Clean Green Currents Filled with Fish
  |  First Published: June 2007

At this stage it appears the monsoonal trough has drifted to the north, which usually means the wet season is finished. Only a late cyclone can stand in the way of June being amongst the nicest months in the far northern calendar.

Without large amounts of late rain, most of the river systems around Aurukun are now a pleasure to fish. Different shades of clean green water is flowing from the mouths of the Ward, Watson, Small and Main Archer rivers out into Archer Bay.

Strong south-easterly trade winds have only a calming effect inshore. These strong winds delay tides by pushing shallow water out into the Gulf. Most mornings see brilliant conditions in the strip hugging the coastline. We are fortunate in this neck of the woods that many of the reef and rock patches to the north are also very close to shore.

Threadfin salmon, blue salmon, barramundi, golden trevally, queenfish, steelbacks (beach salmon), giant herring, tarpon and all manner of worthy species can be found within 5m of the shore and are easy to spot in the right conditions.

On recent trips up the coast, we have concentrated our efforts on a stretch of beach adjacent to a large patch of rocks. On the high tide, clear water flows in over the rocks and packs of travelling fish hug the shore, in some very worthwhile configurations. Last trip we saw a pack of blue salmon, with two threadfin salmon and a few large barra all swimming along like old friends.

This year, a late wet season deluge has failed to materialise and the rivers, which would normally be spewing discoloured water from their respective basins, are flowing clean and green. On a recent trip, we ventured up the amazingly clear Small Archer system.

Only ten minutes upstream, the river broadened, with huge groves of waterlilies either side and tiny drains bringing pure spring water into the river proper. On one of the steeper banks, water could be seen dribbling out of the porous rock.

The water is so pure at the moment, you can simply trail a cup along and drink from it. Even in spots where the sounder reads 14ft, you can still see every stick on the sandy bottom.

On this particular trip, the fish were quiet. Our intended quarry was saratoga and we got a nice one right down in the brackish section, at the base of some mangrove roots. We spotted and hooked a few more as we headed upstream and also managed a couple of nice-sized jacks.

As the tide backs water upstream, conditions get a little cloudier. On this particular trip, hordes of large milkfish (some in packs of more than a hundred!) were cruising up the river on dusk. Tails flicking from side to side, these fish only spooked metres away from the tender, leaving a huge hole in the water as they shot away. Other cruisers such as tarpon and large queenfish were also present.

June will be a fantastic month for fishing in the far north. As long as water temperatures don’t drop away too much, barra should still be well and truly on the hit list. The Archer, Ward and Love rivers should all be firing, with drains and the shallow margins of estuarine lakes being the prime spots to try.

If the fish are not so easy to find, trolling the deeper stretches should prove fruitful. A good sounder, a bit of patience, 60lb trace and a thumb poised over the spool are all useful in getting a big Archer River barra into the boat.

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