Seasonal Species Change
  |  First Published: May 2010

June signals the start of the balmy northern winter season that we local inhabitants look forward to after months of heat and rain. The arrival of this cooler period on the calendar also brings with it a seasonal change to the fishing scene.

Cool mornings and evenings along with sunny days and persistent trade winds characterise June. The lower water temperatures both inshore and offshore coincide with the emergence of some different lesser seen fishes for the next few months.

Offshore when the cooler months arrive, it means for many anglers the increase presence of topwater favourites like Spanish mackerel. The abundance of many pelagic species at this time of the year is not a coincidence as this is when there is a host of smaller baitfish about, such as herring and garfish in a variety of species and sizes.

The presence of various baitfish are one of the early stimulators in a complex food chain that include everything from mackerel and tuna to the arrival of small juvenile black marlin.

Most of the Spaniard action usually commences along the reef edges in the early part of the season. It will be the best option for these species as this is where most of the baitfish will be. Spaniards tend to become more catchable around the close inshore islands like Fitzroy and High Island from July onwards.

The easiest way to chase these beauties is to either troll along the reef edges looking for bait on your sounder and set your rods up with a gar rigged woghead or a mackerel lure. Alternatively you could set up a rod with a floater positioned out the back of your boat while you are bottom fishing. The idea is to use a balloon or a styrafoam float holding up a pillie or a live fusilier. Choose your hook size to suit the size of bait; a gang 3x6-7/0 hooks and wire trace is a good starting point that will work well on most baits.

There are many good mackerel outfits available these days, so get some advice from your favourite store. I would recommend spending your money to get something decent as quality will last you a lifetime and not fail under pressure. Everyone has their favourite reels but I have used Shimano TLD 15s and 20s for years and have never been let down.

The offshore bottom fishing can be red hot in June, especially for the sought after red fish such as emperor and nannygai. Local bottom bouncers will be keen for a break in the weather so they can head out and chase these prime targets in between the reefs amongst the deep water rubble patches.

Look for reds in water around 50m deep and use your sounder to locate rough uneven bottom. Reports so far indicate good catches with some excellent nannygai up to 7-8kg being caught on pilchards, squid and strip baited dropper rigs.

Inshore amongst the estuaries and rivers we will now find in greater numbers, smaller fish such as bream (both pikey black bream and occasional appearances of the yellowfin or sea bream) dart, whiting, blubber lip bream and of course flathead.

In the northern inshore systems it is not uncommon to catch the main targets of barramundi, mangrove jack and fingermark. Throughout the cooler months however you will encounter a lot more smaller varieties.

Bream usually aggregate around the mangrove snags but will move out onto any rough bottom on the making tides. The Cairns inlet areas, such as The Boom to the north of Hills Creek, is a popular spot. This area has silted up quite a bit over the years but has patches of rough bottom made up of shell and coral encrusted concrete and rock sections that attract the bream in numbers through winter.

Peeled prawns are an excellent bait for most of these smaller species and work well on the bream. If you have the time, pumping some fresh yabbies is also well worth the effort.

Look for dart and whiting on a making tide along the beaches or in the river mouths as the tide floods over the sand flats and bars.

If you are looking for grunter there are a number of good shell grit patches out on what is referred to as the Esplanade Flats. You will be fishing in about 4m of water, and don’t bother fishing if you are on a pure mud bottom. Inspect the anchor when you lift it as the patches can be easily found by noticing whether there is broken shell grit adhering to the anchor. One area worth a try is out from the old Baron River mouth near the airport. Remember to use a light sinker and a fresh strip bait or prawn for the grunter.

This month there should also be plenty of queenfish and trevally around in the river systems and these will take a variety of lures and baits.

Later this month the school holidays will be on and I can recommend that the winter period offers some great fishing opportunities for young anglers who are hungry for a taste of the action.

Young kids often don’t have the patience of waiting for a long time to target a big fish like a barramundi, they like plenty of fish and are not fussy about the size; winter species fit the bill well.

The cooler months will often see the southeasters blow strong and when this happens taking the kids up one of the sheltered local estuaries or rivers with some light rods to do some bait fishing will provide a very enjoyable and entertaining outing for the kids and serve as a great chance to teach them the basics about fishing.

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