Winter fun just around the corner
  |  First Published: July 2007

We have been experiencing one of the mildest winters I can remember here in Cairns with temperatures hovering above 20 degrees. The latest news is that the temperature has just dropped quite a few degrees in Townsville, indicating the first cool change, so it won’t be long before some chilly weather descends on Cairns.

July brings with it a lot of fun fishing both inshore and offshore. The cooler change inshore usually slows the barramundi fishing in rivers and estuaries, but steps up the action for queenfish and GTs inside the river mouths. This pattern should continue over the next couple of months and will give a change of focus to the inshore angling scene.

Offshore there are superb times ahead as attention turns to the pelagic scene, particularly the Spaniards and the arrival of black marlin juveniles, which are incredibly popular amongst light tackle game fishing enthusiasts.

It has been really windy, which is usual for this time of year, but all reports indicate the local fishing has been just great when you can get out. Unfortunately, for most small boat owners the consistent strong south-easters over 20 knots have been keeping everybody in the rivers and estuaries.

Those anglers who have braved the 15 knot-plus days to fish the local reefs have usually found some excellent fish, with quality catches of coral trout from 25m depths as well as some spangled emperors. In between the reefs there have been a few reds to fill the boxes, including small- and large-mouth nannygai and red emperor.

On the top water there have been plenty of Spanish mackerel showing up to keep anglers happy. This month the action with the Spaniards should only get better as we swing into the main seasonal bite for these highly sought-after fish. The Spaniards have been taken with all the usual methods but Kerry Bailey from Cairns reports some great sessions on a variety of jigs including some homemade models. On one recent hot bite jigging up some Spaniards a brute of a GT turned up to provide a dogged fight.

Inshore there have been some late rains, which are only now starting to allow the rivers to return to dry season levels. The fishing action has been good now that the fresh has subsided, with plenty of queenies and GTs in all the local rivers. Anglers have had great success on these fish by top water spinning with poppers and other artificials.

Kerry also reported some bumper sessions on the queenies. One day he caught over 20 big queenies around 1.15m by casting poppers. There have also been plenty of good barra and quality mangrove jack about for the lure tossers; this has mainly been because of the warmer conditions and will continue to be the case until the temperatures suddenly plunge.

Bait fishers have been getting amongst the salmon with both Cooktown and King salmon about in pleasing numbers throughout the estuaries and along the beaches.

Inshore Family Fun

When the winter trade winds blow and you are fed up waiting for a break in the weather, why not treat your kids to a bit of fishing. There are plenty of options up here and one that is a real hit with families is to get back to basics and chase some smaller winter species that are fun and easy to catch.

If you want to give the kids a real treat, two species that are a lot of fun at this time of year are pikey bream and whiting. These fish show up in considerable numbers at many local hot spots including the boom area of the Cairns Inlet and the beachfronts either side of the Barron, Russell and Mulgrave rivers.

Anglers chasing the annual run of pikey bream in the Cairns Inlet will notice the strong appearance of these fish on the boom straight out from the Esplanade and indeed further up the inlet throughout the winter months. The best times are on the tide changes and the bream really go for fresh prawns taken from your cast net, although quality prawns from the tackle store will also have them biting like crazy. Peel the prawns before baiting the hooks and use the shells for berley as you go.

Not many people have bream gear up here but a light whippy spin outfit with 4kg mono line will work well. The rig is a very basic one – you should use a 1/0 hook or smaller and just enough lead for the tide. Fish this above a small swivel, leaving about 30cm of light mono trace of 6-8kg.

Any rough snaggy bottom will hold these fish and if they are not there, using a little berley usually does the trick. Just make sure you are fishing on a rough shell grit bottom and not on mud. One of the bonuses when fishing for these little battlers is the scream of the reel when a mangrove jack or something bigger turns up. Always be prepared in case a big fish connects with your offering as this often happens here in the tropics.

If you are chasing whiting, a fun activity to try with the kids is to pump a few yabbies (or nippers as they are known here in the north) with a bait pump along the banks of the rivers at low tide. Just take care if you have your children with you and be vigilant in looking out for crocodiles.

Fishing an early morning rising tide along the beachfronts adjacent to the rivers will produce some good quality whiting. If you cannot get yabbies, try using quality peeled prawns or small squid pieces. A light whippy spin rod that casts well, 3kg mono line and a small long shank hook with a pea sinker above a small swivel will work a treat. The key word here is small. Think small and light – forget about the barra, just scale everything down and the fishing action will take care of itself.

This is a guaranteed way to treat the kids to a whole heap of fun. Also expect to pick up other species such as dart, featherbream and flathead, as well as many others that invade the sand flats looking for a feed as the tide floods through.

The bite from these little fish is a lot more delicate, but if you have a soft-tipped, light, whippy rod then you will be well equipped to feel it. The kids will love the action and fun of catching and releasing these fish, but don’t forget that the usual bag limit and size restrictions apply.

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