|  First Published: August 2006

August is traditionally Spanish mackerel and trout time in the Cairns area, with fishing logs over the past five years littered with mentions of the Prince of Mackerel and trophy trout. This great eating and fighting duo will be on everyone’s lips if the weather is even reasonably close to being fishable out wide.

The Spaniards and trout are generally gathering on the reefs off Cairns during August, ready to spawn, but there are still plenty of mackerel lingering around the inshore islands and wrecks.


Spanish mackerel often turn on a red hot bite over the new moon period in August, with weighted wog rigged garfish trolled on the current side of the reefs proving to be an absolute killer last year. The wide grounds from Oyster Reef to Jorgies Patches also produces plenty of quality mackerel on the troll. Fresh three by two or five spot gar, rigged with double hooks, trolled over the pinnacles and along the reef edges can also result in great captures of this excellent tablefish.

XOS Spaniards are often caught around the High Island area and further south on trolled wolf herring in August. If you can’t get your hands on some wolfies don’t be afraid to use quality gar or big lures as a fall back.

The inshore wrecks will hold spottie and doggie mackerel as well as Spaniards and are very popular with small boat owners whenever the weather permits. High speed metal jigs are a good way to target the lesser mackerel, with the good old floating pilchard still the standard approach. Live sardines are a killer on doggies and spotties; it’s well worth spending some time around the wharves collecting a tank full before heading out.

Trolling small lures around the outer Cairns Inlet channel markers can also produce excellent results on school mackerel. When the doggies are on the bite around the leads it’s a popular small boat destination and it’s not hard to tell where the fish are biting. Once again live sardines will outfish most other methods.


The reefy areas should have some really large fish move into the 40-50m depths around the rubble patches. Quality large mouth nannygai, red emperor and coral trout will all be biting well, provided Mother Nature plays the game. Last year it blew all through August, making reef fishing impossible, yet in ‘04 it was flat calm all month. In 2003 it was borderline for getting to the reef in small boats, so your guess is as good as mine, as to what ‘06 will bring.


The mid-depth (30m) range is the place to target coral trout as they feed up while preparing for spawning. This year has seen the best quality trout for many years, so anglers are eagerly awaiting August as it is one of the best months to target these prime reef fish. Pilchards and squid are the top baits for trout, but any fresh flesh bait will do the trick. Many rod and reel anglers are changing to using 50lb braid as a way of preventing the bigger trout from burying them in the coral before the stretch has come out of the line.


Estuary fishing is usually reasonable during August, with a few good-sized fingermark taken on live sardines and mud herring in the deeper water. The deep holes at the sugar terminal in Trinity Inlet can produce some nice fish to 70cm, on livebait. The occasional trevally, permit and grunter can also be taken, along with plenty of catfish at times.

Fingermark are also along the headlands and around the wrecks for those willing to put in the time to gather good sardine, mud herring or squid livebaits. Trolling deep diving lures like Mann’s Stretch 20’s and 30’s, River2Sea Downsider Min 200F and Storm Deep Thunders along the inshore reefs and drop-off is another way to tangle with these brutes of fish.


There are often plenty of small black marlin on the inshore grounds and many of the charter boats are seriously into chasing the small bills, interspersed with what they consider nuisance species like Spaniards and tuna. The arrival of the billfish is very dependent on the abundance of baitfish and with the great wet this year they should be around in massive amounts.


Surprisingly for winter, Tinaroo Dam can produce a great barramundi bite. Lumpy Milson last August reported over ten strikes and landed several fish from 50-105cm in one frenzied session, mostly using a Reidy’s B52 lure. Killalure Barra Baits and fizzers have also worked well on the big fish at this time of year. The secret is the combination of a spell of fine, calm, weather and the lead up to the full moon. The weekend of 5-6 August has the moon right, so if the weather is warm, sunny and calm don’t be afraid to look west while others gaze east.


The Russell and Mulgrave rivers can provide some good mangrove jack in August, with flyfishing and luring for these red bandits a great way to spend a warm sunny day. The occasional barramundi is also starting to take lures in a few of the creeks and rivers but yet again it requires a spell of warm weather to make it really worth the effort. A rise of a degree or two in water temperature is all it takes to bring on a winter bite. Sluggish winter barra can’t resist prawns, so placing a live prawn or a Prawn Star lure under their nose is more than they can resist. They won’t move far from shelter so anglers need to spend the time looking over snags and rock bars with a sounder to locate the fish, then sit it out until they decide to come on the bite. Bite times are much shorter in the cold weather, so you need patience, but be prepared for a sudden flurry of activity.

The family angler will do well to hide up a small creek with a fresh supply of estuary prawns, for a good catch of pikey bream, around the heavy timber snags or oyster covered rocks. Even if it’s blowing, the good old bream will keep the kids entertained and allow anglers to get a bit of saltwater pulsing through the veins.

Like all the winter months, August is in the lap of the highs, which march from west to east across the Great Australian Bight. If they are lined up one behind the other, then fishing is off the menu, but when a window of still warm air comes between the highs, hang onto your rod!

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