Where the fishing’s hotter than the climate
  |  First Published: July 2008

We are now firmly in the grips of the far northern winter. Or should I say, this is the month where you might need a long-sleeved shirt and some tracksuit pants every now and then.

There should be no complaints. Except for the uncharacteristic conditions, which lead to a fishing lull, July should be an exciting month. For southerners, the far north is their best chance at escaping the cold confines of winter.

Cool crisp mornings, warm afternoons and clear skies typify July. The local Wik people are beginning to travel a little further to the distant outstations south of the Archer River. Roads will finally be dry enough around the extensive wetlands to make bog-free access a possibility.

People keen to get back to their country visit outstations such as Hagen’s Lagoon, Stoney Crossing, Blue Lagoon, Ti-tree and Kencherang. Traditional burns are maintained, a few saratoga (Toichin) are caught in the many lagoons and the odd pig knocked over in the process.

Barramundi can be temperamental this time of year. If one high pressure system after another brings strong south-easterly winds, water temperatures may cool off, throwing barra off the bite.

We rely on the movement of water warmed from the sun, running off the many flats around Archer Bay. So long as you have a dropping tide in the afternoon, there is a good chance of barra. Along with threadfin salmon and barra congregate at the mouth of drains to gulp down prawns and tiny baitfish fleeing off the sand and mud flats.

Amongst other veracious predators like brassy trevally and barracuda, queenies will have gorged themselves for the past few months on anything tiny that swims. With the water up the main rivers being much cleaner, bait schools may move well upstream, taking predators with them.

It is amazing to see a pack of big queenfish chasing a popper as it chugs across the surface. Quite often anglers get a little soaking when a big queenie smashes the popper right next the boat. The ensuing hook-up is mayhem as the big fish run back under the boat and begin jumping on the other side. Double hook-ups are not uncommon and anglers learn to do 360’s of the tender very quickly to avoid getting crossed up.

Outside along the coast, July can produce a real variety of pelagic and bottom fish. Northern bluefin or longtail tuna schools will be erratic, however the right time and place can lead to metal slices and poppers getting munched by these speedsters.

Mackerel can be found from just off the shallow coastal reef to a couple of kilometres off shore. Big Spaniards bite best for the first three hours after sunrise so it pays to be out trolling and casting around circling birds early. Once the breeze picks up, these fish become harder to target.

Grey mackerel show up anywhere at any time and in a variety of sizes from 1kg up to 6 or 7kg. They give the black masses of herring and anchovies a real hiding when really on the ball.

Once water temperatures drop below around 28 degrees, crocodiles are readily seen out on the mud banks of most rivers in the area. Whereas only a couple of months ago it was rare to see any, rivers like the Ward now seem infested with these toothy critters. Except for a few crocs that enjoy chasing poppers, we rarely have any trouble from them.

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