Hot to trot
  |  First Published: December 2003

DURING November many days on the open water were lost to blustery conditions, but as we push towards Christmas you can almost be sure that the ocean will flatten out and we’ll experience our fair share of hot, steamy, calm days.

If you can withstand oven-like conditions and sandfly infestations the rivers and creeks in this area generally fish well for barramundi, fingermark and mangrove jack. Deep holes on river bends, channel entrances, harbour pillars and headlands can offer some pretty good fishing. Low light periods at the start or the end of the day are prime times. You'll find that many guides in the area won’t fish in the middle of the day because it's too hot and also because the fish also tend to be more lethargic between 11am and 3pm.

The early parts of December are probably your best chances to source some good fish before the wet season arrives. Locals are predicting a big wet this year and if this happens the rivers and creeks can shut down for extended periods.

If you decide to head offshore you'll probably find that the reef fishing will have slowed dramatically, particularly around the shallower reefs. Favourite species such as coral trout, nannygai and red emperor will be much harder to source in solid numbers unless you head into deeper waters. Everyone has their own ideas but in my experience the best results have occurred during night sessions and the water depth has been between 30-40m. Selecting a bump or bit of rubble in the middle of nowhere can turn up big fish in big numbers, especially after the first hour or so of a tide change. Big red emperor, spangled emperor, nannygai and even cobia seem to turn up on more occasions than not.

Another form of offshore fishing which gathers a bit more momentum in December – and which I have passion for – is chasing down the tuna schools. Many anglers find it frustrating but every now and then the fish boil beautifully and your persistence is rewarded. Mack tuna and northern bluefin tuna are fairly consistent around our prominent headlands and islands. There is no real pattern to their behaviour and feeding patterns; they seem to do what they like when they like. It’s a matter of being on the water long enough to experience their frenzied bursts of activity.

One thing I’ve learned is that when the school quickly switches direction and heads into the wind that’s when they’ll more often burst open on the surface. Even the birds sense this and they are quick to respond. Once you see the birds intensely hover close the water be ready to launch your metal slice, wind like the clappers and then hang on for the ride.

December sees the close for the traditional heavy tackle black marlin season. Don't worry though – there'll be plenty of great fish taken in this last month. The big ‘Julies’ would have done their breeding thing and the younger male bucks would have definitely gained a few more pounds. They tend to stay along the shelf in our area for the bulk of the month before the currents cause them to move south or head out east into the big blue Pacific Highway. Bookings in the area are looking promising and all the fleets have no intention of moving out, not until after Christmas. It’s still not too late to land yourself a formula one fish in the tropics.

1) Nothing fights harder than these guys on light line - Jill and a healthy northern bluefin tuna

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