Primetime for River and Estuary Targets
  |  First Published: April 2006

April is usually a top month for inshore fishers who work the local rivers and estuaries. There is always plenty of action available for lure and flyfishers as well as those soaking livebaits.

Local anglers have been enjoying some good barra action on lures and livebaits in the Cairns Inlet. Anglers who have fished here for many years think there has been a resurgence in barra numbers which is a good sign. Lure tossers working the mangrove edges for barra have also been finding some nice jacks and this should continue throughout April.

I’m glad that the average angler now is much smarter than those of the past, as there are encouraging signs that the Cairns barra population is steadily recovering. Barra to 80cm have been common with some specimens over 90cm and 1m. Bigger barra have been taken mainly by anglers fishing well presented big livebaits near structure.

If you’re after a freshwater fish in April try fishing the build up to the full moon up at Lake Tinaroo. The barra have been on the chew up there and are bound to slow up a little over April as conditions start to cool off.

Anglers chasing fish on livebait haven’t had to work too hard with as excellent supplies of prawn have been washed out by the rains and some good-sized mullet, mud herring and sardines have also been around.

Barra have been taken from many of the local hotspots including the northern beach headlands, out along the rocky foreshores leading to False Cape and many of the harbour pylons in Cairns Inlet. The deeper gutters of the inlet up towards Coconut Slipway have also produced some big barra on livebaits. The best time to target barra on livebait is around the low tide changeover when the water movement is at its slowest. This coincides usually with the last hour of the run-out and the first hour of the run-in tide.

Some quality black jewies to 98cm have been caught from the deep holes of the inlet and off Kings Point. Grunter have been found in the shallower water of The Esplanade flats and further up around the main channel adjacent to Admiralty Island.

Focus on Fingermark

Fingermark – or spotted scale sea perch, chopper bream, big scale red and golden snapper – are another fish that will continue to be targeted during April. There have been some beauties to 85cm captured recently. Fingermark can be taken on lure or fly but livebait usually has the best result. Slowly trolling deep to ultra deep running hard-bodied lures like the RMG range of lures over and near likely structure, will put you well and truly in the ball park for fingermark and barra.

Baitfishing for these treasures is still one of my favourites fishing missions in TNQ. What could be better than watching a large fingermark appear from the depths and enter your landing net before resting in the bottom of your boat?

Night fishing is often the best time to chase these sought-after fish, and it can be really exciting tangling with these hard-fighting power packs. The best times are usually on the smaller tides that occur after the full and new moons. Livebaits are certainly effective and large mud herring, mullet, sardines, feather bream and live prawns all work a treat. Live squid are a top bait and half the fun is in catching them while your rods are set and waiting. While anchored up and fishing at night, hang your squid light over the side of the boat and wait for the squid to appear out of the darkness. Use a fine mesh landing net with a long handle to come in behind the squid, or use a squid spear. Be sure not to wear your best rags, as the black ink will probably end up on your clothes.

These baits are best used immediately with a 6/0 hook on a dropper rig or a running sinker rig off 1m of heavy mono trace. Use just enough lead to get to the bottom depending on the current run. I recommend fishing with a strike drag and getting on the job quickly when you get a take, because fingermark are a powerful fish. If you don’t get their head up in the initial stages of the fight they’ll take your line into the nearby structure before cutting you off.

If you’re serious about catching fingermark then plan your trip and take the time to gather quality livebait before the bite is on. Plan your available time carefully, and work backwards from the time when you want to be fishing! This can be used to determine departure time and could mean allowing 2-3hours for bait collection if the bait is scarce. It beats chasing your bait while the bite is on and arriving when it’s all over. This is the difference between coming home with fish or without.

What has been happening offshore

When weather permits the nearby reefs have seen improving bottom fishing with some quality nannygai, coral trout and spangled emperor around. There have also been lots of cobia, GTs and the occasional Spanish mackerel amongst the pelagic action and this pattern should continue to improve during April.

Till next month, good fishing.

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