Wait for rain – it’s the talk of the town was a song written by the 80’s Aussie rock band Goanna, and it had to be written about Karumba in the lead up to the wet! The weather in the Gulf of Capentaria at this time of year is all anyone can talk about.
The Gulf mornings are so humid you are more wet after a shower than in one. Large thunderheads and crack lightening loom ominously over the ocean, moving from west to east but never really hitting the town to give respite to the incessant heat and humidity.
The humid northwesterly tradewinds feed into large storms that tower into the sky and tease every afternoon from the south. They always seem to miss the coastal fringe except, of course, when you are out in a boat. Welcome to the wet season build up.
There is no doubt that there can be some good fishing at Karumba at this time of year, however, care must be taken. Don’t ever take a lull in the weather for granted as the weather patterns have been happening forever and you cannot outsmart it!
Every afternoon produces some northwesterly tradewind action. Some days it starts early and some days it can be late, especially after some early morning storm action, and other days it doesn’t stop. Don’t be lured into a false sense of security and head for the horizon early as it can mean an uncomfortable and dangerous trip home.
The last of the run-out tide occurs around the middle of the day at this time of year. It’s about the only constant except the afternoon will see a run-in tide.
Storms can also come from nowhere so beware. The place can cook up some real doozies and at sea in a small boat is not the best place to experience one. Electrical storms can be fierce with plenty of bolts choosing to earth out, ending in some spectacular light and sound shows, as long as you’re not in the immediate vicinity.
If you see a storm brewing on the horizon make sure you are not far from some form of safety and if the lightning starts, put down the expensive graphite composite lightning conductors you are fishing with.
The best fish to target this month is the king salmon. Some good fishing can be had by those prepared to spend a few hours on the beach at Karumba point targeting jewfish and salmon in the deepwater just off the beach.
Fishing the last of the run-in tide on the flats in the early hours of the morning can be very rewarding but be prepared to share the spot with other fishers and plenty of mosquitos. As the big spring tides exceed over 4m and start to push water up onto the flats, the mosquito population explodes.
Favourite targets of the night fishers at Karumba point are the king or threadfin salmon. The fish are eagerly awaited every year at this time, not only as a sportfish but also as a good feed. They are an excellent backstop to the barramundi that are, of course, off the list. Make no mistake you will still catch barra and probably plenty, but all have to be released back the water immediately unharmed.
Fish the start of the run-in tide with live baits on the shallow flats area. Also try targeting fish in really dirty water using mullet fillet instead of live mullet. The oily consistency of mullet makes it great bait for dirty water and increases the chance of tangling with a big XOS black jew.
For night fishers, focus on the edge of the light cast off by the numerous wharves in the Norman River. The king salmon become quite veracious as the bait is forced along with the strong current and are a viable target on surface lures and fly gear. Hooking a big threadfin on an 8# in strong current is great fun. Big barra also hunt the edge of the light as the tide strength drops a little so expect a few surprises.
Other popular places to try are the deep bank from the point to Shelly Beach with live bait on the start of the run-in tides, the mouths of 4 or 6 mile creek and the mouth of Twin Creeks a bit further up the river. On the neap tides you can also troll big gold lures for success – big threadfin salmon seem to like these.
King salmon are one of our finest estuary eating fish but at this time of year any fish you catch must be looked after and iced down pretty quick to stop the quality of the flesh from dropping. King salmon are hard to clean when they get bigger due to the large knobs of bone that grow along their spine. Just use the point of the knife to cut around the lump and then tear the fillet away.
Now is the time to hit up the big fat bloke in the red outfit and get a quality rod and reel for next year’s big trip to the fishing destination of a lifetime. It pains me that people spend thousands of dollars to get somewhere fishing and then pull out the old favourite with the mono line that was bought a hundred years ago. It’s a bit like paying thousands for that U-beaut set of golf clubs and then putting a squash ball on the tee.
All say a few quiet prayers for a good wet and get ready. – QFMReads: 1996