Local temperatures have risen dramatically as we head into what is going to be a long period of hot summer weather. The good news is that there will be some excellent fishing action ahead in November, although local anglers will have to remember that the closed season for barramundi is now in place until February 2006.
Inshore fishing recently has produced some good catches of barramundi, fingermark and mangrove jack. Sadly, there have been some huge barra captured in prime condition for spawning and in some cases these magnificent creatures were killed just days before the closed season came into effect. I know of one case where a 118cm barra was caught on a dead squid bait on one of the local northern beaches and unfortunately became fillets in someone’s freezer. There have been reports of other large barra taken prior to the closure on large mullet and live prawns in some of the hotspots of the Cairns Inlet.
I haven't heard of many massive fingermark taken but there have been plenty of healthy specimens up to 60cm captured in all of the local estuaries on live sardines and occasionally lures. Mangrove jacks have also been on the chew with many jacks up to 50cm being taken on bait and well-presented lures. Elsewhere in the estuaries school GTs, queenies and golden trevally have been caught, along with the occasional permit or snub-nosed dart up to 7kg.
On the Cairns Inlet flats, baitfishing has produced some good grunter and blue salmon up to 60cm. The queenfish have not been as impressive in numbers or size lately. Speculation is that many of the sought-after trophy-sized queenies are being caught in the pro nets, as there are usually plenty of these excellent fish around at this time of the year.
Baitfishers may notice many of the sardine and herring bait schools in the local estuaries disappear this month. This is a natural occurrence as the bait schools go through their own spawning cycle which will see them come back prolifically early in the new year.
Offshore action has been curtailed a little due to the coral reef fin fish spawning closures, which continue until November 4 and then commence again on November 25 through till December 3. In between the closures there have been good reports of quality large mouth nannygai and other bottom dwellers like red and spangled emperor. Many anglers have been returning home from the reef with large coral trout caught in the deeper water.
On the pelagic scene there have been more stories of excellent mackerel fishing. Several mackerel anglers have landed black marlin on their mackerel baits. Reports filtering in from the game boats indicate a hot season, with plenty of black marlin up to 400kg being hooked and released along with wahoo and yellowfin tuna.
Local charter operator Kerry Bailey assures me that the officials from DPI and Fisheries were spot on in determining the spawning closure dates. Kerry reported that some large mouth reds he and his clients captured the day before the first closure began were heavily swollen and ready to spawn. It is nice to know that the spawning closure is occurring at the right time, giving every chance for these protected species to complete their breeding cycle.
There will be many closed season incidental captures of barramundi over the next few months. These are precious fish and must be handled carefully. Minimising the time out of the water for barra, particularly large breeders, and following a few simple rules will prevent accidental deaths.
Firstly, only lift the fish out of the water as a last resort. Secondly, ensure the barra is cradled horizontally and well-supported in a user-friendly landing net or wet towel. Thirdly, return the barra to the water and gently swim the fish into the current by gripping it on the bottom lip.
Avoid laying the fish on any hot dry surfaces that will dislodge its slime or scales. Take care to not damage the fish unnecessarily when you remove your lure or hook. Barra seem to recover better if, when they are strong enough for release, they are gently directed nose first into water deeper than three metres.
Until next month, enjoy the good weather and excellent fishing.Reads: 540