Cape Road opens early
  |  First Published: May 2003

BY THE time you read this, the road to the Cape from Cairns will have been open almost six weeks! Yes, the wet was certainly the poorest I’ve seen and I’ve been living here since the late 1980s.

Old Huey left the best until last, sending down bucket loads for a couple of days when Cyclone Craig came across the Territory in early March then hung a big right and headed down the middle of the Gulf to cross near Kowanyama. Weipa copped a few big gusts the day before Craig’s near miss, but conditions eased quickly as it headed south.

The rain from Craig had the rivers running strongly for the first time this wet season in the central Peninsula – an event that probably prompted mum and dad barras to indulge in a bit of propagation. Word has it that even the commercial barra fishers have been doing it very tough to date, so the runoff will hopefully have helped to get the fish on the move.

By late March, the southeast trades were already well entrenched – a sure sign that the wet has well and truly departed until next time. The first vehicles to reach Weipa arrived during the final week of March, reporting that the road was a bit chopped up in sections and had a few nasty washouts, but was certainly not heavily corrugated.

My good friends Barry and Shelley Lyons, rangers at Heathlands Ranger Station (midway between Weipa and the tip) made their way down to Weipa in late March after crossing the Wenlock River Bridge without getting their tyres wet. They weren’t so lucky at some of the smaller crossings, reporting over a metre of water in a couple of the deeper ones.

Still, the first vehicles into Bamaga were probably not far behind them on their return journey a few days later. If you’re planning to come up this way during the dry, I suggest you book any campsites, accommodation or charters well ahead to make sure you don’t miss out.


After a year in limbo, the Weipa Fishing Challenge is on again this year with an earlier time slot. To be held over the weekend of May 30, 31 and June 1, the Challenge will feature prizes for the heaviest fish in a range of species including mangrove jack, fingermark, mackerel, trevally, bream, tuskfish, queenfish, salmon and barra.

Also a major drawcard is the prize giveaway, in which every entrant gets a ticket regardless of whether they fish. The big prize this year is a 4.5m Polycraft Centre Console fitted with a 50hp Yamaha motor sitting on a galvanized trailer. The boat package, valued at $20,000, comes ready to hit the water with underfloor tank, canopy and side rails. Second prize is a home entertainment system valued at $10,000, including the latest big screen plasma TV, also well worth winning.

The town is sure to be extremely busy that weekend, so if you’re thinking of heading this way and need a campsite or motel room, book early. Check out the Weipa Fishing Challenge site at www.weipa.biz for more information on the competition.

Local kids will get their chance to compete in their own fishing competition the weekend before – May 24 and 25. This event is also extremely popular, with plenty of prizes for participants.

Having this competition early lets the adults focus on the main competition a week later. However, kids are quite welcome to enter the main event and there are always a few young faces among the prize winners come Challenge weigh-in.


Gary Shipton, of Shipton Trading, markets some very interesting products, two of which are variations of knottable steel trace. Both come in sizes ranging 4-40kg breaking strain.

For the past couple of months I’ve been mainly using the polyethylene-cored braided stainless steel trace in an attempt to see how durable it is in tropical conditions. While it won’t withstand the direct bite of the teeth-filled jaws of a big Spaniard, it does survive bite-offs from the smaller members of the mackerel tribe, a factor that would save quite a few lures over a season.

The trace is probably a bit more flexible than nylon of the same gauge because it has a braided core and a woven hollow outer covering of steel. If you are careful to tie knots like the blood or uni knot with a reduced number of turns, and pull them down carefully, the trace will not curl or kink.

An Albright knot can be used to attach the trace to a double or main line if you don’t want to use a swivel. A Homer Rhode type loop knot also works well if you are using lures and want them to work with maximum action.

During a hot session in the shipping channel off Weipa, I landed over 20 trevally ranging 4-9kg on soft plastics on a jighead rigged via a loop knot to a metre of the 20kg trace material. At the end of the session the trace had almost no visible wear and wasn’t showing any kinks or twists. Unfortunately, a big groper ate the plastic, jighead, trace and big queenfish that had eaten them on the first drop the next time I used that trace! That’s par for the course in Weipa waters.

The 4kg and 6kg sizes of this trace material should be a boon to anglers fishing for whiting and bream who want a bit of insurance against the big flathead that turn up unexpectedly from time to time. The trace is so light and flexible that it should not affect the presentation of a bait to these species.

For those anglers who troll the snags looking for barra and Murray cod and lose lures to sunken timber on a regular basis, Shipton Trading is also looking at importing a range of titanium split rings designed to minimise lure loss. Because titanium is so flexible, use of the correct sized split ring when a lure becomes snagged means that a direct pull on the line will cause the ring to open and leave the hook behind.

My main concern was that in barra country, the fight of a big fish might cause the ring to open during the fight, releasing the hook and the fish! This has not proved to be the case so far, but the large fish needed to really test the rings have been a little on the slow side. Gary has mentioned that some of the rings survived the captures of a couple of horse-sized dam barra down Gladstone way, so indications are good.

One of my lures, however, was recovered sans hook when it lodged deep in a snag thanks to the ring doing its job. Titanium certainly has some very interesting attributes, and I’m sure we’ll hear more about it in the near future.

1) Big giant herring have been harassing the bait schools that turned up at the end of the wet season.

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