Jacks To Burn
  |  First Published: May 2005

Local anglers enjoyed some perfect fishing conditions recently when a four-day window of opportunity presented itself. The ideal weather was sandwiched between strong south easterly conditions either side of the Easter break.

Small boat owners took to the waters in droves and many who ventured out to do some bottom bouncing on the close reefs and in between came home with nice coral trout, spangled emperor and nannygai, as well as some huge Spanish mackerel on the float lines.

There continues to be good numbers of Spaniards around and there are also reports of plenty of doggie macks around 65cm showing up. These fish have been taking floated pillies as well as jigged metal slices like Raiders and Bumper Bars.

Inshore, quality fingermark in the 40-65cm range have been taken in the deeper waters of the Cairns Inlet on live baits, while even larger fish over 70cm have been caught out at Kings Point. Barramundi have also been active, although most of the lure-caught fish have only been 50-65cm. Anglers fishing live baits such as prawns and mullet deep into the snags have taken some bigger barra.

Further up the creeks, the mangrove jacks have really been on the chew with those fishing live and cut baits doing particularly well. Jack specialist Darryl Schwilk had a hot session in the Cairns Inlet and in the north, accomplished angler Steve Dangaard also found the jacks in numbers around the Daintree area.

Mangrove jack fishing can be a lot of fun, whether it is with bait or lures. Most anglers get a buzz out of the sudden hit a jack makes on a well-presented bait or lure. Drifting a fresh cut bait like a gar or mullet slab or a live bait such as a sardine or mullet into a snag on a rising tide will usually get the desired result. Accurately placed small lures worked deep into and under the overhanging cover of a mangrove bank will produce jacks too. The best times for luring are an hour or so either side of the low tide, preferably early morning or late afternoon.

The sorry tale of Worunda

It came as no surprise to me to eventually read in the local newspaper about the sinking of the abandoned former tug Worunda in the Cairns Inlet. It has been some years since I retired from full time guiding however, I estimate that the Worunda has been at anchor for approximately seven years, maybe longer.

This boat turned up in the Cairns Inlet, fully set up to engage in the live fish business, with rumours that the Worunda was to be a mother ship serving several tenders in the live trout trade. It was said that the business apparently went belly up, signalling the beginning of the end for the former tug.

Since then, the orange boat has been what most boaties would call a hazard, sitting in the same place in a sorry state of neglect. I noticed over a period of time that just about anything worthwhile from its superstructure was pilfered. Years of inactivity culminated in the boat having to be pumped out several times by the local port authority in order to prevent it from resting on the bottom of the popular recreational and tourist waterway.

A couple of weeks ago, the boat finally went down and started to discharge pollutants directly into the Cairns Inlet, which is actually a designated estuarine conservation zone within the Cairns area marine park. My concern is that there are many other boats like the Worunda just waiting for the same fate. It’s 2005 and an estuarine conservation zoning is in place but even so, nothing seems to happen.

Irresponsible boat owners get away with littering a beautiful waterway with discarded junk because the authorities won’t take action to clean the place up. A cruise along the north-eastern face of Admiralty Island or further up the Inlet in the direction of Redbank Creek will reveal an assortment of abandoned boats left to rot and pollute.

If road users go about leaving their abandoned vehicles and wrecks all over the place in our national parks, action is taken. Why then is a magnificent waterway on a tourist destination at the doorstep of the Great Barrier Reef any different? It is high time acts of vandalism and neglect are ended and the meaning of an estuarine conservation zone is worth more than the paper it is written on.

May is usually a great fishing month and one of my favourites. As the wet season run-off winds down, schools of big, hungry queenfish start to arrive in most of the salt arms of our local river systems. My tip is to grab your spin rod one afternoon and work some surface poppers on a rising tide in one of the local river mouths.

Bring on the queenies! Till next month, see you on the water.

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