Cooktown region reefs have the goods
  |  First Published: March 2017

As we edge into autumn we begin to feel the gradual change in the Cooktown region. With luck the humidity levels will start to decline and the cooler days will be a reprieve from the hot and steamy summer.

March marks the inverse relationship between the temperature and wind. The endless days of winds under 10knots are sadly over and as the temperature drops, we must patiently wait for the ideal conditions to return. By the end of March or start of April, our healthy wet season usually begins to dissipate, however it has been known to hang around a little longer at times.

The change in season will bring the first of the tourists. These aren’t your normal visitors that roll in to see the sights. These visitors are serious barramundi anglers with a convoy of vehicles, boats and boat trailers that are well equipped for the off-roading that lies ahead of them. These specialised fishing men and women are clearly focused on being the first ones cutting and winching their way into certain locations to catch the big run-off barra. Most of these adventurers head straight up the Peninsula Development road to locations like Weipa, Old Mapoon or the Northern Peninsula area, only to disperse into the bush as not many communities or National Parks will have authorised access on their roads at this early stage after the wet.

Even with wind speeds on the rise, the Cooktown region’s fishing highlights have been out on the reef. The calmer days have given boats both big and small an opportunity to head out and capitalise on our beautiful reef systems. The usual catches of coral trout, largemouth nannygai and Spanish mackerel have been dominating the eskies.

Anglers sticking closer to the coastline have been hooking onto some nice finger mark by fishing a rubbly bottom with a little structure – a haven for these top quality table fish. A lot of locals made it out to the Ribbons or to the untouched ground up north during the perfect weather windows and have had great success catching fish that look like they come straight out of Jurassic Park. Finding the rubble in 40m+ has seen some nice runs of red and spangled emperor with the pleasant by-catch of goldband snapper.

Cobia also have been showing up on the end of our lines this month but targeting methods have been unpredictable. Sometimes they have been hooked on the drop, sight-casted from the boat or snagged while trolling shallow divers chasing mackerel. Regardless of how they have been caught, they have been a happy addition to the esky.

Big downpours mean the estuaries in the Cooktown region have been pumping out lots of freshwater. This gives the barra that were trapped in freshwater holes and lagoons the opportunity to make their way down their way down to the estuaries thanks to the floods showing them the way. These dirty water estuaries will fish best around the first few kilometres of the mouth or out around the headlands near the river mouths. For example, in the Endeavour River at Cooktown’s wharf, you will find the under-development seawall and snags up as far as Marton including the Stonewall. These are all producing some nice barra. On the turn of the low, some nice queenfish action can be had in the shallows around the mouth of the Annan. The large tides and plenty of run have seen lots of grunter scoffing up humble dead baits such as pilchards and prawns.

It would be crazy not to throw a few crab pots in at this time of year too. Plenty of muddies are out and about with regular reports of people reaching their bag limit of bucks while running their pots over a couple of days.

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