Low-pressure feeding frenzy
  |  First Published: May 2006

Cyclone Larry has certainly stirred up the pot in the fishing department. Just prior to the cyclone approaching the fish went into a feeding frenzy, with plenty of barra and mangrove jack taken in the rivers and creeks.

On the reef the coral trout feed voraciously and locals say they have never seen the trout come on the chew in such a fashion before. Catches were recorded consistently from dawn to dusk.

The strong wind was followed by heavy rain, which has seen a lot of water pool in the upper reaches of our rivers and creeks. This has provided new food sources and the barra have been caught in places where they’re not usually encountered. Tarpon have also become adventurous and joined the barra in searching out new ground inland. The upper suburban Reef Park pond systems in Port Douglas have been a classic example of where some big fish have been caught.

Quite a few crocs have been pursuing the barra. One 2m specimen was found in Steve Adamson's garage taking shelter from a storm, a couple of hundred metres from the highest pond system in the Port Douglas suburb of Ferndale. It certainly appears the crocs have settled themselves into these new ponds.

By now, however, the waters should have subsided and the fishing should be good back down towards the mouths. To date fingermark, barra, mangrove jack, queenfish and trevally have been busy gorging themselves on the abundant supply of hardihead and sardine baits. These baits have been thick and the fish are slowly diminishing the stocks. As this occurs your bait has a better chance of being hit as opposed to being one of the masses.

At some stage in May we will receive an overnight cold snap and this will certainly slow the opportunity to snare a barra or a big mangrove jack, so I'd be fishing hard in the first part of the month.

Along the beaches the jelly prawn hatches have lit up the foreshore as tarpon, blue salmon, dart, queenfish and trevally have come in for the annual feeding frenzy. The best action has occurred at dawn and this should continue for a few more weeks to come.

Flyfishers have had the advantage here, being able to better imitate these tiny delicacies than lurefishers can. Southern Four Mile Beach in particular has been a hot spot for flyfishers.

If you want to fish the local beaches, just be aware that there will still be box jellyfish around. Personally, I wouldn't try entering the water unprotected until the end of the month, once the food supply has gone and the southeasterly winds have kicked in for the dry season.

On the reef, catches have continued to gradually improve as the temperature drops. Spanish mackerel and reef mangrove jack are now more regular catches on surface baits and there have been some awesome coral trout catches reported by the locals. Red emperor and nannygai have been reasonably consistent and May is when they will turn up their efforts during daytime sessions.

Mixed in along with these schools should be a variety of trevally including the thumping GTs and the highly valued golden trevally. The trademark southeasterly winds are due to arrive in May and it is simply a matter of picking the weather.


Every May the Douglas Shire holds a fortnightly festival which attracts tens of thousands of people to the region. This year the organisers, Managing Australian Destinations, are going to include a week-long fishing competition which will run from May 22-26. With $40,000 in cash and prizes up for grabs it promises to attract a lot of interest locally and from abroad. Major prizes include a $20,000 cash bounty from Sportsbet for two tagged barramundi and also a fishing holiday to Papua New Guinea.

I was asked to co-ordinate the event, and the challenge for me was to determine how to make this inshore/offshore tournament a ‘catch and release’ comp. To this end, digital/video cameras will be used to record catches and fish release. Four tagged barramundi will be released in the river systems of the shire and the first two tagged barra registered with correct tag numbers will be eligible for the cash prize of $10,000 per fish. The Fisheries department will be assisting in the release and recording of these barra.

There are heaps of other prizes up for grabs in such categories as junior, jetty, river and reef fishing. To be eligible for a prize each competitor must have photos or footage of their fish being released. Being a 'Green Shire' we won’t condone any fish being killed as part of this competition.

Anyone interested in competing can register from the beginning of May, when details will be published in the local papers. Registering automatically puts you into the draw for the fishing trip holiday.

Entrants will also be required to collect their competition stubby cooler just before the competition starts, as the cooler must appear in all competitors’ digital footage. The event will close with a huge presentation night to be held at 7pm on Friday 26th May at the Combines Club on the Dickson Inlet in Port Douglas. For more information feel free to give me a call on (07) 4099 4058 or email --e-mail address hidden--

During the festival the shire will come alive with all sorts of activities. This could be the perfect balanced holiday you are looking for – a spot of fishing and plenty of other great things to see and do.

So hopefully we'll see a few new faces later in the month for the competition. Hiring a guide or charter is permitted. If you need assistance in this department just drop us a line.


1) Adam Green with a snodger of a coral trout taken in deep water.

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