Warming up your winter
  |  First Published: June 2005

We’re now officially into winter, or the ‘dry season’ as we say in the tropics. We’re getting moderate temperatures up here during the day, and the nights are a touch on the chilly side.

To date the fishing has been hot and cold, depending mainly on whether there’s a harsh southeasterly breeze threatening to shut down our inshore and offshore systems.

When the weather has behaved, inshore there have been some good catches of big queenfish at the Daintree River entrance, with grunter and trevally quite common across the flats further inside the system.

There have been some handsome catches of blue salmon at the mouth of Muddy Creek, mainly around the full moon, and the Dickson Inlet has produced pockets of mangrove jack in solid numbers hanging on certain snags upstream on dropping tides. This has been accompanied by the normal string of bream, smaller grunter and sicklefish quite active amongst snags and harbour pylons near Port Douglas.

The beaches during calm conditions have seen whiting, dart and smaller queenfish keen to sniff out the cockle shells appearing with the rolling in of the tides, particularly on the spring tides. Southern Four Mile Beach and (just a bit down the highway) Oak Beach are good places to start. Peeled prawns on a light outfit and running sinker have produced a variety of fish.

Offshore, the reef fishing has definitely improved. Charters and locals have been enjoying improved catches of coral trout, small-mouth nannygai, reef mangrove jack, gold-spot trevally (turrum), Spanish mackerel and a few red emperor to add the icing to the cake. Southern currents and southeaster winds have helped boats to hang properly on top of bommies in most reef areas. Conditions like these take a lot of the guesswork out of bottom bouncing as you know the boat will stay in the one position.

The reef fishing will keep getting better over the next few months, and decent tide movement will always work in your favour.

The gamefishing scene has been enjoying some fiery fishing action, particularly for Spanish mackerel. Using the protection of the outer reef systems from the wind, many skippers have been concentrating inside the paddocks including Opal, St Crispins and Tongue Reef. The less desirable scaly mackerel (shark mackerel) have also started to hound well-presented trolled garfish and lures.

The sailfish and small marlin have been elusive to date, but skippers are saying they have been sighted and it’s only a matter of time before these sleek predators assert their dynamic presence.


At this time of year I often go chasing giant trevally (GTs) in our rivers and creeks. I'm not talking the about the 60-80lb monsters found on the outer reef, but rather the 2-5kg specimens which inundate our local systems in solid numbers during the colder months. Some even push the 10kg mark but, seeing as you’ll probably be using a lighter inshore outfit, you’d need a lot of luck to hang on to those bigger fish.

Giant trevally are active fish, highly streamlined with a powerful forked caudal fin to propel them forward at enormous speeds. GTs use the push of the tide to ambush or crash tackle schools of bait, so you need to work in with the tide with your lure or livebait. Start fishing river and creek mouths and surrounding coastal flats the instant the tide moves in. Half an hour to an hour is a good starting point, depending on the bite. If you haven't had a bite I’d say you're in the wrong spot.

Concentrate your efforts on the edges of channels as they rise sharply into shallower water, and be sure to always have a presentation in the main section of the channel. This targets those schools which punch straight on into a waterway.

As the tide gathers momentum the fish won’t last long at the front of the system – they’ll move quickly up the main part of the channel to the next deeper hole or shallow flat with rising water. Some days they move quicker than anticipated and you just have to move on to the next potential spot until you find them. Sooner or later you’ll locate them, whether it’s on a flat, in a deep hole on a bend, on a deep bank which has a snag or even at a creek mouth rattling up bait. Just watch for nervous bait disturbing the surface, as more often than not there’ll be a few GTs stirring the pot.

Some days the GT schools travel for kilometres upstream and generally they enter more skinny waterways upstream if the tide is slower (which holds more water for longer). However, they will travel only to where there is a concentration of saltwater. You should always keep this in mind, particularly when fishing long systems such as the Mossman and Daintree rivers.

On the turn of the tide, start working in the opposite direction. Concentrate your efforts at the front of small run-off creeks, the current ‘pressure points’ of mangrove islands, edges of channels and the borders of deeper holes. The action will be short and fast the further upstream you are.

Not too long after the tide starts to fall, I’ve found heading back towards the entrance is the better option, particularly on the bigger moving ebbs. The fish prefer cleaner water and will hold in the deep holes near the front or simply head out to sea.

I prefer to use sardines or hardiheads as a livebait at this time of year, with the hook protruding through the mouth. As for lures, gold Bombers and silver B52s tend to score the bigger fish. If you find a pack of schooling fish, a great option is to use a small popper a couple of inches long punched quickly across the water.

Fishing with 6kg line is ample for these fish, with the exception of the odd denizen that will blow you away.

Generally stick to the main highway and these fish will blow you skyway!


1) If you’re after a winter GT, start fishing river and creek mouths and surrounding coastal flats the instant the tide moves in.

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