The temperatures, both air and water, should start to ease this month, bringing much needed relief from the heat. The fish will be as happy about it as the humans, so expect things to start to become more active on the piscatorial front.
The best of the fishing will come later in the month and into May, but there will certainly be plenty on offer for those on school holidays and everyone over the Easter long weekend. The only dampener could be the damp itself, with a high likelihood that the full moon over the Easter weekend will coincide with the return of the monsoon trough and associated rain.
The fishing recently has been quite productive, while not setting the place alight. Trinity Inlet continues to fish well and there is every indication that the Net Free Zone is proving to be an outstanding success. There hasn’t been a week go by this year where trophy fish have not been recorded from the inlet, mostly aboard the numerous fishing charter boats. Locals have also been getting in on the action though, with quality barra, golden snapper and grunter making it to local dinner plates.
Barra have been reasonably consistent, both in the inlet and along the headlands to the north and south. During periods of calm and clear weather, the headlands have certainly produced. When the skies have opened up, the rivers and creek mouths, drains and Cairns Inlet have taken main stage. Most barra have been in the 50-80cm range, but there have been a few trophy barra in the milestone metre plus range. The barra have been falling to both lures and live baits, with neither taking a dominant role. Soft plastics fished slow and deep have been a winner, as have soft vibes fished around structure. On the live bait scene, prawns, sardines, mud herring and mullet have all produced the goods at various times.
Golden snapper have seemed more interested in live baits than lures of late but that can change at any time. Add live squid to the aforementioned list of live baits and you have golden snapper favourites covered as well. Golden snapper have been found off most of the same headlands and Trinity Inlet haunts as the barra, while others have been frequenting the inshore reefs, islands, wrecks and rocks.
The reef has been surprisingly accessible of late with extended periods of calm weather, though squalls and storms have certainly kept anglers on their toes. Overnighters have been less popular than day trips, mainly due to the uncertainty of the weather. Coral trout have been the staple but there have also been largemouth nannygai and the odd red emperor coming from the deeper gutters and rubble.
Reef fishing should continue to improve through April as waters cool and fish start to school up more. Finding bait schools will be the key to finding any concentration of reefies, otherwise it will just be a fish here and there. It’s worth spending extra time looking for bait holding on good country rather than wasting a lot of time having to move regularly due to a lack of action. Find good bait on good country and be patient waiting for the bite to get going. In the deeper water largemouth nannygai will start to be taken in better numbers. Fish in the 6-9kg range are not uncommon this month, so make sure you have the gear to handle them and get them up in double quick time to try and reduce the shark tax. Sharks will continue to be a liability both inshore and offshore and are persistently pillaging hooked fish
Mackerel will become more prevalent as the water cools but will still be holding down deep to avoid the warmer waters. Make sure, whatever method you are using, you are getting your offering down into the bottom third of the water column. Deep trolled gar, mullet and wolf herring will all be worth a tow, as will live baits and deep diving minnows. Down riggers and paravanes are ideal to get your presentation down where the action will be when trolling. Tossing out a pilchard when bottom fishing is surprisingly productive at times. If there is a bit of current, use a sinker on up to a metre of mono trace to get the bait down deep.
Depending on what has fallen from above, the estuaries and rivers will be worth a bait fish for grunter, jacks and trevally. If there has been a fair bit of rain and a flush of fresh in the systems, stick around the mouth. The top of the tide will often see plenty of fish push back into the systems in search of an easy feed. If the streams remain clear, then go looking for jacks upstream around any heavy cover. Fishing a combination of dead and live baits will increase your chances of nailing a barra, golden snapper, or mangrove jack.
Prawns have been around Cairns Inlet and the hospital flats since early February and should continue through April, so always have the castnet handy and be on the lookout for the isolated flicking prawns. A single skipping prawn can often be the only indicator of large schools below.
Chasing mud crabs is always a popular Easter pursuit and this year should be no different. They tend to get a pretty big hiding over the Easter long weekend so I’d try and get in early if you are hopeful of success.Reads: 162