Show time in the tropics
  |  First Published: October 2003

THIS month is my favourite time in the far north as all our tropical species come together to offer a piscatorial smorgasbord. The hardest choice to make is which rod will I pick up before I walk out the door.


Prime times to fish our beaches are the early morning or late afternoon rising tides coinciding with the lead-up week to the full or new moon. Search for defining gutters which offer clean running water, because here you have a few options to choose from. A light spinning rod with 3-4kg line and a fresh peeled prawn on the end will see you enjoying hours of fun catching whiting, flathead and swallowtail dart. Fishing during low light is the key as the bite will slow during the middle part of the day.

For the bigger species such as queenfish, giant and golden trevally, blue salmon and barramundi, flyfishing with white or chartreuse flashy Deceivers or Clousers provides the ultimate challenge. Scouting the foreshore or wading amongst our many inshore reefs on a clear day is one of my favourite forms of fishing. A good set of polarised glasses is vital and I prefer the amber coloured lenses to assist my efforts. At this time of year I've found that the fish tend to travel in numbers, and once you've found the zone it’s not uncommon to catch and release over a dozen fish in a session.


The beauty of taking up this option is that you will still have your traditional winter species such as trevally, queenfish, grunter, bream and blue salmon strutting their thing in our inshore systems. As the water temperature rises the barramundi, mangrove jack and fingermark will also make their impact. Fishing the earlier or later parts of the day is far more productive and the methods of live baiting or lure fishing will definitely put you on the money for a larger specimen.

Incoming tides will see the pelagics perform best at the entrances, deep holes, gutters and main channels, whilst the dropping tides will spark the predatory sort along the mangrove edges, steep banks and sunken timber. On the real clear rising tides, October has also been witness to cobia, school mackerel and even the odd nannygai wandering into our systems, so expect the unexpected. Catching up to half a dozen species in any given session is common at this time of year.


Sitting on the shoulder of the change of seasons, our rocky outcrops and islands offer a range of pelagic species on the romp. Giant queenfish, golden and giant trevally, longtail and mackerel tuna, and spotted, grey, school and Spanish mackerel make up the action-packed menu at these locations. Previous experience has indicated the weeks leading up to the new or full moon are the best tides to pursue these fish. Early to mid morning and mid to late afternoon offer the better bite.

There are a variety of good ways to tussle with these speedsters – gloating pilchards on a ganged hook, drifting or slow trolling lightly weighted live sardines, casting poppers or metal slices or trolling a variety of lures and skirts. Concentrate your efforts in the good clear currents, use your sounder to locate bait schools and watch the birds to track down your aquatic adversaries. The Cape Kimberley and Snapper Island region offer all this in one neat package.


This month may see the reef fishing drop off a tad but there is still plenty of good quality table fare to pluck from the reef. Coral trout, spangled emperor, nannygai, red emperor, Moses perch, Spanish mackerel and giant trevally should be around in reasonable numbers to keep the punters happy. As the water temperatures rise the fish will gradually move deeper and the 20-30m depth range will hold the bigger fish in more concentrated numbers. Isolated patches of rubble or coral in the desert tend to fish exceptionally especially at night. Local shipwrecks usually fish well at this time of year for nannygai and trevally, and there’s more often than not a mob of mackerel in the vicinity. Calm days on the water in October don't come any better on the reef, and if the fishing is quiet the snorkelling is just as sensational in the lukewarm waters.


It's time for the real serious stuff as the heavy tackle is taken out from the mothballs. Leading into this month the reports are promising, with our cobalt currents holding a healthy supply of smaller black marlin to 400lb. The big donkeys up to 1000lb are due to arrive in force as you read this, and if the season lives up to the last two years it should be nothing short of electrifying! With solid reports of dolphin fish, wahoo and yellowfin tuna established already there's no better place to be, whether it be at Linden Bank, Opal Ridge or any of the ten Ribbon Reefs.

This month I'm looking forward to participating in the holy grail of game fishing tournaments at Lizard Island for the first time – I’m like a cat on a hot tin roof just thinking about it! This year every Port Douglas game boat is entering this classic event and I'll quietly predict one of our fleet will take out the tournament. Good luck trying to book a game fishing trip between the dates of 18th-25th because it will like a ghost town at the local marina.

As you can see, there are many reasons to get excited about fishing in the region at this time of year – and no matter which rod you decide to grab it’s sure to get a solid workout. For me I can't wait to sink my teeth into some big black marlin and come back with a report next month full of exciting tales.

1) A tasty coral trout. Everyone gets into the October action when the weather is fine.

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