A day at the beach – Gulf style
  |  First Published: April 2007

The run-off period at the end of the wet season in April/May is one of the Tropics’ most anticipated events. Locals associate April with the flow of fresh water into the myriad rivers and creeks lining the North’s coastline, and know the effects that has on the area’s fish population.

There are other places where the inflow of freshwater also pushes the fish into overdrive, particularly along the Gulf’s beaches. The discoloured water where tiny seasonal creeks and small beach springs discharge into the ocean often attracts several hungry predators. This area often holds masses of baitfish and orange clouds of minute prawns.

The wet season’s jelly prawn explosion is one of the North’s most interesting marine events as the proliferation of juvenile banana prawns attract everything from whiting to huge manta rays. Along the beaches, the shore-hugging clouds are hammered by queenfish, golden trevally, barra, threadfin salmon, giant herring, tarpon, tripletail, swallowtail dart, pikey bream, flathead and snub-nosed dart.

It’s not uncommon to have to walk back up the beach so you don’t spook a school of goldens feeding right on the water’s edge. The same goes for barramundi. Training yourself to look ahead as you move along the beach is the key to sighting fish before they see you.

Even small beach soaks can discharge enough water to attract a host of interested species. Be sure to closely investigate these features before you stumble through them – it can be the difference between catching or spooking the fish.

Small to medium-sized queenfish are the most common species encountered and provide great sport on light spin and fly tackle. Giant herring are the best fighters but can be difficult to spot, even to the trained eye.

The flats around river and creek mouths can provide hours of action with the peak times usually happening during the early flood tide and just after the top but be careful not too wade out too far.

Bait will congregate around any rocky outcrops or snags that may have washed in during the monsoons. These places are always worth targeting as fish will often sit under overhanging structure, even in very shallow water.

Washed up logs or trees are popular with tripletail so keep your eyes peeled for dark shapes as they shelter in the shady spots. Don’t be afraid to slow your lure or fly down to a crawl if a tripletail follows behind but isn’t quite catching up, they seem to like things better that way.

Snub-nosed dart (permit) just love feeding on jelly prawn schools but are often so focused on their task that they will ignore any lures or flies that come their way. They are super finicky at the best of times but can be supremely frustrating when they are seen to be feeding so aggressively, yet only want to eat 1cm long bait.

Another jelly prawn admirer is the tarpon and some sizeable specimens can often be located within easy casting distance off the beach. Tarpon schools often show up as a dark green patch with silver flashes as the fish turn.

Tarpon are spectacular fighters and jump regularly. Some of the Gulf specimens are over 3kg, which is about as large as tarpon get in Australian waters.

Weipa, Karumba and Seisia all provide good beach fishing at the end of the wet. Around Weipa, a boat is not a necessity as some fantastic action can be found along Pennefather and Janie Creek beaches, which can be accessed using a 4WD.

April is a wonderful time to fish anywhere in the tropics. Taking advantage of the spectacular beach fishing is just one of the many options available to the thinking fisher.


By late February, the wet season was in full swing after starting a couple of months late. Some heavy rain has been recorded right up and down Cape York but a lot more is needed to reach the ‘normal’ figures.

Whether this means 2007 will mimic 2006 is unclear, but if I was planning a trip up this way I wouldn’t leave home until mid-May. If you are planning to arrive earlier, check the prices and availability of transporting your boat/car via Karumba or Cairns just in case the road stays flooded (Gulf Freight Services 07 4069 7309, Endeavour Shipping 07 4035 1664).

For up-to-date road reports contact the RACQ’s local Coen and Weipa depots.


The federal pollies are in full election mode, and we’ve got to get in the boxing ring with them if we want our sport to continue. Of course, there have been those who have called organisations like The Fishing Party (Qld) paranoid, but that always happens when the major parties identify a new political force that could do them electoral harm.

If we do get a Federal Labor government, I’m predicting we’ll see a much greater push for Marine Protected Areas and National Parks, locking us out of much greater chunks of our country.

The main battle for those of us who enjoy fishing will be senate-based. If a Green or Democrat senator gets to hold the balance of power, we can kiss goodbye to huge chunks of our coastline.

The massive publicity that has (at last) been given to global warming could mean a significant increase in Green votes at the next election. I firmly believe in addressing global warming, but unfortunately voting Green is not the answer if you want to be able to keep fishing.

In spite of its impressive demonstration of what disgruntled fishers can achieve in an election, and proving that the only way forward is to bargain with votes, The Fishing Party (Qld) has still not been able to garner significant support from the fishing tackle and boating industries. Somehow, the movers and shakers remain unconvinced.

As one media scribe suggested, how could a ‘mob of north Queensland hillbillies’ actually be smart enough to mix it with mainstream politics? As some of us ‘intellectually challenged’ northerners know only too well, the question is simple to answer when you have lost much of your fishing territory for no better reason than political horse trading.

Recreational fishers are fast approaching crunch time. If we must again rely on a small dedicated band of The Fishing Party (Qld) supporters, volunteering their time with hardly any support from the industry that thrives on fishing and boating, could we really blame them if they decided the effort was just too great?

I’m sure they won’t, they love fishing too much to lose it. However, as one of them, I’m beginning to wonder who the fools really are!

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