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Picture perfect winter  
  |  First Published: June 2009



Perfect weather has provided some welcome fishing opportunities. Weekend boaties have even had plenty of notice to prepare for the approaching good weather and this has resulted in some of the most crowded and well patronized boat ramps in living memory.

To make things even better, the fish have been cooperating and most skippers have reported plenty of action throughout the day and good catches inside the iceboxes. Almost all bottom fishers who made the trip to the local reefs enjoyed some quality trout amongst their tally as well as red-throat sweetlip and spangled emperor. A little wider from the reefs, anglers found both small-mouth and large-mouth nannygai.

Many boats took advantage of the calm conditions to do an overnight trip chasing red emperor in the deeper water between the reefs, and were rewarded with some good quality reds. Clever anglers took the time to use set floater lines for mackerel while they bottom fished, and once again there was plenty of action on the reefs with some excellent catches of Spanish mackerel. At this point in time the mackerel seem to be wide on nearly all of the reefs, and have not fully moved in around the islands. The move inshore shouldn’t be too far away though, and will most likely happen this month.

INSHORE

In the estuaries, including the Cairns Esplanade flats as well as along the beaches, bait fishers have found a few blue and king salmon along with grunter. Further up inside the Cairns Inlet, the deep water has produced a few fingermark and barra, while anglers fishing live and fresh cut baits in the snags have boated a few jacks. Lure fishing has been producing jacks and the odd barra as well as the ever-present cod and a few small GTs.

The rivers have been fishing well with some nice queenies emerging and GTs about. These species have been hitting surface poppers and soft plastics, providing great sport on light spin gear. This should get even better over the next month for the queenies.

Another great option over the next couple of months will be chasing the smaller mackerel like doggies (school mackerel) and spotties along the Cairns Harbour entrance leads. This can be excellent fun and is so simple – all you need is your standard mackerel rig of wire trace and gang-rigged fresh pillie. I usually use a medium spin rod that casts well for this, and you’ll find that 6-8kg mono will handle just about everything that comes along – although occasionally a large Spaniard will be mixed in with the smaller mackerel.

To target mackerel, anchor up near one of the pylons and set up a berley trail, or follow the flocks of birds diving into the bait schools. Mackerel can also be caught while casting and using a variety of artificials including small metal slugs and soft plastics. See your local fishing tackle store for advice.

BREAD-AND-BUTTER SPECIES

Winter in the tropics brings some great family fishing opportunities, with an array of smaller species to provide the fun factor that keeps kids coming back for more.

A great option is to head for the beaches or any river mouth likely to hold yabby or nipper beds, and spend a morning session chasing the winter whiting. The mouth of the Barron River, Half Moon Bay and Russell Heads are a few local spots that work well.

Ideally use a light whippy spin outfit that casts well, teamed up with light mono line of about 3-4kg. A small pea sinker above a swivel and then about 30-40cm of main line attached to a long shank whiting hook is a pretty standard rig that works well. An optional tip is to include a couple of inches of thin red plastic tube directly above the hook for added attraction.

Choice of bait is preferably freshly pumped yabbies on the spot, to then fish the making tide. Freshly peeled prawns also work a treat.

Whiting feed on both making and run-out tides across the yabby flats. Be prepared to stand in the water up to your ankles, and watch for crocodiles.

If you have a boat, anchor up over the sand bar flats and try your luck as the tide floods across. You will quite often find even more species including flathead, dart and trevally. Occasionally you will hook something that will really test your tackle like a golden trevally or even a permit (snub-nosed dart).

If you want some other options in your boat, try heading upstream and chasing pikey bream around the snags. You might want to step up the tackle a notch when heading for the snag country though, as you will get busted up pretty easily on the light tackle – and of course, there will be mangrove jack to contend with.

Until next month, good fishing!

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