The end of the wet season
  |  First Published: May 2004

THE WET season appears to be well and truly over and it was a disappointing one at Karumba. Other Gulf ports such as Weipa and Burketown have had serious wets with great rain; Weipa residents will have webbed feet by the time it’s finished.

The temperature is dropping as I write this and by the time you read it, it will be cold. We’ve already had some cool mornings. Most Karumba locals seem to be depressed that the wet ended without much action. The road never even became impassable between Karumba and Normanton, and as a consequence the influx of the tourists has been early and consistent. The place was half full in the middle of March.


The fishing over the last month has been inconsistent, with some boats returning to the boat ramp with good bags of grunter or salmon and the odd barra and other boats coming up with nothing. Those with the best bait and a good plan seem to be catching a few fish while the ‘chuck it and hope’ crowd are turning up at the Fish and Chips shop.

The earlier months of the year have seen hardly any grunter action at Karumba, and nobody knows why. Even up the coast at more fancied spots the grunter have failed to show. Perhaps they will be late this year (again). There have been hoards of 35cm fish in the channel with is a good sign for years to come – as long as they aren’t mistaken for big bream and kept, which often happens.

Queenfish and other pelagics

May usually is the start of the pelagic run of fish at Karumba, with the Sand Island the best bet for a queenfish. The queenfish range in size from just-legals to 20lb beasts that zigzag around, scaring the hell out of all the gargish they hunt out around the bar. Queenfish are relatively easy to hook once they are located.

Trolling is a good way to find the fish, and the best way to start is with a gold Bomber – the North Queensland tackle box favourite. Troll him around, up and down, and if you see some bird activity troll towards and around the action, not through it. If there’s a queenfish present it will eat a Bomber every time. You can bait fish for them with pilchards on gangs, but have you ever tried to get gangs out of a big queenfish? No thanks – not if you’re planning on releasing it.

If you do keep a queenfish they are quite nice to eat fresh, sliced thin in the same dimensions as a big whiting fillet and egg and breadcrumbed. Cooked quickly in very hot oil, they taste just fine. If you pull them out of the freezer in six months’ time they are plenty chewy and fit only for a cat to eat.

Other species

There will be the other usuals on display during May. The Spaniards will arrive and replace the queenfish as head honcho out over the small broken bottom. Big GTs will continue to be around in large enough numbers for you to chase them on purpose if you need longer arms and a sore back. The blue salmon will hammer the livebaits and suchlike offered for king salmon, and everyone will walk around the parks whinging about the grunter not running again. Barra will still be there if you are good enough.


They reckon 10% of fishermen catch 90% of the fish. You too can increase your chances and join the 10%.

Firstly, make sure your bait is of good quality. Not all outlets in Karumba have good, fresh bait. Check out what you are buying and make sure it is not old and of poor quality. Don’t expect to catch quality fish on old crappy bait that has been thawed out and re-frozen a couple of times. Keep all your bait together in a little esky. Take out only what you need at any one time. Your bait will stay a lot fresher and be more presentable.

If you like to catch your own bait, look after it. If you net mullet for later use make sure they go straight into an esky, out of the sun. Freeze them straight away and they’ll come out of the freezer looking like new.

If you want to keep your bait alive, keep checking the livebait container. No matter how good your bait system is, some of the bait will die. Get them out of the water straight away and into the esky to help preserve them. The water around Karumba is quite warm even in winter, and it doesn’t take long for the baitfish to go off and pollute the water for the other fish. Moving the dead baits to the esky also helps reduce wastage. A heap of dead floating mullet drifting away from the boat ramp after a day on the water doesn’t impress anyone.

Finally, keep only what you can use and let the rest go. Overfishing bait is the same as overfishing prey – keep at it long enough and the whole food chain suffers.


This month’s Idiot Award goes to the bloke out the point the other day who was trying to load his little tinny onto his little collapsible trailer, on a making tide, with a bit of a northerly starting to roll around the corner. In fact, he had even jack-knifed the trailer a bit towards the wave direction coming from the north-west. As he wound on the vessel the waves started crashing over the transom and quickly filled the boat.

The lesson here is that not only was the man a fool for even trying to retrieve his boat at such an angle in the prevailing conditions, but also the person who designed the ramp in such a bad place against all local advice!

Until next month.

1) Dave Roberts of the NQ Cowboys looks pretty pleased with his first big fingermark.

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