Calm conditions for Cairns
  |  First Published: May 2017

The Net Free Zone between Trinity Inlet to Taylors Point in Cairns has continued to produce awesome fishing. Land-based anglers fishing the open beaches, especially Machans and Holloways, have been seeing excellent catches of barramundi, queenfish and salmon. One contributing factor has been the great spell of calm weather, which has produced ideal conditions to float big live baits into the gutters and creek mouths in this area.

While throwing hardbody lures up and down the beaches has been producing fish, live baiters are finding the better fish. Large mullet suspended by a float mid-water or on the bottom have been finding the attention of the bigger barramundi. When fishing this way, it’s best to tie a small stinger off the main hook using some heavy-duty mono. Adding a treble to your single hook will help achieve a better hook up, especially on barramundi that have a knack of throwing hooks.

Lure fishers have been having far more success fishing the headlands north around Yorkies Knob and Taylors Point. Most anglers are reporting sun up and sun down are the best times to target these areas, especially if the tide is starting to run-out at the same time. Many anglers fishing these spots will know the barramundi come into the rocks with many fish snared right at anglers’ feet.

When the fish are there it’s best to fish with a lighter drag as being so close to the rod tip you lose a lot of stretch, especially if you’re fishing braid. This can see hooks pulled or line broken, especially if you hook into a trophy extra oversized fish. The likes of big rolling lures like Gold Bombers and shallow running suspending lures like the Lucky Craft Pointers are finding really good success. Make sure to use at least a 40lb fluorocarbon trace when fishing around these places as your leader will cop plenty of punishment on the rocks.

On a side note, there have been some very large crocodiles out and about and being seen on a regular basis right up and down the NFZ. I have seen plenty of 3-4m crocodiles in very close proximity to both the beaches around Yorkies Knob and off the headlands, especially towards the northern end of the NFZ. If you fish these spots be very aware of your proximity to the water, as there are big crocs patrolling these areas.

For boaties the fishing has also been on the improve, especially in the creeks that feed into the NFZ. The inlet continues to produce some trophy golden snapper. Many people are unaware that they are very much under threat from commercial netting, especially around the southern headlands of the NFZ. The lack of nets has seen good numbers for recruitment and 40-60cm fish. These fish are being caught on rubble patches on live bait. Squid is best. Vibes and soft plastic prawns are also proving effective on the wrecks and bottom structure in the inlet. Large fish are being encountered, including a 92cm model – a beast of a fish!

The mouth and hospital flats of the inlet have also been producing some very large barramundi. Those who have been willing to spend the time to find the fish and then pepper them until they feed, have found themselves hooked up to some trophy-sized barramundi. If you’re fishing these areas look for the large concrete slabs, which are dotted through this area. This is a good place to start finding fish.

There has been lots of movement from prawns in this area and this is what the fish have been feeding on. Copy this pattern.

Land-based anglers along the Cairns Pier have also seen plenty of excellent numbers of barramundi, grunter and even golden snapper from the wharves, which shows just how healthy the fishing is here.

The Barron River has been producing the goods, especially at night towards the mouth. Those using fresh herring bait are finding decent salmon, both blue and king. There have also been some better than average catches of barramundi on 4-6” paddle-tail plastics. Jack numbers have also been good in this area.

The NFZ continues to show good success and it’s important to share your catches of the NFZ using the #lovemyNFZ and #thisisqueensland tags, so get posting. The first couple of years have shown excellent recruitment and this is the key to its success. The number of 50-60cm barramundi getting around shows that numbers of fish are improving and they are being given the time and space to grow up and breed. Combine this with a good wet season and we should see numbers explode and fish sizes increase, which will be a benefit for everyone.

I am currently in the process of working with Fisheries to develop some basic fishing trails for the Cairns NFZ, so I’ll keep you posted about when these will be released.
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