Inshore fishing scene ripped off
  |  First Published: August 2004

MOST people have now come to terms with GBRMPA’s new offshore fishing zones, but the inshore scene is in a shambles. The new yellow and green zones along the coast are as clear as mud, and they haven’t protected the foreshore from professional netting, as we were led to believe.

Federal or Marine Park zonings take effect from the low tide mark, which is 0.00 tide on the tide chart. We have experienced similar low tides recently (it occurs only at this time of year) and there is a lot of potential water not protected by the new zoning.

I recently walked parts of our expansive flats region on these low tides to establish how much water is unprotected from the pros under the new zoning. Some of these areas were pinpointed by the Marine Parks as ‘must be protected’ areas which have seagrass for the dugong and are breeding grounds for marine life. The zones haven’t yet been duplicated to the high tide water mark. GBMPRA has obviously not fully analysed our region, with such elements as sweeping tides across our seagrass beds and fragile inshore reefs all homage to marine life such as the dugong, turtles and many fish species which begin their reef cycle here. Stretches of aquatic importance are still open slather for the pros to exploit.

The map of the local area pictured is very misleading as the low tide mark falls well beyond what is displayed in certain areas. The people who set these boundaries obviously had no conception of what a low tide mark means in this area. The lowest of low tides occur only during winter, and the maps are way off the mark as to where you can and can't fish. It will take a legal standing in its current format to sort out this confusion.

For example, the Mowbray River region dries up dramatically on these low tides, encompassing a vast stretch of water which starts at the lower part of Four Mile Beach, then does a big arc running for a couple of kilometres out to sea and all the way down to Yule Point. The main river mouth dries to a dribble no more than 5-10m across. The northern smaller mouth dries up completely.

On these low tides I witnessed pro fishermen walking these flats and river mouths with a GPS to establish where they could legally still drop their nets. They can legally place their nets almost entirely around this system bar a trickle of drain water. Much the same has occurred at the Dickson Inlet and Sandfly creek near the Port Douglas harbour, and also at the Muddy Creek entrance. All the areas we thought would be protected, and which are prime breeding grounds for blue salmon and barramundi, are still exposed to the netters.

Local recreational anglers are feeling ripped off. The local DPI are just beginning to realise what a monster GBRMPA has dropped into their laps. They have acknowledged they must also attempt to continue these zonings right up to the high tide marks on the foreshore to settle the peace stakes amongst the recreational fraternity. The GBRMPA movement may have accomplished what it wanted offshore but it appears to have washed its hands of what’s happening inshore. Don't take its maps as gospel on the coastal line as it is rather confusing.

It seems GBRMPA's agenda has been well disguised to date. Let's hope the state boys can produce the goods.


Apart from this life-changing factor, everything is very much swell in our piece of paradise. We still have our run of stars filtering through the town, such as Justin Timberlake and Gwyneth Paltrow just to name a couple. The fishing to date is still impeded by the south-easterly trademark winds, but is showing signs of abating and hopefully improving by the time you read this.

When we do settle into a week or so of consistent calm weather, things are due to run rampant. All it will take is for the local brigade to have a fair dinkum crack without the elements imposing.

Offshore there are already some solid catches in the light gamefishing scene. Sailfish and small black marlin are already present inside the outer reef, so now’s the time to nail a sporting fish on light line. The tides a week before the full or new moon are enticing the hottest bites. Our local gamefishing operators have been stoked with the daily action so far on their charters.

On the reef you can take your pick. Mackerel of all varieties, including Spaniards and schoolies, should be finally taking a stranglehold after a slowish start to the season. When topped up with the nannygai duo, red and spangled emperor thumpings, GT and other trevally antics, it should prove to be a ball tearer on the reef in August. It is prime time for reef fishing.

Inshore, the bigger queenfish and sought-after golden and giant trevally will be regular catches in August, providing fun for anglers on the incoming tides. Live sardines will keep you active. Also keep an eye on the local jetties if the water and weather comes clean. Pilchards and strip baits could see you catching a surprise packet such as small-mouth nannygai and the odd cobia as they cruise in and out with tide at this time of year. It does happen on big, clean incoming tides.

On the beaches, expect that bit more punch from our trevally, queenfish, dart, flathead and solid run of longtom and barracuda, which are prominent at the moment. Again, all these fish will be keen on the incoming tides. Small flashy Deceiver-style flies, as well as 15g Bumpa Bars and metal slices, get slammed on the first turn of the incoming tide in the right locations. Bays and deep gutters have seen the fish swarming on that first turn.

In the rivers and creeks, the bream are bigger than ever and the grunter aren’t far behind. Use peeled prawns next to a structure such as pylons.

Barra will be a little quieter this month, but you can still target them with a lure in the mid-morning sunshine amongst the newly-fallen trees. You may pick up a rat or two with a keeper possibly just below, willing to have a go.

By the time you read this the season up here will be hotting up!

1) The Doreen Too charters say the reef fishing is peaking. No argument here!

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