Hot New Year fishing!
  |  First Published: February 2004

FAR North Queenslanders have been enjoying a great fishing start to the New Year with perfect weather allowing for plenty of fishing experiences. At the time of writing hot, calm conditions are still around and we’ve had no significant rain. February is often a wet one and most fishos are still praying we get a couple of metres of rain to rejuvenate everything.


Anglers who have been fishing offshore have been catching coral trout in close to the reefs and, out wider, patchy catches of spangled emperor and reds at night. Wreck fishing has been fairly slow, with Bumpa Bar sessions producing a few GTs and cobia. There are still a few mackerel about and of course large schools of mack tuna around to chase.

Inshore, those anglers who have been patiently waiting for their barra fix will now be able to overdose as the barra season here is now open, and quite a few have been inadvertently captured during the closed season. If you’re out there chasing barra please be considerate and release any large fish, as they may not have finished breeding due to there being no decent rainfall yet. Inshore lure fishing has produced a few nice mangrove jacks as well as school GTs and the odd queenie. Bait fishers are picking up blue salmon, grunter and fingermark.

In the freshwater David Mayes and Karl Schuster had a ball catching and releasing big jungle perch and sooties, and of course the barra fishing at Lake Tinaroo has been on fire this summer, particularly around the full moons.


These fishing patterns should continue and will only get better as the water temperatures cool off a bit. However, river and creek conditions can change quickly at this time of year from overnight downpours.

I joined my buddy Col Upham for a day out recently and we decided to take along spearguns and look for crayfish in the shallow reefs south of Cairns. Our first spot was spoiled by dirty water due to the tidal run, but the perfect weather meant Colin’s new four-stroke Yammy was raring to take us further afield. We blasted out to Sudbury Reef where we enjoyed a great dive which yielded a nice cray for Colin and a beaut trout for me. In the heat of a northern summer it’s very nice to spend some time cooling off in the clear tropical waters of the Great Barrier Reef. The snorkel/spearing experience may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it sure makes a pleasant change from waving fishing rods around in the middle of the day. A bonus is the physical workout you get from all that up and down swimming. Just the thing for shedding some of those Christmas dinner kilos!

By the time the dive was over the birds were going crazy on the mack tuna schools so it was time to throw some metal. This type of fishing is one of my favourites and I recommend using small Raider slices on a medium spin outfit spooled up with about 6kg line. You need a rod with a light tip capable of belting out a small slice 40m to 50m. The basic technique is to have your rod in hand ready to cast and then motor straight up to the school and as soon as you get within casting range cut the motor and cast into the boil. Start cranking as soon as the lure lands, and if you’re using the right sized lure you’ll get an instant hook-up most of the time. We use a small leader of about 15kg and tie this straight on to the split ring of the lure. Avoid using wire and snaps for tuna as they are very finicky and won’t take the lure. If you don’t get any hits, change the lure size to a smaller profile. It shouldn’t take long to match up the right profile and get amongst the fun.

Our first chase led to an instant double hook-up. Colin landed his fish – a solid 3kg mack tuna – and my line got axed by something toothy as it arched through the water… probably a mackerel or shark. Some more tuna and some Bumpa Barring at the wrecks on the way home topped off a great day in paradise.

Kerry Bailey

I recently enjoyed a day out with an old mate who has just commenced charter operations. Kerry has been guiding in Cairns for many years, working mostly for other operators, and finally bit the bullet and set up Blackout Sportsfishing Charters. He has just launched a beautifully fitted out 6m Bajcraft Custom Aluminium powered by a 4stroke Suzuki 115hp which he will use to take in some of the closer offshore reefs and wrecks as well as full day charters to any of the local rivers. Watch out for a full boat test review by Garry Smith coming up shortly in this magazine.

Kerry has built up an extensive knowledge of the local inshore and offshore fishing scene and after being a guide here myself for 12 years I rate him very highly and he knows how to look after customers and put them onto what they come here for: fish! Kerry recently gave me a taste of what his customers might experience, including some deepwater bait fishing as well as wreck Bumpa Barring and pelagic trolling and tuna casting. The V-hulled centre console boat is perfectly set up to allow all of these forms of fishing and still give you a very comfortable and secure ride home when it gets rough. Our catch for the day included nannygai, red and spangled emperor, coral trout, chinamanfish, GTs, cobia and mack tuna.

The ideal conditions at this time of year allow small boat owners the chance to venture further offshore than they would normally go. This means places like Kings Point, Harbour Leads and close reefs are all options. Beware of storm activity at this time of year if you’re heading to these places in a small boat.

Well I have been enjoying a few weeks holiday and have been having a ball here living in paradise. The problem is I can’t decide whether to go chasing barra up at Tinaroo, night fishing for fingermark, tuna casting, Bumpa Barring or chasing those painted crayfish with my speargun. I guess I’ll just do have to do all of them!

Till next month, see you on the water.

1) This month casting small metal lures such as Raider slices into this mayhem usually means an instant hook-up on a tuna and a ton of fun on light spin gear.

2) Kerry Bailey shows off a nicely coloured Chinaman fish. These hard fighting fish are a real handful and are now on the protected list as a no-take species.

3) Shaun Mayes holding up a solid pair of spangled emperor from one of the wrecks near Cairns.

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