Even the fish are trying to stay cool
  |  First Published: February 2017

If last February is any indication of what’s to come, then the word for it will be ‘hot’ and not the fishing. We’re hoping for the other big performer in February – rain! February is traditionally one of the wettest months in Cairns and if we don’t get the rain, we are sure to get the heat.

Barra will be the fish on most anglers’ minds this month. While barra don’t mind warm temperatures, they also don’t like excessive heat. Hopefully we had enough rain in January to allow them to spawn in peace before anglers and netters descend upon them. While the Net Free Zone from False Cape to Taylors Point protects barra in Trinity Inlet and the Barron River, there are plenty of other places where netters can wreak havoc on breeding stocks.

Anglers looking to open their barra account for the year will have plenty of options, with the best determined by the prevailing weather conditions. If there hasn’t been sufficient rain to trigger a spawning, the headlands will be a good place to start. Last year they were relatively quiet, in spite of low rainfall. Last February, the most productive barra grounds were in the deep waters of Trinity Inlet, as barra sought refuge from the heat by going deep. Soft vibes, soft plastics, prawn imitations and live baits fished around structure were the top techniques in the inlet.

Here’s hoping there has been significant rain and the barra have dispersed back into the streams. If this is the case, focusing around drains and creeks flowing into the main stream is the way to go. Look for any colour change, as barra use this for ambush. If there is no colour change, work the current line where the two streams converge. Bright coloured lures, along with silver and gold, work well in these conditions.

If barra are proving too big a challenge, a bit of sedate bait soaking for grunter is a good way to relax through the heat. The monster morning high tides in the lead up to the full moon on the 11th and the big morning high tides before the new moon on the 27th will be the best times to focus on grunter fishing, especially on the hospital flats out the front of Cairns Inlet.

The last half of the run in and the first of the falling tide are the best times for grunter. Right up the top of the inlet, on the shale and rubble, is another area worth checking out. Fresh strip baits of mullet, gar, sardines, mud herring, squid or cuttlefish will all work at various times. Another go to bait is peeled prawns. It’s best to buy half a kilo of small eating prawns from a seafood outlet if you can’t buy locally caught prawns from one of the tackle stores. Make sure you buy wild caught prawns, not aquaculture prawns. If humans can taste the difference, imagine what it must be like for fish!

If the prawns have arrived on the beaches, creeks or inlets, then the salmon won’t be far behind. Northeasterly winds are another good indicator that salmon could be around. Prawns are an obvious salmon bait. They are also partial to mullet, sardines and mud herring, dead or alive. Luring can also be productive at times and is a bit more challenging.

If flicking the snags and rock patches chasing barra and jacks is more your style, then the afternoon low tides around the full and new moons are the pick of times. Cast deep into the structure with prawn imitations, soft plastics and deep diving minnows. Work the lure actively with minimal retrieve in the early stages to maximise your time in the strike zone. Look for shady areas and give these spots the most attention, as fish, like humans, will be seeking shelter from the heat.

February is a good time for land-based anglers to focus on the run-through creeks common to all our beaches. A combination of big tides and rain invariably see these creeks open to the ocean this month and signal one of the few times of the year when it’s worth fishing the beaches close to Cairns.

Most of the year the beaches are pretty light on for action. When the creeks are open and the bait is moving, predators are on the prowl. The top and bottom of the tide are the best times to look for some beach fishing action. The more bait action there is, the more likely you are to have success.

The inshore islands, wrecks, reefs and wonky holes are all worth a look this month for golden snapper, nannygai, trevally and cobia. Live baits are the best option but jigging soft plastics, soft vibes and micro-jigs can also prove very productive at times. Dawn and dusk are the best times, not only for action but also for comfort. Dawn is by far the best of the two simply because the winds are lighter. Summer is characterised by an afternoon sea breeze, as the scorching land becomes hotter than the warm water.

The reef fishing will greatly depend on the weather. If you get a chance to head east, deep water is the best option. Fish like coral trout will be avoiding the high water temperatures up shallow, so fishing from 40m and deeper is the most productive method. There is usually no big run of any species and a wide range of species on offer.

A major consideration this month is managing the hot conditions. If fishing through the day, drink plenty of water, apply sunscreen regularly and cover up with a hat and long sleeve shirt. Wet your hat and shirt regularly with cool freshwater. Once you start wetting down you have to keep it up, otherwise your clothes turn into a sauna. Make sure you have ample water before beginning. Saltwater will do the job, but tends to leave you feeling sticky and clammy, while freshwater is a bit more refreshing. Arafat style hats are ideal for this, as they can be dipped regularly in a bucket, to conserve water.

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