Inshore anglers chasing barramundi will find the action a little slower in July, and will have to focus their attention on the deeper water structure where the bigger fish reside during the cooler months. Using large live baits in the deep water (up to 60 feet) and slow trolling structure (up to 25 feet) with extra deep diving lures is a sure-fire way to make contact with large barramundi at this time of year.
Barra will also be found in shallower water areas, such as weed beds and mangroves, during the warmer periods of the day when there is some direct sunlight overhead. Floating live baits such as prawns or mullet into shallow gutters or snags as the tide floods can be very productive. Using shallow divers like B52s and gold Bombers on the mangrove flats and twitching these lures slowly will usually turn up some barra, but it can be hard work around here at this time of year.
Fingermark are generally available all year round, although they aren’t quite as abundant in the estuaries from July through until about September. Once again, slow trolling deep divers through structure is the favoured technique with lures, although fingermark do respond well to live baits, especially mud herring and squid at night.
Mangrove jacks are taken all year round but are easily captured through the cooler months, particularly on the low tide changeover periods. Jacks are suckers for fresh strip baits drifted into the mangroves on a making tide. If you are lure casting for jacks you’ll usually find them well into the structure and, as with most lure casting, the closer in your lure lands the better your chances. Productive jack lures around here are small deep diving hard-bodied lures like Rapalas and Tilsans.
Grunter are generally considered a summer fish in the tropics, with the best catches from September onwards and of course the Easter grunter run at Karumba in the Gulf. Most of the grunter caught are taken on fresh strip baits. I have captured a few grunter on lures but this is the exception rather than the rule.
Another sought after inshore fish is the salmon, both the king and blue species, and these fish are in good numbers throughout the cooler months. Both species of salmon are excellent targets and can be caught on bait or lure, with the blue salmon being the easiest to capture. King (threadfin) salmon are often easily spooked on lures and are an easier proposition on live bait.
This is prime time for queenfish action [see last month’s Cairns report] as well as some very large GTs. At this stage of the year when the rainy season run-off subsides, these pelagic species venture further into our creek and river systems and become easy targets for anglers using live bait and artificials. Queenies and GTs are exciting fish to catch using topwater poppers and will readily strike a lure being ripped across the surface at speed.
July signals the start of the mackerel season, which is great news for local small boat owners. While it’s true that mackerel can be caught all year round, the action really hots up for a couple of months, starting around now. Spanish mackerel are regularly caught up to 25kg and have got to be one of the most exciting and rewarding fish for the experienced or novice angler to catch. These mackerel are superb to eat and easy to hook up, yet provide a thrilling and somewhat tricky capture, especially during their final moments during gaffing and boating. There are a range of luring techniques from trolling to jigging, and then live and dead baits, which are all very effective on macks.
Elsewhere on the topwater, schools of tuna will be about and small blacks will start arriving as well. Bottom fishers will watch the weather and wait patiently for the opportunity to get out and nail some of the abundant red fish that can be caught between the reefs at this time of year, particularly at night.
The weather is the main issue with July offshore fishing. It’s all about waiting and watching for a break in the 20-knot southeaster trade winds so we can get out and amongst them. Often we small boat owners get only a small window of opportunity at this time of year, so the best plan is to have the boat fuelled up and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Until next month, hope the winds back off and I'll see you on the water.
1) Brett Scwilk from Cairns was happy with this prime 78cm fingermark he trolled up on a recent trip to Mapoon.
2) Tony Kettles of Cairns was ecstatic when his deep trolled Barra Mauler produced this 70cm mangrove jack. The fish was one of many that Tony's party captured on their trip to fish the waters near Mapoon on the Cape.Reads: 489