There are not too many Queensland anglers who don’t really want to experience the much talked about hot tropical session of fishing. In reality this rarely happens, but this mythical day does exist.
Rather than regale you all with the I went here and caught this article, I will try to help you experience one of these magic days by giving you a series of tips I have garnered from fishing with some of the best guides at Weipa, and by being in the boat with some exceptional anglers. This is not going to a tropical creek session as I am yet to have a ‘magic’ session in the creeks in Queensland, rather it will be a magic day reef fishing in the Gulf where the fish are big and the sharks are bigger!
This has been said a million times but get a guide. Weipa is too far away to take a boat and car every time you go and, like most areas, the best fishing grounds are some distance away and generally not within easy reach if you hire a boat. This certainly doesn’t mean you won’t catch great fish from a hire boat, but like everywhere, the local waters around Weipa are probably the most pressured waters in the Gulf.
There are a host of good guides operating from Weipa these days but I have spent my time with three main guides, Dave Donald, Josh Lyon and Dan Wright. Each has worked, owned or managed the successful Dave Donald Sportfishing guiding service and each knows more about tropical fishing than I’d care to recall.
The gear you use around Weipa is just as important as getting a guide. The tropical fish you target are tough. Gear encompasses more than just rods and reels. It includes line, leaders and lures.
Let’s start from the top and work through what I take when planning a Weipa trip to fish the reefs.
I take a minimum of three rods with me to Weipa (but usually as many as my baggage weight allows!) and these include a heavy Daiwa Saltiga popper rod, my much-loved E-grell S10 and my even more loved Millerods Beast Buster.
The popper rod is used for targeting GT on the shallow reefs with poppers. We have caught GT up to 40kg on poppers south of Weipa and even this heavy tackle is stretched at times. The S10 is used for casting slugs at tuna and smaller trevally, but is primarily bought along to drop soft plastics to the deeper reefs to target oversized fingermark and the plethora of trevally that inhabit these deeper waters. The beast Buster is used when I want to have some fun on tuna up top or we fish the shallow reefs from the shore chasing blue bastards, coral trout and roving packs of queenies, giant herring and barra.
The reels used include a Daiwa Saltiga 6500 Expedition spooled with 90lb braid for the GT fishing, a Daiwa 3500HD Certate spooled with 35lb braid for the S10 and a Shimano Stella 4000 spooled with 14lb braid for the Beast Buster. These reels and line classes cover just about every situation I will find myself in to the south of Weipa when fishing the reefy areas. Keep in mind this is not about the creeks and rivers, where a 4-6kg baitcaster or two are added to the list.
Getting into the leader end of things I carry everything from 150lb wind on leaders down to 40lb Penn 10X. On the reefs I most commonly use 60lb or 80lb Penn 10X. Any lighter and the fish win way too much, heavier than 80lb and I struggle to tie knots to join the leader to the line – and you will tie lots of knots over the course of a day!
The lures taken would probably fill a tackle store, but I am a tragic and I have run out of lure X a few days into a trip.
Starting from the top I take at least a dozen big surface lures. I like big poppers and garfish imitators and I am not overly fussed by the brands or the super expensive surface lures. In Weipa I have not found that a $150 surface lure catches more than a $30 surface lure, just make sure the $30 lure can handle the punishment and be careful of the hooks and rings.
I also take a variety of lead slugs from 20g right up to 80g. these can be cast and retrieved, jigged down deep or even trolled (not that you’d do that!). I also take some smaller poppers and deep diving minnows like Halco Roosta Poppers and Laser Pro Crazy Deeps, Rapala CD series and Scorpion Crazy Deeps. That pretty much covers the lures I take for the surface layers.
For fishing the headlands, beaches and shallow reefs I take a range of shallow diving minnows that includes Baby B52s, Halco Laser Pro 90, Leads Lures, gold Bombers and small Roosta Poppers and Skitterpops. Included in this bag are jigheads that weigh between 1/8oz and 1/4oz that are matched to 3-4” soft plastics like Gulp Pogy, Gulp Worms, Gulp Shrimp and Atomic Guzzler Prongs.
When fishing the deeper reefs I really up the ante and take along a range of jigheads from 1/4oz through to 1oz with extra strong hooks – models from TT lures and Nitro Saltwater Series are my favourites. These jigheads are matched to Gulp Jerkshads in 5” and 7”, Gulp 6” Swimming Grubs and Bozo Mullets in 4-6”. There is probably not too many plastics that won’t catch fish on the deeper reefs south of Weipa, but like everyone I have confidence baits and these are it for me.
I was lucky enough the first time fishing deeper reefs with Dave Donald to quiz him on a few points. His insights, and those gained in later years from Josh and Dan have enabled me to paint a mental picture of what to do when fingermark and black jew are your targets down deep.
The first thing is to work a drift. Start the drift way before the pinnacle being targeted and actively fish over the leading edge of the pinnacle. Most of the bigger fish sit on this leading edge facing into the current. And current is an important ingredient too. All three believe that the fish bite better when the current is flowing rather than on the dead high or dead low.
This was graphically illustrated to me one trip with Josh where he could almost count us onto the fish by looking at his sounder. You could see the start of the pinnacle and without fear, as soon as the lures, which were around 20m behind the boat, drifted over the start of the pinnacle it was hook ups all round. We did plenty of drifts for fish every drift, but when the run stopped so did the fun and we started landing small tomato cod, wire netting cod and only the occasional small fingermark. It was a graphic display.
The current theory is also important when chasing the big GT around the shallow reefs. You really need the current to be bubbling over and around the reef. This provides the GT with ample opportunity to ambush hapless prey being swept around in the current and the surface explosions are well worth the entry fee alone!
On the beach and headlands, a rising tide is seen as a better option as fish follow the tide into the shallow high tide depressions and cruise up and down the beach hunting food. The flooding tide also covers shallow reefs allowing the blue bastards to roam around hunting crabs, shrimp and other tasty morsels and by doing this they expose themselves to watchful anglers.
While this is by no means a comprehensive list of tactics, it’s a good start and a good guide will expand on these tactics for you and make sure your day is spectacular.
The key to a great day on the water around Weipa for visitors is to get a guide, take the right gear and fish the right areas at the right time. Any good guide can advise you on lures and tackle to bring, so make sure you speak to them first before jumping on the plane. It’s also a good idea to match your expectations with reality. Just because you travelled all the way to Weipa does not necessarily mean you will catch a fish a cast – although you certainly are in a better place to do that! Be realistic with your wants and be specific when you relay these to your guide. I can remember Dave Donald having a big belly laugh when we told him we would love to catch a black jew, fingermark, coral trout, tuna, barra, big reef jack, trevally and blue bastard in one day. Dave actually asked if we were keen to add snub nosed dart, giant herring, threadfin and blue salmon to the list to make it a challenge!
Well we did finish off that list that day, without Dave’s additions, and it just shows the value of a good guide in good waters.
So go and find your perfect day and make yourself some memories. I treasure mine and I hope you find yours.Reads: 7243