May the force be with you
  |  First Published: May 2003

THE MONTH of May is definitely a challenging month for fishing in the tropics, mainly because the drop in temperature is often associated with strong south-easterly winds.

Within two or so weeks of May, night temperatures traditionally drop several degrees and the wind has a bit of a nip to it. Night air temperatures drop from around 20 degrees down to a paltry 16 degrees, and during the day they drop from about 28 degrees to a chilly 25 degrees! The fish feel the effects of the cool change, and traditional summer species such as barramundi, mangrove jack and fingermark shut down for winter. This doesn’t mean they cannot be caught, but it’s the exception rather than the norm.


Fortunately for us, the cold weather opens up a whole other can of worms! By now the inshore scene has already seen spurts of impressive winter species catches, including the monster oceanic queenfish, giant and golden trevally, and also blue salmon. Calm days, moderate rising tides, clear water and live sardines or mud herring are what you need to nail some of these prime fish at river entrances and surrounding headlands. Smaller species such as grunter and bream are gradually shifting through the gears and will peak as the temperature drops. The good old peeled prawn is the best bait to use, but make the effort to purchase your prawns from a seafood outlet. They are of much better value in quality and size.

The first schooling run of queenfish has seen these fish scouting along the beaches, and many locals are using small metal slices with great results. These fish are bordering on the kilo mark and will gather in size and momentum this month. Soon they’ll be accompanied by swallowtail dart and whiting, and hours of fun can be had on our beaches. The prime times are the rising tides in calm weather at dawn and the evening.

At some stage the all-clear on the box jellyfish will be announced and wading safely without protective clothing will add a new dimension to this enjoyable scene.


If recent reports are any indication, the outer reef fishing is set for some great moments in between the inclement weather. We have just come off a lengthy break due to bad weather, and the fishing absolutely let rip – especially the first few days when things settled down.

Fishing reports on the reef haven’t had much gusto since well before Christmas, but the drop in water temperatures has helped all our potential winter species, which made their presence felt with many solid encounters. Large- and small-mouth nannygai, coral trout, spangled emperor, mangrove jack, cobia, giant trevally, Spanish mackerel and sweetlip varieties were just some of the fish to have a real dip and produce some white-knuckling encounters. With current and wind direction more predictable, bottom fishing for reef species really begins to produce the goods in May. The fish tend to school more consistently and hold in the one place for longer periods.

Trolling in between locations when fishing out wide, using high speed lures, should also pick up a couple of pelagics to add to the kitty. Spaniards and tuna varieties are a money for jam, and a tip from John White of the Weejock game boat suggests the 190D black and gold Laser Pro lure by Halco will pay for itself tenfold. Even if it loses most of its bark, keep using it until it’s totally destroyed. He claims it accounted for 80 percent of his light game catches at the same time last year. These operators will also start sniffing around to see whether there are any sailfish or small black marlin prematurely taking up residence in our local waters.

The most difficult part of May is the potential for the high-pressure systems to spoil our attempts. Keep looking ahead for the predicted weather reports, and if you see an opening give it all your mustard. The www.fishingportdouglas.com.au website has a comprehensive weather forecast up to 10 days and can be a valuable tool when planning a trip.

1) Greg Buzacott with a white-knuckling giant trevally which gave him some major grief before he boated and released it.

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