We’ve had some excellent fishing action over the past month in the rivers, estuaries and offshore.
March usually gets better as we near the end of wet season, and cooler water offshore brings more fish on the bite. Inshore barramundi anglers have been having a ball, catching plenty of good barra up to the metre mark on lures and livebaits. Luring the rivers and estuaries has also turned up plenty of jacks and a few fingermark at the river mouths. This scenario should continue throughout this month, although you should remember that conditions can change very quickly at this time of year. Overnight downpours can wreck some trips to the rivers due to an invasion of flooded water.
Offshore, the outstanding run of big Spanish mackerel continues to provide red-hot fishing action. The major runs of mackerel here in Cairns usually occur around mid-July through to October, but mackerel can be taken all year round up here in the tropics. Quality fish have been captured on a variety of techniques at all of the close inshore reefs throughout summer.
Spaniards are high on anyone’s fishing wish-list, and are a regular bonus for local anglers chasing coral trout on the reefs close to most far northern towns. It has been rare to not get a Spaniard while on a day trip chasing bottom fish such as trout and nannygai.
Most of the mack captures have been by anglers anchored up bottom fishing and drifting out livebaits or pillies on the usual wire-trace rigs. On a recent trip we caught good numbers of mackerel, including some real horses, on live fusiliers and pilchards while we pulled coral trout from the bottom. In between shifts, trolling wog head rigged gar has also been successful for these big predators.
My most recent trip saw me out with local charter operator Kerry Bailey chasing coral trout. Our day produced a hot morning bite before things shut down at around midday.
Our bottom fishing was continually interrupted by topwater mackerel action. We were fishing some rubble in about 30m of water, drifting out mackerel baits in the current to keep them well clear of the boat. We knew the mackerel were there in numbers because our first two big hook-ups resulted in clean bite-offs by other mackerel chasing the bubble trails. We each lost two big fish in this way before Woodsy hooked a hefty mackerel that would satisfy any angler.
Our tackle included 15kg mono on Penn 320GTI reels, allowing us to tame the monster mackerel in about 15 minutes. Woodsy did a nice job on his fish, and after a couple of big runs the large Spaniard was beside the boat. When you’re in this situation it’s important to get rid of other lines during the battle and to patiently manoeuvre the fish into position alongside the boat for gaffing. If the fish is well hooked you’ll eventually be able to bring it parallel to the boat, place the gaff underneath the fish near the gill cover and lift it aboard.
When an angler struggles to lift their fish for a photo, you know you have a quality fish! Woodsy (who reminded me of Angry Andersen) only just managed to hold the big mack for some happy angler pics after the capture. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to accurately weigh a fish like that. I estimated its weight at around 30-35kg.
Soon after that capture I brought another mackerel aboard, but it paled into insignificance alongside Woodsy’s brute.
An earlier fishing trip with Ben Solly had seen me in Woodsy's shoes, with a similar horse mackerel that proved to be a miracle capture. I was fishing with 8kg mono line and a huge mackerel spooled my Shimano TR200. With only 2m of line left on the reel, a jammed power tilt on the boat engine provided some anxious moments as the big mackerel slowly circled 400 yards away. After what seemed like an eternity, the boys got the engine down and going and we were able to chase the fish and retrieve line to avoid the bust-off.
This mackerel was one of my most miraculous catches, considering the line class, the size of the fish and what happened with the spooled reel and jammed motor. The motor problem turned out to be a faulty relay switch on the power tilt.
In between the mackerel fishing, a few nice coral trout have brightened up the inside of iceboxes. Most of the trout have been in the 42-60cm range, with a few smaller 'release size' fish mixed in. Depths of around 80 feet have been more productive for trout as water temperatures have been constantly over 30 degrees. We’ve been having some really hot weather lately, causing the trout fishing to become patchy, but this should improve as the water starts to cool towards the end of the month.
It won’t be long before the strong southeasters arrive, so I suggest you get out there now. Until next month, good fishing!
1) Kewara Beach resident Wood Duck 'Woodsy' struggles to hold up this monster Spanish mackerel he captured recently at Sudbury Reef near Cairns while fishing with Kerry Bailey.
2) The correct way to gaff a large gamefish. Avoid body shots and place the gaff under the gill covers before lifting firmly and swiftly.
3) The author with a ‘miracle mackerel’ caught near Cairns. This Spaniard spooled the author during an eventful few minutes of mayhem, and it’s amazing that it was landed.Reads: 489