Port Douglas Report

This report is supplied by Lynton Heffer from www.fishingportdouglas.com.au

Report 6/9/19

The days are getting longer, the weather is rapidly warming up and the endless days of wind are now a distant memory. With the onset of spring the fresh south east winds abated leaving the tropics with wonderful days to be experienced on the water.

On the fishing front there has been a lot of focus fishing offshore on the Great Barrier Reef with favourable conditions on offer. With water temperatures slowly increasing the overall reports have either been excessive or slim pickings. The most productive days have been the dates leading into the full and new moons. Also the days with an afternoon rising tide have paid dividends. These days have seen all manners of species on the bite and size and numbers have been at the higher end. Red emperor are really up and about, coral trout have been handy and the large and small mouth nannygai have had some big moments.

The days on the moons themselves have proven considerably quieter and some sections of the reef where the fish have been in an early preparation to spawn have been slower on the take as well. As the water warms up we’ve also seen a big shift in momentum from the shark brigade in some areas and they have ruined some great fishing when the fish have been biting. We not talking about small sharks either but schools of 300kg bronze whalers just simply running amok nailing anything that is hooked up to. It is common knowledge for those in the know where they are thick and by trial and error these areas will remain of limits in the next couple of months.

Closer to home the smaller boat brigade continues to enjoy a run on the spotted and school mackerel particularly early in the morning. It’s not a fad but the latest craze is micro jigging for them using 30-50gm metal slices worked up and down in the water column on top of baits schools. On light spin gear they provide a lot of fun pulling some serious line from off the spool. Other bonus catches have included large mouth nannygai, bar cheek trout and good sized grassy sweetlips. Interestingly we are now seeing some big mantaray along the coast and they have been harbouring some nice sized cobia surfing from off their coat tails. A popper flicked in the general area will see them divert from the ray and nail it without hesitation. Once again a whole heap of fun on light gear and worth keeping a keen eye for anything big and dark swimming across the surface.

In the rivers and creeks there still remains a healthy supply of sardines and mullet and just perfect for enticing the likes of mangrove jack and fingermark. Mid sized trevally have been cruising in and out on the cleaner tides and will devour a live bait in their path. The barra have now awoken from their winter slumber and the coming month is one of the best to target them whilst conditions remain consistent. Night fishing with big mullet down around the main harbour is your best bet to target these trophy fish.

With the onset of October the game boats in the area flick on the heavy tackle light switch as the big black marlin are due to arrive along the shelf in numbers for the annual aggregation. The actual small black marlin season closer to home this year was well below par however this does not equate to the heavy tackle scene where the bigger fish are almost obligated to turn up to complete the breeding cycle.

October is probably the pick of the calendar to fish in the tropics whereby you’re almost guaranteed to get results no matter which magic wand you decide to pick up inshore, offshore or out wide.

Report 2/8/19

It has been a prolonged wintery period with very little relief from the constant south easterly trade winds. It will be recorded as one of the windiest years in recent times. It has proven to be a challenge for any sized vessel to establish a consistent run out to the reef especially for the smaller boat brigades. With the traditional winter months due to expire we are hoping for better weather and fishing times ahead. September generally sees a more stable weather pattern which the Far North will appreciate.

The bulk of the work out to the reef has been aboard much larger vessels and it’s a pity because the fishing has proven to be very consistent. Whether it be nannygai or coral trout there’s been some terrific hauls on the books. A month or so ago it was all about the coral and bar cheek trout. Big, plump models between 4-6kg were the norm and numbers were very healthy. Then they went on the quiet and became finicky and skinny looking in appearance. Those in the know believe they went into preparation for an early spawn this year in our local waters. However the small and large mouth nannygai picked up the reigns and powered on in big quantities and sizes. Some days they were as thick as fleas on a dog and the threat of surpassing bag limits was a reality. Some boats had to drive away from the bite in fear of approaching these restrictions. When you add the likes of spangled and red emperor, Spanish mackerel and trevally species on the side there was not too many quiet days on the reef. The only problem is not everyone got to enjoy these spoils.

Our game fishing boats have also had to contend with some ordinary conditions but at least the Spanish mackerel on the outer reef have turned reels over on a regular basis. Unfortunately the opportunity to explore the small black marlin grounds has been very limited due the winds. The positive however is that they’ll still be around for a few more weeks and a spell of good weather will see them to be a prime target.

Closer to home the best opportunity for the trailer boats has been early morning on the coastal reefs and patches. They have been entertained with spotted and school mackerel, bar cheek trout, nursery sized nannygai and a smattering of Spanish mackerel. However these days have been limited and now hoping for fairer weather ahead.

The alternative has been to explore the calm waterways of our estuaries and creeks. The fishing became notably tougher as winter extended but that is due to change very quickly. Water temperatures hovered around the 22C mark and the main species caught included big hump headed bream, mangrove jack, fingermark, smaller Gt’s and estuary cod. Numbers were down a bit but as the days get longer and warmer they will improve quickly. The barra will also wake up and feed more actively and always a bucket list catch for many. On the upside it has been a good period for catching mud crabs and the bigger tides saw them on the move.

We are all looking to see the back end of winter and the next month or two is always an exciting time to wet a line in the tropics with all species looking to fill their bellies.

Report 5/7/19

To date it has been one of those winter spells that won’t quite settle down with associated winds and a lot of cool overcast days. The upside however has been the south trade easterly winds haven’t taken a full stranglehold still allowing a lot of trips to go ahead, particularly offshore. The weather this year has never really eased off and most of our trips recently would have been conducted between 15-20 knots. In saying this we are extremely hopeful the sun will make more of an appearance and the winds will ease off moving forward.

Fishing at this time of year is all about fishing on the Great Barrier Reef for the myriad of wonderful tropical species available. Utilising bigger vessels has almost been necessary and the fishing has not disappointed at all. In fact it has been exceptional on most occasions. The moderate to windy weather hasn’t effected the fishing one bit. I can’t remember the last time we have been disappointed in the number of fish we have caught on any given day on any of our charters. It has been a real mixed bag of fruit with a variety of species turning up at different times. There wouldn’t be too many we haven’t caught over the last month or so. At the top of the list it has been coral and bar cheek trout by the truck load and numbers of nannygai at times. Adding value to these has been a big run on solid spangled emperor in particular, green jobfish, cobia, spanish mackerel, gold spot trevally, sweetlip, reef mangrove jack and red emperor to name just a few. The cobia prove to be a contender for ‘Fish of the Year’ and catching six off one location is testimony to that. Normally you would pick up one or two, but to nail half a dozen beauties is something to remember.

Our light tackle game fishing days are also right up there and have seen us rip into the Spanish mackerel,l and I mean really gone to town. The mackerel are really concentrated at the moment and if you can source them then it is awesome fishing. An example of this was plucking 14 spanish from a deep pinnacle all ranging from 6-15kg. They would have eaten an old shoe if it was thrown in front of them but they just demolished our diving lures and woghead garfish rigs time and time again. If the weather can settle down our fleet of game boats are extremely keen to fish the small black marlin grounds south of Port Douglas and we are coming into prime time. Unfortunately the bumpy weather has delayed this plan but is due to reverse the trend.

With a lot of families visiting the area recently our river and estuary trips have been extremely popular. Even though winter can be a bit more difficult there’s been ample action to warrant a trip or two. Fresh dead bait and live baits have accounted for numerous mangrove jack of decent size to 50cm, followed by an even spread of estuary cod, fingermark, bream and grunter. On the bigger tides there’s been some good sized Gt’s and queenfish moving into the systems as well. Always as a bonus at this time of year has been a reasonable run of mud crabs particularly in the estuaries and still worth the time and effort to set some pots to value add to your session on the water.

With a lot more tourists flooding the area since July we are hopeful for a bit more sunshine and calmer seas to showcase our wonderful region complimented by its awesome fishing opportunities.

Report 7/6/19

From the official start of winter it has been every bit of that with air and water temperatures plummeting in recent times in the tropics. Compounding this has been every anglers nightmare, south easterly trade winds dominating the weather pattern driving cool, bullet type winds up along the far northern coastline. This has been the case more often than not for a couple of months and trying to find a decent break in the weather has been difficult. In saying this when the calmer days do present the fishing has been of the highest level, particularly on the reef.

Winter is all about fishing on the coastal and outer reefs. This is where a vast variety of species can be encountered on any given day. When the weather is behaving individual species have been hunting in packs and these have included the large and small mouth nannygai, coral trout, reef jacks, Spanish mackerel, spangled emperor and an array of trevally including golden and gold spot varieties. Depending on your location and what you stumble across you can expect to find a certain species stacked to the roof. This has been the case on recent charters with say small mouth nannygai completely dominating one spot then at the next it might be the large mouth. The following may be one of the trevally family and so on. The reds and trevally are firm favourites in the deeper water beyond 35m and as you venture up into the shallows it’s your coral trout and emperors that tend to dictate terms. There’s been a heap of other species that manage to add a bit of spice on most trips and they have included green jobfish, bowen sanpper, baldy bream and cobia. The cobia in fact have been kings now for over 6 months and their numbers have never been better and don’t look like giving up that title.

As the water temperatures are hovering around the 25 degree mark now, more and more mackerel are moving through the area. Spanish are at the top of the list on the outer reef and there’s a few more spotted mackerel been cited as well. Inshore reefs are now littered with doggie mackerel and the great news is that we have the grey mackerel in the area as well. Some years we see the ‘greys’ here and others they are scarce. The reason is unclear but they do have their specific grounds in the area when they arrive. The old fashioned silver spoon is a long time favourite for racking up a few grey mackerel.

Moving into our calmer waters a lot of time has been enforced on boaties to fish here because of the continuous strong winds. Even with water temperatures at their lowest the fishing has been fair to good. Mangrove jack numbers continue to impress along with javelin fish and big aggressive bream. On the right tides we’ve seen trevally, tarpon and queenfish move right through the systems and the fingermark have been active enough in the deeper holes. Ever since the weather started to cool down there’s been a lot of big pick handle barracuda around and they won’t hesitate to demolish a fish on the end of the line whether it be a good sized jack or bream. They are super aggressive following a meal right to the boat and they are of typical size you’d expect to see out on the reefs. Other than this it has been a good time of year to spread some crab pots around and on the bigger tides there’s been some good yields in the area.

Looking ahead we are all praying desperately for a consistent run of calm weather so the reefs can be explored more regularly. With tourist season beginning to peak it would be great for visiting anglers to experience the awesome fishing that can occur on our blue highway.

Report 10/5/19

As we come out of what one would describe as a very indifferent wet season we are starting to grapple with what may lay ahead in the coming month. Precipitation to a lesser degree and a quite a few windy days have thrown in a curious prognosis.

What we can say is that the outer Great Barrier Reef has come off the best reef fishing period for a wet season. The water temperatures stayed well below what was to be expected and the future market indicates it will only get better. The vessels we at Fishing Port Douglas have continued to come back with unprecedented catches of all our trophy species which have included the A List of coral trout, sea perch or nannygai as we locally call them, emperor species including the prized ‘red’ and a host of other highly valued species. These bonuses which are high impact fish have included cobia, a mix of mackerel species including the Spanish and an array of hard hitting trevally species inclusive of gold spot, tea-leaf and the gut wrenching giant trevally. Going through our log books in recent times we have not had a subpar day on the reef in a very long time. Basically if the weather permitted the fish were committed. This is a great case moving forward as the reef fishing only gets better for the next several months ahead.

When you look at our currents which have been a bit of a mixture over a couple of months running from north or south depending on your location, this will now all settle. The best indicator is our inshore reefs which have the current running from the south. This will now be the cutting edge across the board moving forward. Predictable trade winds from the south east and a southerly current makes pulling up on fish a massive difference. Our inshore reefs, patches and wonky holes are now seeing a steady flow of mackerel species, the bar cheek trout are extremely active and our ever present breeding grounds for nannygai are nonstop peppering away. Add to this our wonderful array of trevally the sportfishing aspect has been very active. Moving forward the wind level will be the only deterrent to experiencing some great times inshore, especially for the small boat brigade which engages many a local punter.

If the calm waters of our estuaries and creeks are your calling it has been quite entertaining to be honest. Mud crabs are on the go if you have the inclining to put in the work and an absolute delicacy. Mangrove jack and fingermark have been our marquee species on the rod and reel with the odd barra been registered. It is without doubt if you want quality calm water fishing live bait is key and these been a heap around due to a decent wet season. Outside of this we are seeing more pelagic type fish such as mid sized GTs, barracuda and the occasional stonker queenfish. Bread and butter species such as some solid bream, grunter and classic dusky flathead have all contributed well.

Report 5/4/19

We have come off what one would consider a good old fashioned wet season in the tropics. Each month over the summer at some point dumped some substantial rain on our tropical region. As the seasons change they say a good ‘wet’ translates into good fishing ahead for the coming year. In saying this we have had some of the best fishing inshore and offshore this past few months and the month ahead should even get better.

The outer and coastal reef fishing has been exceptional this summer and those in the know believe it has been to do with the water temperature. Not necessarily the surface temperature but the really cool waters deeper down. Our tropical reef species thrive on less temperature and thus the reason for a really consistent bite. All manners of species have been busy nattering away including coral and bar cheek trout, large and small mouth nannygai, red and spangled emperor, sweetlip, cobia, Spanish mackerel and the many types of trevally we encounter up here. The trevally have included golden, tea-leaf, bludger, gold spot, giant and the stunning diamond variety. To be honest it has been the best summer fishing we’ve seen in a long time with exceptional numbers of quality sized fish. The beauty looking ahead water temperatures will continue to fall as the cooler days kick in and the fishing could even go to a new level. I’ve always found in particular the nannygai species really kick into gear during May and even if their strike rate increases marginally from their current status it could be an absolute bumper month on these species.

On the pelagic side of things the Spanish mackerel have already shown they around in numbers already and will steadily grow in presence as the days go by. Spotted and doggie mackerel should also start turning up especially on the inshore reefs. Last the year the small black marlin season started ticking over during May on the wide grounds and all signs indicate another early start considering the water temperature and the good supply of bait along the coast from the wet season rains.

Inshore in our calm water fisheries there’s been a healthy supply of bait from the ‘wet’ in our estuaries, rivers and along the beaches and headlands. Sardines, mullet, garfish, mud herring and great sized prawns have been readily available for those willing to put in the effort. These tasty morsels have accounted for the bigger sized fish which have been kicking around including barra, mangrove jack, blue salmon, tarpon, fingermark, grunter, trevally, barracuda and queenfish. The best fishing has occurred outside of the heavy rains when the water clarity has been better. Incoming and the first stages of the outgoing tide have equally been good times to target our coastal species. With a healthy supply of food around the fishing should remain very positive including the barra for at least another month. The traditional overnight cold snap which normally occurs in May is when the barra will taper off. The rest however will continue to bite whilst the food stocks are plentiful.

Report 3/3/19

From all indications it seems to worst of the wet season has well and truly past and conditions in the tropics have settled down. We are experiencing moderate rains but nothing to the extent of a month or so ago.
Day temperatures are a lot more comfortable and there is ample windows of opportunity to hit the blue water and our calm water fishing inshore has settled nicely.

Without question the best fishing is still occurring out wide on the outer Great Barrier Reef with all sorts of quarry to target. Calm days with a good run in the tide are producing some amazing giant tevally catches fishing the pressure points of reefs holding bait such as banana fish or fusiliers. Big poppers and stick baits cast in the vicinity of these shoals are getting hammered by fish up to 30kg and providing one hell of a ride for lucky anglers. Tides leading into the moons are fishing best with the exception of the full moon itself where the fish can be a bit finicky.
On these similar tides there are still some nice Spanish mackerel to troll up using hard body diving lures and garfish woghead rigs. The fish have been tending to be on the larger size 15kg and better which is typical at this time of year as they are often big rogue mackerel cruising by themselves.

The fishing off the bottom still continues to impress and has to be by far the best summer run we’ve seen in a long time. All the prized fish are snapping away including red emperor, large and small mouth nannygai and coral trout. They have been again on the larger size and have provided a lot of entertainment. Bonus species to add to the above have included cobia, gold spot trevally, baldy bream, cattle dog cod and spangled emperor. Naturally bread and butter species such as stripeys, sweetlip and moses perch have tended to be part of a daily catch. The key has been to avoid the sections of reef or more open water with a raging current which at times has been almost impossible to get a bait to the bottom. It is expected that the awesome fishing wont change too much as water temperatures slowly decrease as the weeks go by.

Inshore the rivers and creeks have settled down beautifully with less rainfall and it has been enough to keep stirring the pot and circulating bait around the systems. By far the mangrove jack have been the busiest locally and have been tempted by several means including live and dead bait plus a range of lres and soft plastics. They have been prevalent around the bends where there has been a pressure point built up on a bank. In the process there have been plenty of cod in the same areas and of decent size. Our barra catches still are coming from around the river/creek mouths and live baiting with mullet has seen the better results particularly on dusk or after dark. For this reason night fishing charters have been very popular. Other fish patrolling the mouths have included some nice blue salmon and extra large grunter or javelin fish. Finding fresh live bait in the form of sardines, mullet, prawns or mud herring has been relatively easy of late and well worth the effort of pursuing before you start fishing.

April, weather providing, is always a marked calendar month being a crossover period of the year as the wet season slowly dries up and the cooler weather creeps in. The fishing can fire on all cylinders whether it be offshore or along the coast.

Report 4/1/19

There’s no denying that our tropical region has kick started its wet season and this was initiated by Ex-Cyclone Owen which dumped copious amounts of rain, not once but on two separate occasions in late December and early January. The short term pain of bad weather at the time now should be showing the long term benefits of what a good rain can do to a fishery. Landscapes were completely changed and new leases of life were created all serving for the greater cause.

With barra season now open one would have expected them to have already bred and they’ll set into a nice groove moving forward. Local beaches with associated break through creeks will be hotspots to target. On their given day the beaches have been red hot not only for barra but blue salmon, queenfish and tarpon. These fish are all up in the shallows helping themselves to jelly prawns, dault prawns and all types of bait fish. In the rivers and estuaries again run off creeks and causeways where bait tends to funnel will be prime locations. Your bigger fish will be eager to take a big mullet, smash a popper or take any decent sized lure in your tackle box. Fighting for the same presentation at the same spots in the river will be mangrove jack. Already to date they have proven to be the most consistent fish in our calmer waters fishing well even during the wetter, harder times. Fingermark also went to a better level with the assistance of a bit of rain and they’ll fish well in the coming months. The lessons learnt in recent times is to find undisturbed water away from the main current which can be quite dirty on the bigger tides. These might be little side arms branching from the main system, eddies behind natural or even man made structures. These little spots will see the water temperature slightly higher which can make a huge difference if there is a lot of fresh water around and there’s every chance of that in the next month or so. If you are able try and get in a evening/ night time fish as the barra, fingermark and jacks are definitely biting better under the cover of darkness.

Moving out to the reef, the fishing has been a little bit up and down but the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef every day is different. One day you might be scratching around and the next all hell breaks loose. The manic days have had a common thread and that is fishing in the 35-45m metre range if you have the marks. The likes of red emperor and nannygai have shifted from the shallow waters into the deep. It’s not only the reds that have moved but you’ll find all manners of fish in amongst the schools including your big coral trout, spangled emperor, jobfish, cobia and gold and tea-leaf trevallies. In the same breath this also your best chance to pick up a big rogue Spanish mackerel underneath a float at the same locations. The fish overall are not spread out as normal and seem to be more concentrated.

It’s always an unknown as to how much rain is on the horizon but hopefully the early season dumpings have taught us a lesson or two and has put us all in good stead.

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Lynton ‘Heff’ Heffer
Ph: 07 4098 5354