Time to head offshore
  |  First Published: September 2003

THE WEATHER has been dismal in the tropics for the past two months aside from a couple of rare calmwater days. It’s been the longest run of 25-knot plus winds I've seen in Port Douglas in eight years, but hopefully by the time you read this conditions will have improved.

Most catch reports have been coming from the rivers and creeks with patchy results mainly consisting of black jewfish, sickle fish, batfish, grunter, bream, trevally, barracuda, tarpon and queenfish of average sizes. Temperatures plummeted during July and early August and the fish shut down for much of that time.

If the weather ripens the reef reports should be full of all sorts of great piscatorial renditions. Nannygai, mackerel, emperor, trevally, cobia and coral trout would have been left alone for a lengthy period and be itching for a fight. Traffic on the reef has been kept to a minimum in recent times and things have been tough on anglers and vessels in the rough conditions. Reports thus far have indicated the fish are definitely there in good numbers – it’s just been a matter of being able to get to them.

In September the light game scene changes to heavy tackle as the black marlin get bigger. Last year some of the hottest bites of the season occurred in September, as for this year – who knows? Just as long as they are on the bite for the Lizard Island tournament in October, which I'll be competing in this year.

Reports to filter through in the rough conditions have included small black marlin, dolphin fish, yellowfin tuna and Spanish mackerel but the weather to date has yet to establish a forming pattern as to where the best action is occurring and what species are really on the bite. No doubt the fishing in September will soon sort this out.

Land based anglers should also enjoy some great beach fishing in the coming month on very light gear for trevally, queenfish, dart, flathead and whiting. Fresh prawns and a location with a good steep gutter should produce the better results in the morning on a rising tide. Being on the beach during the early morning in September is very enjoyable and refreshing, as the water tends to sparkle and is usually clear. Anyone of any angling ability can enjoy some success along our golden sands.

By now the steel bucket-mouth barra will be ready to play and the start of the month usually sees smaller to medium sized barra taken in good numbers. The bigger variety normally take a month or two to warm to the occasion, and lure fishing amongst the snags, edges of weed beds and mangrove walls comes into its own with the more frisky smaller variety. September is also a great month to explore the river mouths with poppers or drifting live sardines in the current of an incoming tide. Bustling queenfish and trevally frequent the channels and on the odd occasion the school mackerel show up on the bigger cleaner rising tides. At this time of year I've even caught small-mouth nannygai on prawn baits inside the harbour, so if you see a reasonable rising tide and the clarity is good, don't just sit there and watch – get your rod as you'll never know what fish may make a quick surprise visit. The best action tends to occur in the week leading up to the new and full moons.

This month the small boat brigade will also likely enjoy a run on the doggie, spotted and grey mackerel, particularly around our headlands and surrounding islands in the early mornings and late afternoons. Snapper Island and Island Point are happy hunting grounds for many trolling spoons and a variety of lures and skirts. Spanish mackerel, GTs, golden trevally and big queenfish should also become part of action at these locations, and fishing for these species on 6kg gear will provide you with some of the best fishing to be had in the tropics. The old dredge site out the front of Port Douglas and the outer edge of our coastal fringing reefs are also places worth trolling.

It seems like an eternity since the last bluewater assault, and anglers have had to ample time to service and re-service their boats and gear in anticipation of some consistent good weather. Normally September is the traditional settling month and is the crossroad where summer species mix with winter species. I reckon September to October is the time of year when the best fishing in this region can occur, so see you later – I'm already halfway out the door!

1) The inshore run of mackerel species should peak on calm water days.

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