My wife Jill and I have just bought a 50ft Payne's Cruiser from the Gold Coast, and by the time you read this we will have taken her all the way back to Port Douglas.
Jill is making the 14-day trip with Shane Down, the skipper of MV Doreen Too, and the last time I spoke to them was as they were entering the Burnett River at Bundaberg. I had to miss the first part of the voyage as I had to return to Port Douglas due to writing commitments, but as soon as I finish writing this report I’ll be out the door to join them at Airlie Beach for the remainder of the trip.
The new vessel, Femme De La Mer (Lady of the Sea), is designed to give us maximum time on the water and to provide a comfortable home, even for months at a time. It has seven berths, two bathrooms, a sizeable galley and lounge, huge upper deck BBQ entertainment area, impressive wheelhouse and more.
We envisage countless lazy weekends at Low and Snapper islands, special days at coral sand cays and, when we have more time on our hands, Hope Island and Lizard Island. John White, skipper of the gameboat Kamari, is keen for us to use Femme De La Mer as a mother ship on the outer reef and take off in his 40ft Pleisyer gameboat to chase down the big ones on the continental shelf for days at a time!
Closer to home, and based at the Marina Mirage in Port Douglas, days after work will involve dropping down my 4.2m Quintrex from the davit into the water and taking off for an hour or two in our productive local systems.
If you’ve ever dreamed of owning a big cruiser, I recommend that you do your homework and take the plunge. It will change your life.
At this point I’d like to thank the crew at Ensign Brokers in Southport for their excellent service. Tony, Jim and Gordon took care of our every whim, from the time we touched base in Port Douglas to the time they saw the vessel off on its incredible journey.
We received bucket loads of rain up here in early January. Just to give you an idea of the volume I’m talking about, the Daintree Cruise Centre received 340mm in 24 hours – and that was just part of a good extended rain period. The weather has taken a while to settle, but we’re now getting spells of calm weather.
In the estuaries, rivers and creeks, fingermark and mangrove jack are active, especially closer to the snags and mangrove edges inside the mouths.
You can be sure the barra won’t be too far away at these locations. Incidental catches of barra during the off season were promising, with additional captures from the local beaches and surrounding rocky headlands and boat ramps with notable structures.
Mud crab captures have been decent on the bigger tides, particularly after a deluge, and the mud flats in front of systems such as Dickson Inlet and Muddy Creek have produced the goods. Quality grunter have also been caught across the flats on suitable tides and after gushing rain. The best baits have been quality peeled prawns and strips of mullet.
Along the beaches we have had many hatches of jelly prawns, which have attracted a range of predators on the calmer days, especially at first light. Tarpon and queenfish have been thick in boiling masses at times and have been the staple catch, especially for those anglers using small, white crazy Charlie flies or 15g metal slices whipped through the boils. Small 3” poppers have been clouted as well.
I also have reports of blue salmon and barra sitting the edges of this commotion. The best baits for these species are quality livebaits such as small garfish and mullet.
In windows of calm weather out on the reef, those in the know have been getting their bag limit of coral trout. Spangled and sweetlip emperor are common catches as well, with smatterings of bludger and tea-leaf trevally in the deeper sections. A few nannygai are showing up here and there, and the morning tides offer a bit more run at this time of year.
On the pelagic scene, mackerel numbers aren’t all that high at the moment. The average fish size is good, however, with specimens up to 25kg. John White of Kamari recommends trolling inside at the paddocks such as St Crispin Reef, and inside of Tongue and Opal reefs.
Next month I’ll give you a rundown on driving a vessel and catching some fish en route from the Gold Coast to Port Douglas.
1) Shane Down with a beach queenfish. These fish are plentiful at the moment, attracted by the recent hatches of jelly prawns.Reads: 705