August is trout month in the Cairns area. This trophy reef species turn it on as they feed up ready for their annual spawning aggregation on the shallow reefs. Spanish mackerel are also prime targets from the inshore wrecks to the outer reef. However, the wind is the x-factor and the area can see an endless stream of high-pressure systems in August.
The trout fishing off Cairns continues to improve with numerous reports of anglers achieving good catches of quality fish. The better trout have generally been deeper, but not as a steadfast rule. It is beneficial to focus your efforts around the 30m-depth range and then go shallower or deeper depending on results.
Pilchards and squid are the top baits for trout, but any fresh flesh bait will do the trick. Many rod and reel anglers are using 50lb braid. This is a way of preventing the bigger trout from burying them in the coral before the stretch has come out of the line.
The secret to trout fishing is to hit them hard early as the battle is won or lost in the first ten seconds. If they are slow to bite lift the bait off the bottom every minute or so and then drop it back down. Be ready for a hit just as it gets back to the coral. Trout are site feeders and seeing the bait rise and fall will often be enough to trigger a bite.
Last August large mouth nannygai, spangled and long nose emperor, coral trout and cod were all biting well. Most of the big fish action will be around the 40-50m depths on the rubble patches.
The best deep-water fishing is to be had at night and the lead up to the full moon. The 28th should be ideal for chasing big reds. Quality large mouth nannygai and red emperor will be biting well, provided Mother Nature plays the game. There have been some excellent reds caught this year and this should continue right through the colder months.
The last five years have been an absolute lottery when it comes to the weather during August. The best bet is to be ready to go at the first sign of good weather. Waiting for good tides is nowhere near as important as the good conditions, so just take your chances when they come.
The weekend of August 11-12 will be the perfect time to target Spanish mackerel. The lead up to the new moon is prime Spaniard time. Last year, trolled garfish and Halco Laser Pro 190Ds produced excellent results. However, the traditional wog rigged garfish trolled on the current side of the reefs is hard to beat.
The Wide Grounds, from Oyster Reef to Jorgies Patches, produces plenty of quality mackerel on the troll. Fresh gar, rigged with double hooks, trolled over the pinnacles and along the reef edges can result in great captures. The Spaniards should be schooling up on the outer reef, therefore, any patch of reef that has current pushing onto it is a great place to start searching.
Monster Spaniards are often caught around the Frankland Islands, especially High Island, on trolled wolf herring or quality local gar. The mouth of the Russel/Mulgrave is a great place to pick up a few fresh wolfies if they are not available from tackle stores. There is no limit to the size of a wolfie to use, it is just a matter of rigging it so you have hooks at the front, middle and tail. Similarly, hairtail are just as good as wolfies and tend to be easier to troll.
The inshore wrecks, islands and channel markers hold spottie and doggie mackerel, as well as Spaniards. These fish are very popular with small boat owners whenever the weather permits. Casting and retrieving high-speed metal or buck tail jigs is a good way to target the lesser mackerel. Let the jig sink to the bottom and then retrieve it full pelt. If that does not work, then experiment with varying the speed of retrieval and depth of the lure.
The good old floating pilchard is still the most common and easiest way to nail any type of mackerel. If they are slow to bite try fishing with ganged hooks and no wire trace. You will lose a few fish from bite-offs, but it is often the difference between catching fish and sitting around watching others enjoy the action.
Live sardines are a killer on doggies and spotties. It is well worth spending some time around the wharves and creeks collecting a tank full before heading out. A 10’ drawstring mono cast net is the best way to fill the live bait tank. However, jigging for them with a multi hook jig is a good alterative if you do not have a cast net.
When trolling for mackerel it often pays to use a variety of bait/lure sizes and depths until you locate the fish. Once a mackerel is hooked start narrowing the lure/bait selection down and hone-in on the school. It can often make the difference between success and failure.
The local estuaries can provide some hot lure action on warm, still, sunny days, especially for mangrove jack. The odd barramundi is also starting to take lures around the creeks, rivers and headlands, but it requires a spell of warm weather to make it really worth the effort.
A slight rise in water temperature is all it takes to bring on a winter bite. Winter barra and jacks will not move far from shelter so you need to get the lure or bait right into the structure to attract a hit. Do not be afraid to put 20 or 30 casts into the one snag. Sometimes it takes a lot to wake a dosing barra.
In August, it is the ‘highs’ that produce the lows in fishing. As the high-pressure systems march from west to east across the Great Australian Bight it is a matter of waiting for the breaks between them. There is nothing like a warm, still, sunny August day to send the fish into overdrive.Reads: 1618