Wrapped in a Fishy Blanket
  |  First Published: February 2003

THE FISHING during the holiday season was an absolute corker in the Port Douglas region. It was the perfect build-up to the wet season, with some solid rain and yet so many glassed-out days on the water opening up all sorts of fishing opportunities.

The local creeks and rivers have been extremely warm and hostile at times, but they’ve still produced swags of smaller trevally, a few raging big queenfish, plenty of jacks and estuary cod in the snags, and increasing incidental barra catches. It should be a productive start to the barra season, starting on February 1. How much more rain will fall in the next month or two is critical; too much rain makes the task harder as our systems flood quickly. Going on the New Year takings, the evenings have been the prime time to nail a barra using live mullet or sardines. Fish hard leading up to the new moon.

At one stage last month there was a spurt of Spanish mackerel around the harbour entrance. The fish lingered around the local jetties, providing some scintillating moments for those anglers lucky enough to be there at the right time. The incredible thing was that it was late afternoon, rather than a clean morning tide, and it’s also unheard of to see Spaniards this close to shore during the hottest time of year. Admittedly though, many tides were full and clean and this is possibly what created the unexpected.

Across the flats and along the beaches, the afternoon tides have been better to fish with a bit of chop on the water. Locals have nailed some prime metre-plus queenfish using live sardines and garfish. There has also been a solid run of golden and smaller giant trevally taking fresh strip baits and peeled prawns, and they have kept anglers entertained between the big ones. The tarpon have yet to surface so far, but a bit more rain sparking a jelly prawn hatch or two will definitely bring them on in their droves. Balmy, still mornings or evenings on the neapish tides will be prime times to continue your pursuit here. I believe the best is still yet to come!

The fishing around surrounding islands has really gained in momentum as the bait schools have become thick. A bit of rain and calm days have been the right recipe to turn these locations into seafood banquets. There has been a smorgasbord of fish on the chew, including mackerel tuna, longtail tuna, giant and diamond trevally, oceanic queenfish, and a few school and Spanish mackerel. Chasing down the surface action has offered some explosive fishing sessions, and using light gear only doubles the fun!

My brother and I were offered the angling 'green room' experience one weekend when we were hooked up solid for one and half hours on a variety of pelagic beasts, engulfing us into a boiling froth. Added to this were dolphins, sharks and a million birds, also working the same patch of water. Fish were banging into the side of the boat and bait schools were flying in every direction. We were completely wrapped up in a fish blanket and it was the hottest bite I've ever experienced. If this month offers any calm weather I know where I'll be heading!

As expected, the reef fishing has slowed dramatically under the hot Summer sun, and efforts need to be concentrated in the deeper water. There are still enough coral trout, trevally and sweetlips to make a trip worthwhile but, if the weather if kind, consider a night trip. Nannygai and emperor are a more likely catch at night, but be sure to obtain an accurate forecast before you set out.

Everyone has seemed to enjoy some sort of angling success to accompany the New Year, and many are hoping it will continue – especially with the barramundi season opening on February 1.

1) Diamond trevally were just part of our 'green room' experience on pelagics recently.

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