Don’t say it – it might happen
  |  First Published: December 2004

We’re finally getting some wet weather, but nobody is mentioning the ‘R’ word in case they put a jinx on the whole thing. I have purposely left my bimini top up on the boat for the last while so when it does ‘R’ I have to go out in the middle of it to empty it. It’s a big sacrifice but one that needs to be done. Leaving the windows down in the ute on the footpath is also a great ‘R’ attracting trick.

The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast this year as a ‘neutral’ year – neither an El Nino nor La Nina – which, historically, isn’t bad for the Gulf of Carpentaria. The BOM forecasts a possibility of two or three cyclones in the Gulf, with the best start date of activity in January. The downside is that there’s an average chance that one cyclone in the Gulf will be severe (Category 3 or more) so it’s a pretty common plea here that it doesn’t cross the coast near us on a big January tide. The resulting storm surge would be bad with no need to book your holiday for March.

What’s been happening

The black jewies are still in the river and cruising the deeper holes. This type of fishing can be a lifesaver when the big ugly tides make all other fishing impossible. Vertically fishing the edges with prawn and mullet baits is a good way to target jewies and also to pick up the odd jewel fish and fingermark.

King salmon are everywhere out on the flats on the run-in tide at the moment. I don’t know how fishing this area would be for them as the tides are making in the afternoon and it gets quite ugly out there. I only know this because an attempt was made at running a few crab pots with a couple of mates out on the flats and there were king salmon everywhere amongst the white-capped rolling surf on the afternoon northwester.

On the subject of crabs, they are non-existent except for jennies and undersized bucks. Even after moving the pots back in the river after no crabs in two days on the flats, the total for 12 pots over five days as far up the creeks as possible was six legal-sized (but only just) crabs. We don’t crab any differently than we did a few years ago so I guess you can’t have half a dozen commercial operators from the East Coast and thousands of tourists taking plenty out of it and expect a fishery (crabbery?) to be as good as it used to be.

The surprise packet at the moment is the amount of quality fingermark in the deeper holes up and down the river. Some good fish have been turning up on mullet fillets and livebait while fishermen are targeting other species like jewfish and salmon.

What to expect

The black jewfish will stay in the river until the fresh comes, after which they seem to thin in numbers. Creek mouths on the last couple of hours of the run-out are worth a try. While trying for jewies you can double up your bets and have a livebait circulating in the eddies of the creek for a king or blue salmon.

January is also historically a good month for grunter. The grunter made a bit of an appearance last year in October and November as in previous years. Usually by getting offshore a bit to some of the areas of broken ground produces the goods.

Barra time soon

Now that you have replaced all those hooks on your favourite barra lures it’s time to get them wet once again. Midday on February 1 sees the opening of the barra season in the Gulf of Carpentaria. For once, this is no different from the east coast.

Idiot of the Month

No idiot this month; most of the villages around the place have recalled their idiots for the festive season. That’s not to say there aren’t any idiots in this local village, but they are all wary now of public exposure. I’m sure that without too much coaxing there will be some idiot on the way as we speak to smash a catfish or maim a shark for being a predator and eating his squid.

Stop Press: Actually, how about the commercial fisherman caught on camera finning live sharks and then throwing them back alive, minus all their fins, to suffer a horrible death and then having his photo on the front page of the Cairns Post. See, told you its not hard to find an idiot. This has been going on forever in the Gulf and it was not uncommon, before legislation banned the possession of shark fin without having any other shark product on board, for some shark product operators to have tonnes, yes tonnes of fin with no other product on board. Then the clowns get in the pub and brag how they dive in the water beside the giant tiger sharks caught in the net and hack off the fins then release him straight back into the wild.

See you after the wet.


1) If you have to drive through this then the ' just kept on coming.

2) Wearing Sun gloves stops the back of your hands getting fried in the January heat.

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