August, more than most months, depends on whether the weather gods are smiling. If the highs subside and there are periods of more than a couple of days of warm, calm, weather, then the fishing can be spectacular. If the highs dominate, then it is a matter of being geared up to take whatever crumbs of opportunity come your way.
Fresh to frustrating is the best way to describe the winds so far this winter. They have been either howling or just strong enough to stop small craft from getting to the reef. Close inshore, hasn’t been much of an issue most of the time but outside it was either a big boat or no go.
When anglers did manage to get out wide they have been rewarded with a good variety of quality reef fish. No species has been particularly dominant, although largemouth nannygai have outnumbered their generally more common cousin, the smallmouth.
The wet season dragged on forever this year and didn’t really let go until mid May. Even though it wasn’t a particularly big wet, it was annoyingly protracted. This would indicate that most cycles will be a bit behind schedule, with the return of the warm weather more likely to stretch into September, rather than late August. Sharks, while ever-present, don’t seem to be as big a problem as last year and hopefully it will stay that way.
August is traditionally trout month off Cairns, as this highly prized species feeds up in preparation for spawning. Feeding depth can vary considerably at this time of year, so it pays to have a battle plan prepared in advance.
Look for clear water and start either deep or shallow and head progressively in or out until you locate their feeding depth. Having a chat to returning anglers in advance will often give you a good starting depth.
If last August is any indication this should be another great month for reds, both emperor and nannygai. Look for isolated bommies out in the flat country in 40-60m of water. It pays to keep moving if they don’t come on the bite in half an hour.
To save busting a valve pulling the anchor out of deep water every thirty minutes, purchase a buoy and get someone to teach you how to pull the anchor using this method. Once mastered, it is a very effective and efficient way to get the anchor back on board. It always pays to carry a spare set of ground tackle, as it wouldn’t be the first time the skipper has misjudged and ran over the rope!
The one exception to the late run has been mackerel, which showed up early, although not in huge numbers. Reports were filtering through even in May of Spaniards at the reef and around the inshore wrecks. Hopefully a more constant run will be in progress in August.
High speed trolling seemed to be working early in the season, more so than slow moving rigged gar, wolfies and livies. Peter Todd, from Aqua Cat Charters, reported getting good Spaniards on floated pilchards, while bottom bashing during May/June, which would indicated that mackerel are about at the reef in good numbers.
The inshore wrecks tend to concentrate the lesser mackerel species in August, with the more sort-after Spaniards patrolling the perimeter and gradually congregating at the reef ready to spawn.
The mackerel can often be right on the bottom, especially doggies, so vary your depth or keep a close eye on the sounder until you locate them. While the good old pillie often produces, live sardines will out-fish them nine times out of ten, especially when chasing doggies and spotties.
The winter weather pattern of large high pressure systems marching across the Great Australian Bight in endless formation seems to be establishing itself, so eager anglers will have to be geared and ready to go whenever there is a short drop in the winds, between highs. The only respite may be if last year’s pattern of East Coast Lows forming off Sydney reinvigorates and blocks the highs, as this will bring longer flat spells.
The more sort-after northern estuary species continued to bite well into winter, as it was slow to cool down. Barra, jacks, grunter and fingermark were still being cooperative, but the first sign of cold (below 15ºC) will most likely slow them down.
Keep in mind that except at the start of a cold snap, when they all get lock-jaw, these species can be caught year round. It is simply a matter of changing tactics, and spending more time looking for the fish rather than waiting for the fish to come to you. They will stay closer to shelter and the bite period will be shorter, although sometimes more intense.
Salmon have been around in good numbers in the Cairns area throughout winter and this trend should continue through August. The flats around the front of Trinity Inlet and north to Palm Cove should continue to produce, provided the netters don’t clean them out.
Grunter should also be around, especially on the lead up to the full moon on the 25th. Fresh slab baits of mullet, gar, sardines and squid, fresh pealed prawns and butterflied small sardines will all produce on their day.
First priority is fresh, but next consideration is variety. It pays to try a few different baits initially to try and narrow down their favoured fare each session, as they can be finicky eaters at times.
The most consistent bait is fresh peeled prawns. It pays to spend a few more dollars and buy half a kilo or so of green 20/30 eating prawns rather than the usual bait prawns. Peel them, leaving the tail on, and thread them onto a red 3/0 long shank hook, with 20-30lb braid leader. Grunter tend to take a peeled prawn more readily, swallowing it and running. When the prawns are presented whole, they often pick at them and don’t get it down their throat, making them hard to hook.Reads: 1114