Last chance for barra
  |  First Published: October 2003

OCTOBER usually presents some of the best fishing options any keen fisho could dream of up here in the tropics. This is a fishing paradise we live in here and it’s no wonder the population continues to grow as first-time tourists soon become new local residents. I just hope the proposed GBRMPA RAP plan doesn’t take too much of it away from local recreational fishing enthusiasts.

As I write this the south-east trade winds are howling around 25 knots and keeping most small boat owners off the water. The temperature has dropped as these cool trade winds blast the coast but it won’t be long before patient boaties are rewarded with mouth-watering smooth seas. October usually starts to yield lighter wind patterns, and with that calm seas and northerly wind direction as the frequency of the south-easters finally starts to slow down.


Be sure to have your boat ready to go – there will be plenty of great fishing options this month. If you are well prepared, mid-week fishing is possible. An early departure after work will allow you to be on the water and heading out to either the harbour entrance leads, Kings Point or some of the closer reefs not far from Green Island by 3:30pm or 4:00pm to enjoy some choice night fishing. These locations will give you the opportunity to target reds (small and large mouth nannygai, red emperor) as well as fingermark for a few hours and still be home around midnight.

You could even spend an hour with a cast net if you want to secure live baits such as mullet and mud herring. These will give you a better chance of catching the big fingermark that this area is renowned for at this time of year. The best options for the fingermark around Cairns are the harbour leads and Kings Point, and other excellent spots are inshore, the deep holes and gutters near the sugar terminal and swing basin of the Cairns inlet. It’s best to fish the smaller neap tides when there is the least tidal run, and of course the top and bottom of the tide changes are the best.

October also gives us a final crack at the itinerant Spanish mackerel schools that have been in the area for some time. There have been some good catches of these powerful pelagics, and come the end of October the action will slow. Small boat owners can easily chase mackerel at Fitzroy Island, High and the Franklands as well as close reefs like Oyster, Upolu and the Eastern Patches.

There are usually plenty of schools of northern blue tuna to chase within a half an hour’s run from most of the boat ramps. One of my favourite activities is using small metal Raiders on these speedsters, or you can Bumpa Bar any of the marked wrecks for GTs.

October is also the best month for black marlin, so if you’ve been dreaming of connecting to one of these majestic beauties I recommend booking in immediately with one of the many charter operators or booking agents. Check in the Cairns phone book under the heading of ‘Fishing Charters’ or in the charter section of this magazine.


All of the glamour estuarine species at there for the taking this month, including barra, jacks, fingermark and queenies. If you’d like to try for a big queenfish this month is a perfect time to work any of the river mouths north and south of Cairns. The ‘dry’ time of year allows the tidal surge to go much further up the rivers, giving refuge to baitfish well beyond their normal areas – and of course large, hungry queenies can be caught from the river mouth to many kilometres upstream. There are many poppers and topwater lures that work a treat on queenies. Alternatively, if you want the easy option, just anchor up adjacent to a sand bar system near the river mouth and try drifting live sardines or mud herring in the current on a late afternoon run-in tide.


If you have your heart set on a saltwater barra, October is the last month you can target barramundi due to the annual spawning closure on which includes November, December and January. Around Cairns the warmer October weather signals the end of a usually slower time for barra fishing as their activity increases in the build-up to a spawning run. My concern is that another failed wet season will mean a poor barra spawning and reduced future barra stocks, so please consider releasing any large barra – these are the important breeders for our future fishing pleasure.

Tinaroo Dam is one of the best options for big barra, and of course October is actually prime time – particularly the few days either side of the 10th of this month. These six or seven days cover the prime time either side of the full moon, and if we are fortunate with warmer weather and a northerly wind pattern there will be some big barra action. The dam water level is getting really low which contributes to the excellent barra fishing. Hope these ideas help you plan a great fishing trip this month. See you on the water.

1) Release those big barra this month and help the fishery. The author shows how to release a big breeder. Handle all barra with care and remember it is best to keep the fish in the water if possible.

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