Fishing ban on Cape?
  |  First Published: June 2004

JUST when the average Jo Fisho was adjusting to the idea of going fishing on Cape York in alcohol-free areas, along comes another body blow!

A couple of years ago the Federal Government set up a seed funding scheme to help the Land and Sea Centre Ranger scheme to achieve self-management and funding within a couple of years. This organisation oversees Fisheries resource management in nine Cape York Communities – the only problem is they ran out of money before the next slice of funding was due to kick in at July 1 this year, according to Federal member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch.

Certain communities, including Pormpuraaw and Kowanyama, have decided to shelve the ranger system for this year and ban tourists from entering DOGIT land – thereby preventing hundreds of Cape York visitors from travelling to their favourite fishing and camping location. Once again, mismanagement costs the fisho who is willing to pay fees to get to a destination that still has fish left to catch. You’d think communities would be looking to develop low-key sustainable tourism ventures to create jobs and bring in much-needed tourist dollars.

At the time of writing the closures are in place but it seems the issue may not be dead and buried. Watch this space for any developments... let us hope a rescue plan is installed and a win-win situation for all parties is achieved.

There’s a lot of ill feeling around from many fishos who feel they have been made a scapegoat for managerial incompetence. If there’s a lesson to be learned from this it’s that you never know what a good thing you’ve got until it’s taken away from you. In this case it’s the opportunity to visit areas of wilderness which are shrinking while the population gets bigger and the bitumen roads stretch farther. We need to appreciate it while we can, look after it and leave it in great shape for those who follow.

What’s been happening on the water

The prospect of some dry, calm, clear weather has been a pipedream here in the tropics for the past month as we leave behind a lingering wet season and head into winter. They say ‘it never rains but it pours’, and that’s been true this year with the longer than expected wet season continuing following four years of drought. Hopefully the benefits of these conditions will continue for years to come as dams have been filled, estuaries flooded and rivers flushed. The fish have been out waiting to be tempted but the weekend warriors have had very few opportunities, as wet southeasterly trade wind patterns dominate our weather here in tropics.


Baitfishing the structure has produced barra, fingermark and estuary cod as well as the occasional mangrove jack. Pikey bream are also being caught in good numbers and this will continue over the next few months. On the flats, grunter and a few blue salmon have been taken.


Barramundi have been taking lures in most of the freshwater sections of local waterways, particularly in the areas where small feeder creeks enter the main waterway. These smaller, mostly juvenile fish have been feeding on the last morsels washed down by late rains. When the streams return to normal levels, look for these fish amongst the weed beds as they lazily spend their winter days in the warmer sections of the rivers. Better quality barra will most certainly be found in the deeper water at this time of the year.

Last month I wrote about the huge GTs roaming around in the local rivers and estuaries. The good news is they are still around, and some are even bigger. These fish are serious fun on light tackle inshore gear, and local charter operator Kerry Bailey reports a catch of one bigger than the photo which featured last month. That’s some fish! There are still plenty of smaller school-size trevally in the rivers as well.

Winter in the tropics is also queenfish time. Yep, as the fresh leaves our rivers and saltwater tides push high upstream into our rivers, bait schools will be found much farther upstream than usual. Large, hungry queenfish are never far away, and some are up around the 10kg-plus mark. The big greenbacks are an absolute fisho’s dream – easy to catch and great to fight. Be sure to have a bunch of inshore topwater poppers with you on any excursion to the rivers over the next few months. A quality casting rod of about 2m, and matching spin reel with either 6kg mono or braid, will suit the job well.


When anglers have been able to get farther out, bottom fishing has produced some nice large-mouth nannygai and spangled emperor on the wrecks, as well as a few coral trout close in to the reefs. The wrecks have also produced their fair share of 'also-rans' like big cudas and sharks, but there are still some good size cobia around as well.

This month the Spanish mackerel should be showing up in bigger numbers out wide. In closer to the islands and headlands, as well as places like the harbour leads, there are already good catches of doggie mackerel and spotty mackerel up to 5kg. These fish are readily taking small Bumpa Bars and Raiders.

Till next month, see you on the water.


1) This fine large-mouth nannygai was taken by Deb, a local Cairns resident, when she was out chasing reds with Kerry Bailey recently.

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