A magic month!
  |  First Published: May 2004

MAY in the tropics is the fisho’s magic month! The nutrient-packed freshwater soup that continues to enter the rivers, even though the rains have dwindled to a sprinkle here and there, sends the fishy residents into hyperactivity – both in the estuaries and offshore.

The other good thing about May’s is the mild weather. Gone are the sauna-like conditions of the summer where any activity, other than breathing, almost instantly raises a sweat. The days are either excellent or superb – and the fishing likewise!

Even though the day temperatures are ‘cool’ enough to eventually lead to a drop in water temperature, which dampens the feeding impulse of most of the major predators, this process usually happens very slowly. This means that the trigger point for reduced activity is most likely to become effective sometime in late June or early July.

On the Queensland side of the Gulf of Carpentaria, the south-east trade winds start their dry season cycle in April/May. The offshore breeze pushes the warmer surface layer of the water out to sea, leaving the deeper, cooler water to take its place. The tide then pushes this cooler water into the rivers, enhancing the cooling effect of the lower ambient temperatures.

This drop in close inshore water surface temperatures, starting around the end of April, is the trigger for an explosion of baitfish activity in Gulf waters, and these vast schools quickly attract predatory interest. By mid-May, the inshore waters are usually teeming with tuna, queenfish, trevally, mackerel, cobia and sharks – even a few marlin.

Some of the best offshore fishing I’ve experienced in almost 35 years of heading offshore has happened right here, off Weipa, in May. Little wonder that this month is usually the first to be booked out in my line of work!

If you’re planning a May visit to tropical areas, make sure your lure supply is very healthy. In the rivers, barra, jacks, fingermark, cod and threadfin will destroy inadequate tackle, while offshore, big sharks and groper can often spoil the party big time.

One party of six anglers, which Josh and I fished in May 2003, lost over the magic three figures of lures in a five-day trip but the anglers were all smiles when it came to paying the hefty lure-loss bill. When the fishing is that good, who’s going to quibble about an empty tackle box? Just make sure you’re well prepared.

I can assure you that tropical guides, like myself, look forward to magic month just as much as the clients!

1) Big barra like this 102cm beauty, taken recently by Mick Kable, are likely catches during 'Magic Month'.

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