As Port Douglas has grown over the years, we have created many ‘run-offs’ feeding into our river systems and along our beaches. Whether it be a stormwater drain or concrete weir to support a man-made lake, these entry points can be the centre of attention for larger fish looking for an easy feed.
In the wet season, the influx of the rain at these points provides an abundance of food, just as you’d find with any natural small creek or drain from the mangrove forest.
Small crustaceans, algae and baitfish are flushed from their little abodes and dumped into the real world of an expansive system. Like lambs to slaughter, they’re snapped up by our tenacious tropical species. Species such as mangrove jack, bream, grunter, blue and king salmon and estuary cod sit at these spots with mouths agape. Even when the barra season re-opens in February these spots are renowned for producing an easy feed as barra are lazy fish by nature (or smart, some may say, because they don't like to work too hard for a feed).
In Port Douglas, some examples of these locations are the two causeways at the St. Crispin's and Reef Park lakes, which feed into the Dickson Inlet, the drainage from the prawn farm (which also feeds into in the Dickson Inlet) and most of our creeks along Four Mile Beach, which have stormwater access flowing into them.
During the wet season these locations generally fire best after solid rain which has lasted for a few days. The fishing can fire at any time of day and is not necessarily best at low-light periods. If the day is overcast the bite can be red hot in the middle of the day. There are no hard rules at these locations; you have to put in time to establish a pattern.
A Prawnstar is a hit when flipped and bounced around in these locations. Poppers and shallow diving lures in a bright colour are also good, being easy for the fish to detect in the normally dirty water. A slower retrieve is preferred to allow the fish below to get a good look first.
On the bait side, live mullet is a sure winner and can withstand more freshwater than other baits. In the Inlet, be sure to suspend your mullet under a float (if you just let it sit on the bottom it will be chewed on by the mud crabs). Along the beaches, use your livebait on a light running sinker rig.
When using dead baits, fresh strips of mullet or garfish are sturdy enough to cope with the turbulent water flow and are also better at withstanding the small pickers in between solid bites from bigger fish.
As summer progresses and the temperatures rise, remember that our river and coastal fish are more accepting of harder-scaled baits such as mullet and garfish. The predators’ digestive capabilities are primed and ready to digest hearty meals. This is unlike the cooler months, when many fish prefer a softer bait such as a prawn or sardine. Inshore fish are generally more aggressive in summer, when the water temperature remains at over 26C. Even though rain can lower the water surface temperature, the temperature below the freshwater line is still salty and warm. This keeps them active and hungry.
So when you look out the window in the next month or three and the weather looks gloomy, just keep these thoughts in mind. Most fish caught during these periods tend to be on the larger end of the scale.
The 2004 marlin season proved to be a little slower than usual, but the hook-up rates were better with bigger fish. It appears the wahoo and yellowfin tuna will finish off the action on the shelf, with the big Spanish mackerel, dolphinfish and sailfish keeping punters happy on the inside systems.
Closer to shore, the northern bluefin and mack tuna have already gained momentum and will provide great action on those calm days in the coming month.
Good news for inshore anglers is that accidental barra catches have been higher than normal, and this, combined with the new restrictions on commercial netting, indicates that the action will be excellent come February 1. Blue salmon and tarpon have been biting well on the muddier flats on the rising evening tides and will appreciate any further rainfall, especially when the jelly prawns erupt in the shallows.
In between this, the GTs and queenfish have been consistent catches at most locations and will be common catches in January.
The tourist numbers will be low after the burst of the school holidays, and we locals can sit back and enjoy our fishery by ourselves. That's if we don't cop a cyclone or two!
1) If you persist at the run-off creeks, particularly along the beaches, you’ll should catch better fish than this shovel-nosed shark. They’re a bit common at times but are still a lot of fun.Reads: 1997