Full on fishing
  |  First Published: October 2005

October can be one of the most exciting months of the entire fishing season in tropical locations. During the winter months, dropping water temperatures trigger a distinct lessening in piscatorial enthusiasm, particularly in the rivers, but usually by the start of October the fish are well and truly active again.

The tides at this time of year are in a state of change from winter to summer patterns so the amount of movement is generally much smaller than usual. In the Gulf, where there is usually only one really low tide per day, the big out changes from daylight hours to night time.

This effectively means that in the summer months, the tide is ‘high’ all day, every day, except when the lows occur around sunrise during the quarter moon. When you combine this smaller tidal movement with lots of water and a slackening in the southeast trade winds, you end up with clearer, warmer water, both in the rivers and along the foreshores.

To those who love sight fishing, either with fly or lure, October (and November) can produce the best opportunities of the entire season. Stalking the shallows can turn up everything from barra to permit, queenfish to painted sweetlip.

In the rivers and creeks, the warming water stimulates the barramundi, mangrove jack and estuary cod out of their winter lethargy and some memorable fishing can be had. King threadfin salmon are another species that follow suit, often moving up on the edge of the rising tide across the mangrove flats, their waving dorsal and tail fins sometimes signalling their presence.

The creek mouths and beaches can also produce some spectacular action, particularly on the rising tide. Baitfish schools will start to appear in the shallows and the predators will follow, so keep an eye out for chops and slashes.

Along the rocks and headlands, mangrove jack, coral trout and a variety of reef and pelagic species can be found by carefully working the deepwater drop-offs. Walking the rocks can be good value but be careful to cast ahead of where you walk as the fish will often be right under your feet and will spook if you move too close.

The warmer offshore waters usually bring large schools of bait, which in turn can be accompanied by tuna, mackerel, cobia, trevally, queenfish and giant herring. There is no ‘best’ way to fish these aggregations; casting, jigging and trolling are all successful at times.

Jigging or bottom bashing the deeper offshore reefs for coral trout, fingermark, cod, nannygai, black jewfish and trevally can also be very fruitful at this time of year. Big mackerel and cobia, along with more trevally, can also be encountered in these areas on drifted whole baits such as pilchards or garfish.

Another productive area can be the shallower reefs from 3-8m deep. Trolling lures that hug the bottom at the appropriate depth is probably the best way to go, with the Halco Scorpion range, from 90 to 150mm, being personal favourites.

Some big fingermark can be taken using this technique, but there are always plenty of coral trout, estuary cod, trevally, queenfish and mackerel around to keep things interesting if the fingeries are slow. Smash-ups in these shallow areas are fairly common so make sure you have a few spare lures just in case!

After the ‘slow’ times of winter, I find myself looking forward to the lazy, hazy days of October! So cover up, slap on the sunscreen, drink plenty of fluid and get out there.


QFM Editor Steve Booth’s frustration with the mob running our state’s Fisheries [Editor’s Desk, QFM September 2005] is par for the course. I understand that the big boss is away on leave somewhere and the department is therefore in a state of ‘consolidation’ (their words).

In public service speak, this means that the likelihood of anything making its way out of their cosy little glass castle and into legislation or regulation is about zero for the time being.

This kind of ineffectual government behaviour is well illustrated in the situation regarding the Gulf of Carpentaria barramundi closed season. The dates of the Gulf closed season are set according to moon phases, and they were regulated up until the 2004/2005 season in the 1998 Gulf Management Plan. The Fisheries people have been so busy paper shuffling and consolidating that the times for the 2005/2006 season have still not been announced – barely a month before they are due to be instigated! Surely somebody in the know could look up the moon phases for the next five years and work out the closure dates. It would only take half an hour on the internet.

So Steve, I wouldn’t bite your nails too much waiting for a reply to your letter – especially considering the fact that the mob have just lost their long-time Minister and the new one seems to be trying to hide under the boardroom table. [We did get a reply after the last issue hit the stands from the old minister – I still haven’t received a press release about who the new minister is and what their contacts are – Ed.]

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