Pormpuraaw revisited
  |  First Published: September 2003

IT WAS hard to believe that a year had gone by since we’d visited the Coleman River on the western side of Cape York, and before we knew it the now familiar Peninsular development road was once again punishing our vehicles as we made our way across the Cape to the remote township of Pormpuraaw.

The lack of another good wet season this year meant we were less than optimistic about how good the fishing was going to be, but despite working with tides that were not entirely favourable the fishing was once again excellent by many standards. Our time of visit was governed by the school holidays and meant that we experienced mainly neap tides and then the middle part of the build-up to the full moon.

These tides were ideal for deep water trolling as the small tidal movement early on had plenty of clean green water – ideal for this type of fishing. Once the moon phase started to make, bigger tidal movement was going to mean good action casting the drains, but we had to pull out just before the tides formed to suit this type of fishing. Fishing the mangrove flats and drains is best when the tides are bigger around the full and new moons. Also, remember that when fishing western Cape York you usually only get one set of tides a day.

On previous trips I’ve been plagued by sounder problems, but on this trip I finally had a sounder that worked well. A good sounder is essential to target snags holding big barra, and of course it takes the guesswork out of which country to work. This also means you can spend much more quality time working banks of the right depth that might be more productive. If you are thinking of making a trip like this, spend the extra dollars and equip yourself with a sounder. It will pay dividends and then some.

We mainly trolled our lures around the 15ft mark and once again proved that unless the lures were bumping the tops of snags the fishing was slow. The weather had been particularly cold that week and the fish were a little sluggish, but the deep running lures in the right spot still got nailed.

I didn't have too many lures in the 5m+ range and I now own even fewer – whenever that deeper water was trolled invariably a huge unstoppable barra would grab hold of the little plaything and take it for a one-way walk through the heavy timber snags. It seemed the bigger and deeper diving lures trolled in the 18-20 foot range were finding some pretty heavy-duty barras that made easy pickings out of double thumb locked 30lb braid. On one occasion we were trolling a deep snag (16 feet) when my rod buckled over, and with so much line out on my small baitcaster I didn't feel too confident when the powerful barra peeled off in the opposite direction. I had only five wraps of line left on the spool when we were able to chase him and recover line. Eventually a lovely barra came boatside with only one point of a treble holding on and just above the nose. The hook could easily have come out at any time so it was a lucky capture! This barra was released along with most of our barras.

Once again the Viper range of lures proved to be outstanding along with many others, in particular the locally-made Leads Highjackers (deep) and RMGs. A range of excellent barra were caught over the trip with seasoned campaigner Col Upham catching the Biggest barra (110cm) of the trip only minutes before stumps were called on the final day.

While we were mainly interested in barramundi this area has enough fishing options to keep anyone happy for a week, and we are still yet to explore all of them. The barra fishing is good to excellent, whether you’re trolling, casting, jigging or live baiting. The bigger tides are also well suited for fly casting the mangrove flats for barra.

There is plenty of action available on queenies if you want a change of scene, and good bait fishing for blue salmon and grunter. Another option is working the beach front early in the mornings, especially with a fly rod or baitcaster and lure. There are few places to chase barra in Queensland that are not netted, and even though this area supports a number of pro net operations if you have a reasonable knowledge of barra habits and are persistent and want to get away from everyone then this area can produce some mind blowing action. We definitely will be going back for more!

Till next month .....see you on the water.


If you venture to this area don’t expect anything apart from basic bush camping. You have to take in your own supplies of everything, including fresh water for the duration of your trip. There is a freshwater lagoon nearby where you can top up with swamp water if you need to. Fuel is available from Pormpuraaw, as are many other items you might need from its well-stocked supermarket.

Contact details: Pormpuraaw Community Council Administration ph. (07) 4060 4175.

Rates: $30 per vehicle per night (2003).

1) This beauty was just under a metre and was the highlight of many captures for the author on yet another cape trip to Pormpuraaw.

2) Shaun Mayes holds a healthy king salmon taken while jigging a deep snag for barra with a prawn lure.

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