|  First Published: July 2006

Well, I’m sitting here a cold beer and watching a spectacular Gulf of Carpentaria sunset after a great day on the water. If there’s a time of year when you really appreciate that you live in a wonderful place like Weipa, then the middle of winter is definitely that time!

While frosts, cold southerlies, coats and room heaters are all the go down south we wander around in our standard summer wear whinging if the mercury gets below 20 for more than a couple of hours. And the fishing days! Well, if the trade wind drops and you’re lucky enough to be heading out, the word ‘magic’ immediately springs to mind.

The fishing does slow a bit in winter up here due to lower water temperatures, but what Weipa locals call slow is still pretty spectacular when compared with the activity that’s the norm in more civilised parts. My prediction is that this winter, the fishing will be even better than usual thanks to the late wet season.

The road from Cairns to Weipa and beyond remained closed until the end of May, an unprecedented event in recent memory. This meant that the locals had the place almost all to themselves for a couple of months extra before the tourists hit town.

A few enterprising visitors sent their boats and vehicles up via the supply ship then flew in to meet the boat when it arrived. This was an expensive exercise, and it would have been even more so if the road was still closed when they were due to head home and they had to use the ship for the return journey!

While the estuaries fired up in May and early June with some of the best barra action I’ve seen up here for 3-4 years, the offshore fishing was probably the slowest that I can remember. In early June it looked as though that was about to change and the frantic fishing that is a characteristic of offshore Weipa was about to explode about a month behind the usual schedule.

That means that July could see some spectacular activity in Gulf waters adjacent to the Weipa area, which may extend to the estuaries as well. So if you have an inkling to escape the cold and wet a line at the same time, 2006 just might be the year to make your northern escape.

If you like tossing lures, then target the larger tides, find some protected water, and fish the river snags, rock bars and gutters on the bottom half of the tide either side of low. Along the beaches and around the river mouths, the water will usually be clear so work the higher parts of the tide with lure or fly while keeping your eye out for cruising fish.

For those just wanting to soak a bait, there are miles of waterways to explore. If you can throw a cast net, livebait such as mullet, gar and herring are easy to find, otherwise frozen bait can be purchased from local tackle outlets.

Winter anglers will usually find grunter, fingermark, estuary cod, blue salmon and trevally in the deeper sections, particularly around the turn of the tides. The shallower waters around snags and rock bars will still produce a few barra, jacks and king threadfin salmon.

Find some of the offshore reefs and there will usually be cod, fingermark and coral trout in attendance. Trolling lures over the shallower rocky areas in 2-5m of water is a great way to catch a feed of the same species along with golden trevally and mackerel.

Look out for bait schools offshore as these will often have longtail tuna, cobia and big Spanish mackerel in attendance. Big mackerel also work the edges of the reefs and will often grab a trolled plug; the 120-150mm sized Halco Scorpions that go down 3, 4 or 8m will cover most of the usual country encountered.

Sure, a gusty southeasterly can spoil the ambience, but even soaking a bait in a quiet corner out of the wind is infinitely better than risking frostbite somewhere down south. So leave your winter gear behind, put on your shorts and a tee, grab a rod and come and watch the sunset!


I’ve been following the protests by the angling fraternity over the mooted closures of marine areas adjacent to Byron Bay and other NSW centres. Although the dissemination of relevant information through the media and interested parties seems very sophisticated compared with some of our attempts in Queensland, it is still falling on ears that are firmly clamped shut.

It pains me to see dedicated, hard working anglers doing exactly what I, and a militant few, have done for years for no real result – trying to sway politicians and public servants with well intentioned and often cold hard facts that do not fit their agenda. Now that I have discovered the ‘secret’ of what anglers must do, courtesy of the experience of The Fishing Party (TFP), I’m frustrated that all this sorely needed manpower is being wasted in a futile effort to counter what the green movement has cleverly put in place over many years.

That ‘secret’ has been staring us in the face but it was not until TFP proved that the only thing that matters to politicians is votes did the penny drop! The greens have known and capitalised on this fact for over a decade and are now in a position to call the shots, not on the big issues that they should be highlighting but on the ‘softer’ targets that politicians are ready to sacrifice to ensure the green vote keeps coming their way, and that, unfortunately, includes rec fishers.

But how can that be – don’t politicians realise how much recreational fishing and boating is worth?

The short answer is no. They don’t know and, more importantly, they don’t care. They are prepared to sacrifice a billion dollars per year for the tackle industry and probably a couple a billion more for the boating side, and they’ll do it with a smile just to keep the green votes being sent their way.

If you don’t believe this, take a look at TNQ and the Great Barrier Reef RAP. The tackle and boating industries have been decimated in some centres and I know that some of the politicians involved have readily admitted, off the record, that closing off such a huge slice of the reef was a mistake!

What seems to be emerging is that GMRMPA used ‘bad’ science, deceit and underhanded methods to cripple both the charter and recreational fisheries while pandering to the big tour and dive companies. As is now happening in NSW, the politicians and public servants were relying heavily on green generated scientific half-truths that would just not stand up when properly scrutinsed.

So, what is the answer? I suggest that the mob down in NSW redirect their energies into getting a political party off the ground and ready to contest the next state and federal elections. They’ve already been advised of this fact by senior TFP personnel.

The majority of recreational fishers think they are powerless to stop the marine closure juggernaut, and they will be while they rely on a committed few to nibble away at a political system that relies on green votes for its existence. Only by beating the greenies at their own game will we achieve any significant outcome.

It’s simple really. I’ve written numerous times about the apathy of recreational fishers but the average angler has never been given the chance to directly contribute.

In politics, there is nothing more important than your vote. The existence of a Fishing Party or something similar allows all anglers to have an input into what is happening to their sport, to make their mark of protest against a bureaucracy gone mad with agenda’s designed to restrict us, it’s citizens, from doing what we’ve been doing for generations.

All I ask is when you are given the opportunity is to make your vote count! And I hope those in NSW will start directing their energies into giving their anglers the same opportunity that Queenslanders will have come the next election.

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