Tasty Tropicals
  |  First Published: April 2007

I have worked in the fishing industry for over 20 years and have caught a variety of tropical species from barramundi to giant black marlin off Cairns and Lizard Island. We moved our charter fishing business up here from Townsville after the rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park closed down most of our fishing areas.

The Cardwell to Mission Beach region provides anglers with a variety of fishing opportunities. Even when the weather is rough you can still visit some of the islands and find good fish. If the weather is good, it’s only an hour’s run out to the reef from Cardwell and even shorter from Mission Beach.

Missionary Bay on the northern end of Hinchinbrook Island offers many tidal flats, headlands and pressure points for estuary fishers to target with shallow diving lures. Flyfishing for barramundi, mangrove jack, threadfin and blue salmon is also an option. Out wider in the channels you can bait fish for golden grunter, fingermark and trevally. Giant queenfish will also be around and will take flies and bait.

North of Cardwell the Murray, Tully and Hull rivers and Meunga, Wreck and Dallachy creeks provide good fishing. The larger rivers are best accessed from Hull Heads or the Murray River boat ramp. To fish the smaller creeks head to the southern end of Rockingham Bay – it’s a 10-15 minute run from Port Hinchinbrook. To top it all off, you get to fish one of the most scenic parts of the country!

While we wait for a lot of the fresh water to run off from the recent wet season, anglers are still reporting good catches of barra. The fish seem to be out on the beaches with every log or obstruction holding fish. Locals have also been catching good-sized barra near the rock bars just south of the marina entrance at Cardwell – be careful though as this area does run out of water at half tide. Many other tropical estuary species should improve as we approach April when the fresh water influences are gone.

Offshore northwesterly winds and neap tides have made reef fish go off the chew. You will be able to see plenty of fish on the sounder but it is hard to get them to bite. When this occurs I search for ‘wonky holes’ which are underwater springs that rise to the seabed from existing rivers. They were there before the ice age when the sea levels were 200m lower than they are today. They occur mainly between the coast and the Great Barrier Reef and provide spectacular action for species like barcheek trout, red emperor, scarlet sea perch, gold spot cod and cobia, as most of these have never been fished. However, they are hard to find unless you study the landscape and coastal features well, so I will give you a few tips on them in coming editions.

April should see more consistent offshore fishing as the wind directions go back to the southeast to northeast flow, and should remain that way for most of the coming year. So whether you are towing your own boat up or hiring a charter we look forward to seeing you in this wonderful part of the world.

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