Cool times ahead
  |  First Published: May 2005

The month of May in the tropics is when night temperatures plummet and water temperatures drop considerably. A lot of our summer species, including the prized barramundi and even the mangrove jack, stop feeding consistently.

The news is not all bad though, because the speedsters of our oceans – queenfish, giant trevally and school mackerel – turn up the heat in the fishing stakes along headlands such as Cape Kimberley and Island Point. Trolling with mackerel lures and skirts is probably the best way to establish where the fish are holding in the initial stages of this month. I recommend using the ever-reliable 190D gold and black Halco lure or a 4” white skirt with a touch of green and blue. The first couple of hours of daylight are generally the best time to target these species at this time of year.

Along the beaches and flats, dart, whiting and flathead become more frequent amongst the already present trevally, tarpon, blue salmon and queenfish. Recently we had a huge jelly prawn hatch along the beaches, which attracted all sorts of predators, including a couple of big mantarays. The fish gorged themselves for several days until a bad spell of weather interrupted the process. Hopefully the food supply will last into the start of May to ensure the quality of fishing remains high on calm days. Again, morning sessions are the preferred time to wet a line.

Inside our rivers and creeks, bream and quality grunter will be very eager participants along the flats and close to pylons. On the cooler days to date, these smaller guys have been around in solid numbers and have come out of the woodwork to hammer dead and live baits, almost becoming annoying. The bigger species will include giant trevally, tarpon and queenfish, while batfish and sand bass (moonlight barra) will also readily eat a presentation of juicy peeled prawns.

The barramundi have finished off their last preparations before going into a slumber and overall the last couple of months have been really positive, according to many keen anglers. During the warmer period, most fish have been 60-80cm. There is still time to snare a last minute barra and the lead up to the new moon in the first week of May will be your best chance to hook one.

If you’d like to have a go at something different, try fishing the mouth of the Daintree River just inside the channel with a quality peeled prawn on an incoming tide. If your line smokes at a rate of knots like never before, there’s every chance you cranked onto asnub-nosed dart (permit) between 10-15lb. Pound for pound, I believe these dart are one of the fastest and most powerful inshore fish. At this size, they are not a common catch on the east coast, but from the beginning of May when the weather can be cool and windy and the water is a bit dirty, these fish appear from nowhere.

This location is the only one in the region where snubbies can be caught consistently. A quality 6kg eggbeater, which holds plenty of line, along with a running sinker rig and 30lb mono leader will provide anxious moments but a whole heap of fun if you’re lucky enough to latch onto one. I recommend letting them go as they are not great on the table and are more valuable as a sportfish back in the water.

Coral trout, tealeaf and bludger trevally and spangled emperor have been the staple catch for most anglers on the outer reefs. In addition to this, nannygai and Spanish mackerel should really get going this month and quality reef mangrove jack can almost be guaranteed in May.

These fish are generally around 6-7kg and will put you and your tackle to the test. Reef mangrove jacks are best caught on top of deep bommies with a floating pilchard, or better still, on live bait suspended 15m down. Your mackerel outfits will do the trick but be quick to respond to a hit, as they will have you back into the rocks in no time. Reef mangrove jack can also be a wonderful by-catch when you are targeting Spanish mackerel.

On the game fishing scene, we can expect to hear a lot more about sailfish being caught inside the paddocks near St. Crispins Reef and also further down south at Pixie Reef. With Spanish mackerel, giant trevally and the occasional small black marlin, punters looking for that formula one feeling should be satisfied.

This month the temperature may be fizzling but the fishing will be sizzling!


Benny Radford with a handsome 60cm barra caught on the Mowbray River, just south of Port Douglas.

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