Big wet sets up winter
  |  First Published: July 2006

It has been a difficult time up in the Cape. Access had been denied for all but a lucky few, with roads still closed following the large, late wet season. Here on the Archer River, there was still freshwater down at the mouth in early June following the huge rains.

Although Cyclone Monica didn’t register too heavily on the west coast, all the wetland areas from Aurukun south (around Cape Keerweer) were well and truly inundated. This will mean great things for the barra fishing in coming months and years.

Stuck up a tiny mangrove fringed creek, there wasn’t much to do while the cyclone drifted past. I threw two crab pots off the back of the boat, loaded with catfish caught on prawn heads did the trick. After a couple of days of feasting on mud crabs it was party time for crab enthusiasts. The larger bucks seemed to be moving around during the day on a run-out tide, which is great because the crocs don’t seem to eat the crab pots as regularly during the day as they do when they are set overnight. The crabbing has remained excellent since the cyclones and we’ve enjoyed some great meals.

Placing pots slightly out of the run and along shallow banks near the mouth of the system will produce the goods as the water cools. One of the greatest levellers in the world occurs when newcomers are eating mud crab for the first time. It has a way bringing out the joyous carnivore in people as steel cracks red shell, allowing juicy white meat to fall out.

Besides the crabbing, the fishing has fired up. In the downstream reaches of the Archer, Ward, Watson and Love rivers there are healthy populations of smaller barra feeding in the drains and little backwaters. Casting shallow running lures into little hidey-holes off the main flow has produced plenty of fish up to about 75cm.

The second half of the run-out tide has been firing the best. Floating and suspending lures worked with dead slow, erratic retrieves are being sucked down by the barra with enthusiasm.

A couple of larger barra have fallen to poppers and livebait on dusk. Queenfish have finally arrived and are now making their presence felt as huge silver specimens rove around the sandflats outside the main system, ravaging baitfish schools.

Tuna are starting to show in small, flighty schools but the fishing has been fairly slow on the rocky shore and beaches to the north. The water is clearing up and the southeasterly winds mean relatively calm and clear inshore waters for the next few months at least.

There is plenty to look forward to this season, especially if water temperatures remain warm. There is going to be some pretty hungry barra around following this wet season and a few of us will be sitting on the Pikkuw(charter boat on the Archer River), ready to have a crack at them each and every day. With any luck, July will see plenty of barra come aboard and a couple up around that magic 1m mark might be an option up the top of the Archer River.

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