While those of us who live in northern parts usually regard the fishing available during the winter months up this way as ‘slow’, what we fail to realize is how lucky we are in the weather department. Where else in Australia can you get away with wearing shorts and a t-shirt almost all of the time through the cooler months, only having to throw on a light jumper for the first couple of hours of the chillier mornings.
Who really cares if the barra are a little bit sleepy or the jacks are a bit subdued. Most of Oz would love to wake up to a balmy winter Gulf sunrise – and the smarter ones get in their 4WDs and do just that.
Crack a lull in the southeast trade winds in July and August and the southern visitor can find themselves in both a weather and fishing paradise. The rivers, beaches and offshore waters can come alive with a wide range of species when conditions are right.
If tossing lures is your forte, then target the larger tides, find some protected water, and fish the river snags, rock bars and gutters on the bottom half of the tide either side of low. Along the beaches and around the river mouths, the water will usually be clear, so work the higher parts of the tide with lure or fly while keeping your eye out for cruising fish.
For those just wanting to soak a bait, there are miles of waterways to explore. If you can throw a cast net, live bait such as mullet, gar and herring are easy to find; otherwise frozen bait can be purchased from local tackle outlets.
Winter anglers will usually find grunter, fingermark, estuary cod, blue salmon and trevally in the deeper sections, particularly around the turn of the tides. The shallower waters around snags and rock bars will still produce a few barra, jacks and king threadfin.
Find some of the offshore reefs and there will usually be cod, fingermark and coral trout in attendance. Trolling lures over the shallower rocky areas in 2-5m of water is a great way to catch a feed of the same species, along with golden trevally and mackerel.
Look out for bait schools offshore, as these will often include longtail tuna, cobia and big Spanish mackerel. Big mackerelalso work the edges of the reefs and will often grab a trolled plug; the 120-150mm sized Halco Scorpions that go down 3, 4 or 8 metres will cover most of the usual country encountered.
Sure, a gusty southeaster can spoil the ambience somewhat, but even soaking a bait in a quiet corner out of the wind is infinitely better than risking frostbite somewhere down south. Winter in Weipa is paradise but don’t tell too many people, as they’ll all want to come.
Professional guides, like myself, always have plenty of stories to tell. We meet some interesting people and have some amazing experiences, some of which we’d like to forget, but these are usually the ones that stick in your mind!
Next to wandering the beach chucking a fly at things swimming past, I enjoy casting lures to snags, and therefore, am usually infinitely patient with those who seek to hone their skills with baitcaster and plug. What clients perceive as being proficient in the art of lure casting varies greatly, so these days, I tend not to be surprised when a supposedly ‘experienced’ practitioner has me climbing trees all day!
To relieve the tediousness of retrieving said tree lures, some of us have adopted a number of technical terms to describe wayward casts. I must remind prospective punters that their aim is to avoid as many of these as possible, not try and emulate each one.
The Brushcutter: This cast lands in the outer edges of the tree, shearing leaves off before it stops. More leaves are usually dislodged as the lure is shaken free. Bad cast rating: 4 out of 10.
The Exocet Missile: Blasts into the trees at supersonic speed, usually ending up metres from its intended target and requiring a major effort at retrieval. It’s one of those ‘never, ever looked like going in the right place’ casts. Rating: 9 out of 10.
The Lob: Instead of the classic flat trajectory of the ‘perfect’ cast, this one follows an elliptical path, and long-term practitioners can still land this one quite accurately, but have a problem when the overhanging branches are low. Rating: 2 out of 10.
The Nosebleed: A variation of the lob, this lure travels into rarefied air causing drips of blood to appear around the bib area. When the nosebleed meets tree branches at the apex of its flight, the guide invariably moans and looks for the chainsaw. Rating: 8 out of 10.
The Stratosphere: If you thought the nosebleed went high, well this one leaves it for dead. If the lure happens to hit the water after such a cast (which rarely happens) it floats to the surface encased in a block of ice. How a lure can travel over the tops of mangroves 15m high when it only needed to go 10m horizontally is a phenomenon that would intrigue scientists, if we could find one stupid enough to study such a useless subject. Rating: 10 out of 10 – sheer terror.
The Little Boy: Also known as the 3-incher (or whatever that is in centimetres), this one lands just 3 inches too far of ‘perfect’ and hooks the timber. Even dinkum experts are allowed a few of these (but not too many) as it shows that they can’t get it right every time. Rating: 1 out of 10.
The Hogger: Not content to respect the presence of other anglers in the boat and the existence of certain unspoken rules as to the arc in which casts are expected to range, the Hogger heads towards the opposite end of the boat, usually ensnaring other fishers’ lines and stuffing their casts as well. Rating: 9 out of 10.
The Breeder: While this cast is difficult to consciously achieve, it happens regularly when anglers don’t really want it to happen. One lure splashes down, then before it moves, another lands on top and the lures become tangled. Named because it was incorrectly assumed that baby lures would be produced by such an unlikely union. Rating: 3 out of 10.
The Bird’s Nest: Of course, we can’t leave out the old classic. These days, as more anglers use braid, the Bird’s Nest just gets more complex. Sometimes it happens because of a wayward thumb or casting into the wind, but worst when the guide tells you your reel is over filled, and you ignore his advice to remove some of that braid! Rating: 1 to 9 out of 10, depending on circumstances.
I’m sure there are many more variations of casts still to be named, although I would be really happy if I never discovered any more. How do you know when the boxes are being ticked in increasing numbers? When you ask what you are doing wrong and the guide starts mumbling something that sounds like “The nut behind the reel!”Reads: 550