Hinchinbrook: Hot Stuff In Winter
  |  First Published: July 2008

When you’re daydreaming about landing a lure in a snag and seeing it being eaten by a marauding mangrove jack, then you would not necessarily imagine it being winter. However, it is still possible to get out on the water and bag fantastic catches without having to travel to remote areas throughout the colder months. The magnificent Hinchinbrook channel has plenty on offer.

I have been fortunate enough over the past 15 years to have enjoyed many trips to this wonderful place, and not all have been in the heat of summer. My last five trips have been in May/June and all have been pretty successful. Although there have been some lessons learnt, it is merely a matter of adapting your techniques, which will make all the difference.

Water Temp

This time of year finding warmer water will lead you to more active fish. And remember to use a bit of common sense, such as if it’s a cool night and calm clear day then the water temp will rise for the afternoon, therefore you will know to aim for an afternoon fish.

If you’re targeting barramundi then their peek bite times will narrow with the last of the outgoing tide in the afternoon, the warmer water moving around as the tide changes will be an optimum choice for flats fishing. Of course, barra will be barra, and they can just as well bite in the top of a cold creek so use this as a guide and look around. If there are jelly prawns spraying around in the little drains then keep trying, as the barra will be there.

Mangrove jack on the other hand aren’t as water temperature sensitive as the barra and will bite when the time and tide are right. I have found in Hinchinbrook as long as there is good tidal run on a bank then there should be active mangrove jack about regardless of the temperature of the water.

Lure Choice

When the water is cooling the fish aren’t as keen to chase down a meal, so using lures and retrieves that keep the lure in the strike zone longer will increase you chance of getting a bite. And one of the best lures on the market for doing just that is the all Australian Prawnstar.

I have been using a Prawnstar for many years in the channel and they have worked a treat. I have also experimented with different ways of rigging The Prawnstar, and know if I rig a number 2 chemically sharpened treble with three to four beads between the main treble and the tail, my hooks up really improve.

I vary my lure choice alternating from soft lures to hardbodies and surface lures as this covers the whole water column searching for active fish.


In winter the tops of most of the creeks will be pretty cool and clear, making life more difficult for predators. Therefore, look for areas without too much clarity. The creeks on the island can really cool down in temperature but some of the creeks like Sunday, Seymour and waterfall will still have enough colour to lure fish.

The cooling water isn’t all doom and gloom though, as this time of year the pelagic action really heats up and the trevally and queenfish will turn up anywhere there are good bait schools. And there are usually a better class of fish also hanging around, which will make for some serious fun on light gear.

One of the best ways to find pelagics, is to get them to find you. I always have a surface lure rigged on a rod and when there is any sign of nervous bait, out it goes.

The Jetty

The Holy Grail, when it comes to big fish on light gear in bad country, is the sugar loading jetty and its home to just about every species of fish in north Queensland. No trip to Hinchinbrook is complete until you have wrestled with the monsters around the jetty, and in winter the weather really lends itself to both day and night trips.

Jighead rigged plastics, metal slices and big surface lures are a must-have. When you sink a 7” soft plastic down the edge of a pylon and hook up you have no idea whether it’s a coral trout, fingermark or a 50lb trevally – I just love it!

Hinchinbrook is a special place and my knowledge of the area comes from many trips over the years. And also the invaluable advice and experience from Crackerjack’s Sportfishing tours owner Al Goodwin. If you want to experience the best the channel has to offer give him a call.

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