer reefs.

On the shelf, there has been some good light tackle sportfishing on offer. Mahimahi numbers have been great, with some big bulls reaching 15kg and the yellowfin tuna up to 25kg also in the mix. Searching for bird life on the surface has been key, and they tend to feed off the skipjack tuna schools. There have been some decent sailfish caught along the outer reef edges, but they seem to be the only billfish around, as black marlin numbers have dried up.

Looking ahead, the big question is how much rain are we going to get this year? Too much rain can shut down our fishery. The other big question is what sort of cyclone activity are we going to see this year? Predicted forecasts suggest we might see a bit of both. If so, the fishing will be best in between these dark periods when conditions settle, and quite often, it is red-hot.

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