Reel action not far from the shore
  |  First Published: June 2017

The seasons have changed. Days are getting shorter, water temperatures have dropped, currents have altered, the southeast trade winds are with us and we are into the next stage of winter fishing. There is a lot to look forward to despite some of our more popular species (such as barra) taking a back seat for a while.

The Reefs

Focus will turn to the reef where bottom dwelling species are already fully engaged and the pelagic fishing will turn up a notch for some light tackle game fishing. Spanish mackerel will lead the list along with its cousins, the spotted, school and doggie varieties. To date the mackerel numbers have been steadily increasing and the next 2-3 months will see them peak. How good a mackerel season it is going to be is yet to be determined but there are positive indicators it will be solid. Interestingly, small black marlin started bobbing up periodically a couple of months ago and they are now due to hit their straps. The grounds south of Port Douglas extending down to Fitzroy Island will see a fair bit of traffic especially if word spreads that they are there in numbers. The key to success when light tackle fishing for these species, is having lots of baitfish around. If bait schools are healthy then pelagic activity will follow suit.

The change in current from the south has triggered coral trout, emperors, nannygai, reef jack, trevally and a host of other top-notch table eating fish. You don’t need to travel as far as you think with locations inside the reef and between the mainland fishing extremely well. The action is pretty wide spread with handy numbers of fish coming up from the shallows right out to the deep water where the bigger models are found. Dodging the southeasterly winds is the only concern and they can linger around for days on end. The days following the quarter moon into the full moon seem to attract the stronger winds. Inshore reefs, rubble patches and wrecks will also fish well in the coming month for both bottom and surface species.


Our rivers and creeks have seen the water temperature drop quite low putting the likes of barra into a slumber and slowing down the metabolism of the mangrove jack and fingermark. Species such as bream, grunter, trevally and queenfish will remain mostly active, especially when water clarity is at a premium. Live bait is around in good numbers and should always be a priority choice but lures and soft plastics will work well in the clear water. If the winds whip up and the water turns to ‘coffee’ switching to dead baits such as mullet strips, squid and prawns will keep your reel turning. In harder conditions it is imperative to fish with the wind and tide going in the same direction. If they are working against each other the calmer waters turn into a washing machine and it’s extremely hard to produce anything significant.

If you are still keen to entice a barra, small lures are best for fishing pockets of water that have the most sunlight during the day. If you can source live prawns suspending them under a float will work even better. Even a slight increase in water temperature will attract barra and the shallow back eddies with a bit of structure and sunlight are worth working over.

In a nutshell, calm days with calm water is the only green light you need to hit the water and go out and enjoy a spot of fishing with the anticipation you’ll reap the rewards.

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