March is usually a great month to be in Cape York. Devoid of crowds and with the barra season well and truly open, wet roads and raging rivers will be the only thing stopping anglers getting amongst them.
History tells us that the Cape York Peninsula Development Road and others leading into Lakefield National Park may still be closed throughout March so it is a lottery. Unless something changes in the supposed ‘higher than normal cyclone activity’ (which has so far seen zero cyclones in the Gulf or Coral Sea) then March might be on the cards for early dry season access.
The fishing can be spectacular for most estuary species as weather conditions begin to level out and the southeasterly trade wind patterns emerge. The smaller barramundi, spawned in the past couple of wet seasons will be busy putting on weight down in the lower reaches picking off sardines, prawns and anything they can fit in their bucket mouths.
Fishing the afternoon high tides, particularly around the mangroves at the mouth of most creeks and shallow bays, will be very productive. Try and time your trip around the change of tide. You’ll find the first hour or so of tide rushing out is one of the most productive times. Many of the mangrove creeks will be pushing out extra fresh water this time of year, acting as huge drains back into the main system. These spots can be dynamite with poppers and shallow divers. Fish them long and slowly twitched across the draining current.
If you find barra holding in a particular spot out in the open, concentrate your casts on that spot over and over, as bringing more fish onto the bite is a distinct possibility with barra. When a fish comes from a certain indentation in the bank, concentrate on that spot for at least a few more casts. If no more strikes come from this, wait a few minutes and try again. March is a month where those willing to fish likely spots over and over and at various stages of the tide will be rewarded with good numbers of fish.
Moving upstream and into the upper reaches of many west coast river systems, larger fish will be on offer around deeper snag piles, rockbars and wetland drains. Fishing larger, brightly coloured divers, vibes and soft plastics will account for some of the bigger barra caught each year. At times in March there can be a large weed-release from the freshwater reaches of the bigger rivers. This can halt the barra fishing altogether on occasion. If this happens, hang your lures up and move back downstream into tidal influence.
Shallow snag piles and mangrove roots will also fish well at this time of year, with baitfish and prawns congregating in these areas as the tide recedes. Slowly twitched shallow divers and snagless plastics will get the small barra fired up and you never know when a 70-80cm model might show up and cause mayhem. Jacks, golden snapper and threadfin salmon will also feed in the same areas, making a very rewarding mixed bag when the stars align. By-catch of brassy trevally, queenfish, bream, cod and catfish will all feed in only a few feet of water as the tide moves off the bank.
March is a great month to fish and explore the creeks and rivers of Cape York. Everything is alive and green and waterholes are full of wildlife. The temperature and fishing can be equally hot and the roads soft. Be safe, take plenty of drinking water and be croc wise when fishing isolated waterholes.
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