Top Tinaroo Barra
  |  First Published: November 2009

Fishing conditions have been ideal for local far northern fishers as we fish through the final month of 2009 and enter a new fishing year.

Since November we have had typical, hot summer conditions with little sign of the much-anticipated, wet season rains. But things can change quickly at this time of the year.

December is a top month here in the north and usually provides some good options whether you’re taking advantage of calm offshore conditions to do some bottom fishing or chasing our prime inshore species like fingermark and jacks in the cooler times of the day.

Inshore fishing lately has been good with some excellent quality fish around in all the local rivers and estuaries. There have been some trophy sized beauties of our favourite species, including large barramundi (which have been released), fingermark, queenfish, golden trevally and GT.

Some good runs of blue salmon and smaller numbers of king salmon have appeared on the northern beaches, Baron, Delta and the Cairns Inlet flats. These species will also be worth chasing throughout December.

Boofing barra

The three month closed season for barramundi is in force right now and anglers are reminded to take care when handling all barra, particularly the large female breeding barra caught during this period. It is also the law to release all barra during closed season, so don’t be caught breaking the rules.

But if you still want to chase these brutes there is no barramundi closure operating on Lake Tinaroo. The freshwater lake scene has really come alive over the warmer months with some excellent large barra being taken around the full moon build ups.

Local father and son fishing team, Andrew and Ryan Tivey, have been nailing some excellent barra recently up at Tinaroo Dam. The boys have been targeting shallow weed beds near the lake edges by casting hardbodied lures and plastics in the early mornings and evenings. Andrew has been working the build up to the full moons and prefers to approach and move around the target area with his electric motor set-up.

I undoubtedly believe using a quiet, stealthy approach can help you produce the goods when working in shallow waters where you are casting a specific area. I would highly recommend having a crack at the Tinaroo barra either side of the full moon this month as the fish should be in their prime catching period.

Feisty Fingermark

Fingermark are definitely worth chasing in December. The easiest way to start is to try your luck using live baits such as sardines and mud herring, fishing deepwater structures, particularly on the top of the tide.

Use a rig of either a running ball sinker (size to suit the current and tide run) above a mono leader like 50cm of 45lb Schneider, with a no 5/0 or 6/0 hook, or a dropper rig (paternoster). I prefer the running sinker method, and I use a medium to heavy 2m fast taper rod, teamed with a quality reel, spooled with at least 10kg mono line or if you prefer 30lb braid.

Whether you choose to use a spin reel or a baitcaster just make sure the reel has a smooth drag and reasonable line capacity.

When bait fishing, the recommended method is to fish in strike drag and keep the rod in a rod holder. Only pick the rod up and strike when the rod tip has a curve in it from the bite. Get off the mark quickly when you get a take, because fingermark are a powerful fish. If you do not get their head up in the initial stages of the fight they’ll take your line quickly into the nearby structure and cut you off.

Fingermark will also readily take a trolled lure with slow trolling lures such as RMG Scorpions and other hardbodied deep divers doing the trick. Good fish are sometimes taken by trolling deep-diving lures in areas where there is rough bottom and snags up to about 5-6m of water.

Selecting the right country will be the hard part, but fingermark will more often than not be found in similar places to jacks and barra. However they do seem to have a preference for the deeper holes especially if the bottom is rough or has some structure to hold them.

Fingermark are most often captured on the top of the tides but they also like the slack water low tide changeover. You can catch them both night and day. I prefer nights without much moon, and the smaller neap tides definitely produce better results. Over the years many good captures have been made on the quarter moons.

To find the fish, use your sounder to pick out the deeper holes in any inshore estuary or rocky headland and look for structure, rough bottom, or soft coral patches. I’ve heard of occasional big fish being taken in shallow water, but fingermark do tend to prefer the deep sections.

Close to Cairns city inside the harbour just out from the sugar terminal is a favourite spot and the water depth here is over 50ft. Other good spots are opposite the Navy base on the eastern side of the harbour channel where it is a bit shallower, as well as further up the main channel near the area known as the Bark Hut.

Slightly further away from the city, Kings Point offers deep water and rough bottom fishing down about 80ft. This spot is also very productive on other species including nannygai, jew and Spaniards. The Cairns harbour entrance leads are a closer and much shallower option, fishing into the pylon structure in around 30-40ft of water. Both of these locations are excellent alternative spots to chase fingermark outside the safe confines of the Cairns harbour.


Bottom fishing on the reef has produced excellent catches recently of coral trout and sweetlip. In between the reefs on the rubble patches, nannygai and red emperor have been taken as well.

December is usually a month filled with calm weather fishing options to visit the close reefs, so it’s a top time to try and nail a few coral trout for the festive season BBQ.

My advice is to watch the weather and have the boat fuelled up and ready to go, but do watch out for late afternoon and evening storms. Most of all have a safe and enjoyable Fish-mas.

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