Reaping rainfall rewards
  |  First Published: May 2010

Just when we thought the wet season was over most of the Eastern Cape received a few weeks of solid rainfall.

The roads to Cooktown have been cut off on numerous occasions with the Bloomfield causeway and the crossing at Coopers Creek stranding travellers for days at a time. Travellers heading towards Cooktown via the sealed Mulligan Highway also encountered floodwaters at the McLeod River causeway at the bottom of the Desailly Range.

At these smaller causeways the floodwaters usually slow down and drop within a few hours. Impatient motorists who try to drive through the fast flowing waters often come unstuck, so please remain patient and stay safe.

The waters of the McLeod River – and any other freshwater creeks throughout the cape – are great spots to flick small minnows and poppers for the plagues of hard fighting sooty grunter that inhabit these freshwater streams.

While there are many lures sooties will devour, Ecogear’s small SX 40 minnows in pink or red colours seem to always out-fish other lures. Cheaper alternatives that also will produce fish are Trollcraft’s 50mm Lightning minnow and 45mm Fizz Tail range.

The Little Annan River is also an area that regularly produces cricket score numbers on a single day of fishing. The easiest place to access the Little Annan is by parking your vehicle at the campgrounds (on the right hand side of the main road heading towards Cooktown) and heading downstream after crossing the concrete causeway.

Depending on the level and flow of the water, trophy sized sooty grunter up to 45cm can be caught here. Once the water has slowed down, the fishing action can be red hot with sooty grunter, jungle perch, spangled perch, mangrove jack and the occasional barra.

There are endless kilometres of waterways consisting of rock bars, sandy beaches and reedy banks, however there are also a few resident crocodiles in the downstream sections that make fishing from the bank unsafe.

As long as common sense prevails, the fresh water reaches of the Little Annan can provide a full day of fishing for those who don’t mind walking and enjoy flicking lures on light gear while rock hopping. A moderate level of fitness is required for anglers who wish to fish this area as there is some climbing involved depending on what area you choose to fish.

Another means of access for the less adventurous is to continue heading north towards Cooktown for another 7-8km by car on the mulligan highway. After heading through Black Mountain, continue on for about three minutes and turn left into the picnic area at the end of the road that heads towards Cooktown’s water supply.

The picnic area is open to the public and offers a few kilometres of deep rock pools that can be fished. Berkley’s 46mm Big Eye blades are a great option for fishing the entire water column. During the warmer and brighter parts of the day, trophy sized sooty grunter will often hold in the larger rock pools, which can reach 30ft deep.

Although this stretch of river does hold good fish, it is also more heavily fished due to its accessibility. Quality sooty grunter, mangrove jack and jungle perch around 1kg can be caught here during daybreak and very late afternoons for anglers who put the effort in.

Once you reach the spillway the area is out of bounds, so please refrain from fishing from the spillway so as not to spoil fishing in the area for everyone.

For those anglers who have not yet targeted the freshwater speedsters encountered in far north Queensland, I recommend you spend a few hours flicking 40mm poppers with 4lb braid and leader on 2kg spin gear.

When sooty grunter, mangrove jack, tarpon and jungle perch hit a lure in gin clear, fast flowing water surrounded by rock ledges and bars, they will test any angler’s fishing ability. Every keen fisho should experience the spectacular surface strike of a freshwater jack or sooty engulfing a popper at daybreak and it’s something you will never forget.

With many areas on the Eastern Cape receiving the best rainfall for a few years during the past wet season, it is expected the next 12 months will be a terrific season to target barra. The recent downpours caused flooding to the majority of the large freshwater lagoons scattered throughout the Cape, which has enabled hordes of barra to move back into these pristine, lily-filled waterholes.

During the wet season, the main waterways that surround Lakefield National Park – Normanby, Morehead and North Kennedy rivers – join creating major drains that flow into Princess Charlotte Bay. During the cooler months over winter these shallower waterways offer land-based anglers a fantastic opportunity to target XOS barra.

Various sections throughout Lakefield hold fish all year round however some of Queensland’s best barramundi fishing is available within the myriad of waterways that are on offer as soon as the national park opens to the public.

During the next few months the barra will be gorging themselves on baitfish and crustaceans that have been washed down from the floodwaters of the wet season. Many of the larger breeding sized fish will have now moved back to the brackish sections of the river and land-locked waterholes after spending the last few months spawning and concentrating on eating well to be in good condition for the cooler months.

The amount of waterlilies and weeds in these waterholes often dictates what type of lure fishing an angler will be able to do. Squidgy Boof frogs and the Wilson Hawg frogs can be rigged weedless and worked right through the lilies saving time and money replacing costly lures with the added bonus of spectacular surface strikes.

With the amount of fresh water that has been pumping into the Endeavour and Annan rivers over the last month, fishing has been a bit hit and miss. But anglers working the headlands and river mouths have been landing some quality barra around the 70-90cm mark.

With all of the jelly prawns in the system over the last few weeks plagues of trevally, queenfish and wolf herring have been keeping tourists busy. Live bait has been hard to find due to the fresh, however anglers who have persisted throwing their nets have reaped the rewards with large grunter and mangrove jack making up most of their catches.

The mud crabs have all been flushed out into the headlands and bays with good reports of hauls from both tourists and locals.

With a bit of luck by June the local rivers will have cleared up and the schools of herring and pike will be once again found around the rock wall and wharf in good numbers. Providing the rain eases, we should start to see some red-hot land-based pelagic action as Spanish mackerel, spotted mackerel, queenfish and trevally begin to harass the bait schools seeking refuge under the wharf.

For any questions that you may have before planning your trip please do not hesitate to call us on (07) 4069 5396 or shoot us an email at --e-mail address hidden-- Until next month, stay safe on and off the water.

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