As of May 1, Lakefield National Park is open to fishing, up to Kalpowar Crossing campground. The Park opening always results in good barra fishing in rivers like the Normanby, where the resident fish haven’t seen a lure for the entire closed season.
At the time of publishing, no decision has yet been made on when the rest of the park will open. It all depends on the road conditions. To get the latest news on the pending decision you can try calling the Lakefield National Park Office on (07) 4060 3271, or just check out my report next month.
The other creeks and rivers around Cooktown are fishing quite well. The flows are settling down after the extended wet season, and we’re getting some nice fingermark coming through.
Barra are also starting to hit lures more vigorously as the fish try to build up their fat reserves before winter. Productive lures include the Tilsan Barra, Lead’s Lures Hijackers and Richo’s 11cm Extrators, which dive to 3m. The best colours have been bronze and gold.
Poppers have been catching their share of barra as well, and the fish have been going for anything with pink in it. Go for poppers around 100mm long, but don’t worry too much about the brand; it hasn’t made much of a difference lately.
Live herring have been accounting for big GTs in the Annan and Endeavour rivers, as well as fingermark and barra. There have been some great quality mangrove jacks taken lately, too, on both live baits and lures. The biggest jacks have pushed 50cm.
The Esk River in the Annan system, just south of Cooktown, is also producing good quality mud crabs. It has been a good year for muddies, no doubt aided by the good wet season.
At the wharf we’re still getting the odd barra falling to live baits. Happily, the mackerel arrived in late April, mainly schoolies with a smattering of Spaniards. Most mackerel catches have been on live herring.
Lately we have had a good run of coral trout with some larger sizes around the place. A few Spanish mackerel have been showing up too, so it pays to be prepared with some gangs or mack lures and heavy leader.
Blokes in the know have been getting good quality red emperor and largemouth nannygai in recent weeks. These fish have been coming from the deeper areas off the main reefs, in depths of around 30-40m. It is a good idea to keep an eye on your sounder when travelling to the reefs or when trolling, so you can spot any small bottom shows that might be reds.
Out in the wider reefs in the bluewater there are some quality bluefin tuna and yellowfin tuna being caught on trolled lures. Most of these fish have been a by-catch when trolling for Spaniards, and a welcome one at that. The most productive lures have been Halco Laser Pros and Rapala X-Rap 30s, and deep live baits have been catching their share as well.
When we get a few breaks in the weather, anglers with smaller boats should be able to get some nice grassy sweetlip on the inshore reefs in June, along with a few school and doggy mackerel. Queenfish are still about, of course, and the wider reefs should fire as they do every winter.
When chasing barra this month, you are more likely to have success using live baits in deeper water, rather than on the flats. The fish are still there, you just have to work a little harder for them.
If you’re planning a trip to the region, feel free to give me a call at The Lure Shop on (07) 4069 5396 for info on what’s biting. Alternatively, you can drop in and see us at our premises on Charlotte Street, Cooktown.
The Lakefield National Park opening always results in good barra fishing in rivers like the Normanby, where the resident fish haven’t seen a lure for the entire closed season.Reads: 1206