Rolling the dice
  |  First Published: April 2004

AS I write the rain is tumbling down by the bucket loads. The local fish in our rivers and creeks enjoy a thorough downpour and our offshore species will also reap the rewards soon enough.

For a few years now we have been entwined in a drought cycle in the tropics but this is all behind us with solid rain during February and into March. Each month has had well above its normal rainfall and this can only be a bonus for the coming months. The fish have gotten bigger and fatter from gorging on the abundant food supply stimulated by the big soak. It's amazing how the cycle of life revolves around a drop or two of water.

From a fishing point of view it’s a matter of sitting out the rough stuff and going hell for leather once the calm days present themselves. To date the barra have totally snapped back into their boisterous habits and the mangrove jack have been meaner and bigger than ever in our rivers and creeks. The tarpon, queenfish, dart and trevally have been gaining a kilo by the minute as they take advantage of the jelly and mature run of prawns along our coastline during the calmer days. It has been scintillating fishing in between the squalls and rain. Our tropical inshore species have truly appreciated the change in scenery.

I’ve looked through my diary from previous years which have had a similar build-up, and the following are some of my predictions for April (don't hold me to ransom if the elements decide otherwise, however).

A good run of big talang queenfish and northern bluefin tuna around Snapper Island and more so the queenies entering the Daintree, Mowbray and Mossman river mouths for a kilometre or two. Live sardines on a light 6kg running sinker rig work well. Try throwing poppers if you see some surface activity or try trolling flashy lures such as the 190D Halco gold lure or skip 3-4” white skirts across the surface. April has rewarded me in the past with the best fishing ever for these two species, but you need to have calm days and clearer water. Also don't be surprised by the odd classic 30lb golden trevally which can be a little frisky at this time of year. All these species occasionally like to feed on the surface at this time of the year.

Four Mile Beach and Wonga Beach should be productive for the flyfishers who use small shrimp flashy presentations. Watch the fish boils – they may move to feed on garfish or similar smaller baitfish as the smaller variety gradually get devoured. If this happens, move to bigger presentations such as the Clouser or Deceiver. I still believe natural colours in either silver flash or white work best, however, variations of lime (chartreuse), gold and pink most definitely have their merits. Be prepared to swap and see what works. Keep patterns simple; when the fish are hungry they'll let you know.

It’s also a good idea to take your cast net for a feed of prawns if the rain continues. Recently I’ve been rewarded with meals of prawns which have been sighted into their kilos sitting in the shallows on calm days. I've been navigating our beaches for over eight years and have never seen such a reward sitting there with my name all over it. It’s been the icing on the cake!

On the reef some of the best catches over certain years have started in April. Fish which have been in a bit of slumber over the hotter months can quickly come on the chew as water temperatures gradually drop. However, the best gauge I've found is to cheat a bit when out there and take note of the professional activity. The pros tap into where the current is best hitting a reef system, and just watch how they anchor. It's a sneaky recreational trade but they are just as likely to be testing theories at this stage of the year. Who knows really which way the currents will be running at this time of year but they may put you onto something new.

In the right spot, species that should gather more momentum as apposed to others may include small-mouth nannygai, coral trout, spangled emperor and a serious splurge of mature reef mangrove jack. A mackerel floating rig with a pilchard attached on top of a reef 20-30m below will often engage one of these aggressive reef species which tend to hang mid-water this coming month or two. Persist amongst the odd shark or mackerel – it’s well worth the adrenalin!

The fishing in April can be a lottery and mainly hinges on the weather. I recommend that you fish smarter instead of harder and pick good weather with positive tides. If the deck of cards falls in the right formation, look out – it may produce a pair of Twos or could gather into a Full House or a sweep of Aces. The question is: how big will you or the weather whip everything into a storm?

1) A smashing coral trout caught not far from Cape Tribulation.

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