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Loving the successful Net Free Zone
  |  First Published: April 2017



When the Trinity Bay Net Free Zone was established two years ago, its main objective was to increase recreational fishing opportunities in Cairns, thereby supporting tourism and economic growth. Two years down the track the evidence of its success is overwhelming.

Not only have fish numbers increased significantly with the absence of commercial netting, so have the number of recreational anglers who have flocked to the NFZ areas, as the area is seeing a return to what the fishing was like in Cairns decades ago. Stretching from the Trinity Inlet 20km north to the edge of Cook Bay, Kewarra Beach, the Trinity Bay Net Free Zone is significant, because it caters to all anglers and most styles of recreational fishing.

Whether you are fishing land-based along one of the many open beaches or up the Trinity Inlet or Barron River in a boat, the Net Free Zone provides a haven for recreational anglers to enjoy world-class fishing for world-class fish species in a sustainable way.

What’s being caught in the Net Free Zone and what areas have been firing of late? Starting at the northern end of the zone, the headlands and rocky outcrops from the Taylors Point boundary south to Yorkeys Knob have been producing some excellent catches of barramundi.

Fish up to and over the magical metre mark have been falling to anglers fishing in around 3-5m of water close to the headlands. Large live baits, especially mullet, around 20-30cm have been the choice baits for the larger fish. These baits are proving the most effective when suspended by floats in mid water. The barramundi in this area are typically moving up and down this stretch of water hunting bait, so it pays to put in the time, as they will eventually move through and find your bait.

Moving south, Moon Creek has been producing smaller barramundi, mostly from the mouth down to where it begins to branch off and taper into the narrow creek. These smaller fish are holding just off the main snags and are responding best to vibe style lures worked along the bottom. The run-out tide is producing the best results.

Moving south of Yorkeys Knob along the Machans and Holloways beaches, plenty of land-based anglers have been targeting the creek mouths of the Barron River and Thomatis Creek with live baits fished into the sandy gutters for excellent catches of blue salmon, threadfin, queenfish and some very large barramundi. Live baits such as whiting, mullet and herring have been proving deadly on both the incoming and outgoing tides.

The salmon run has been outstanding this year and anglers have reported massive numbers not seen for decades. For boaties, the shoal, sandy, grit area between Thomatis Creek and the Barron mouth has produced outstanding barramundi and threadfin on baits, lures and vibes. Those taking the time to sound up schools of fish and target them until they bite have had the best results.

Clean water also seems to be an important factor when chasing fish in these areas. Moving to the bottom end of the Net Free Zone, the Trinity Inlet has been by far the most improved fishery across the entire zone. Catches of big barramundi along the hospital flats, Hills Creek Mouth and along the southern flats are regular occurrences this season for both live bait and lure fishers.

Barra are not the only fish being caught in big numbers. There have also been some amazing numbers of quality golden snapper up to 70cm being snared from the inlet mouth right through the broadwater, which is a testament to the impact the absence of commercial netting is having in key spawning and aggregation points along the Net Free Zones.

While the NFZ has seen some significant recruitment of species such as barramundi and threadfin, other just as important sportfish species that are susceptible to netting such as queenfish and tripletail have also seen a dramatic increase. Numbers of fish are on the rise and so are the quality of fish. Massive fish have been amongst them.

If you do catch a fish in the NFZ in Trinity Bay and you want to contribute to promoting its success, post your picture on social media and use #LoveMyNFZ and #ThisIsQueensland. Both link to important fishery and tourism stakeholders who are itching to further promote NFZ.

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