Far North Queensland Fishing Identity
Jimmy is a Townsville based angler and social media personality who reckons winter should be all about sight fishing to Hinchinbrook barramundi, jacks and trevally in shallow, crystal clear water. Or battling with powerful gamefish along Lucinda jetty. Or any one of a hundred other fishing opportunities. In this episode Jimmy lists his five favourite Hinchinbrook fishing destinations.
Fishing The Hinchinbrook Area In Winter
The tropical north of Australia doesn’t have the four distinct seasons of the southern states. Instead, a “wet season” from around November to May is characterised by warm temperatures and rainy conditions and a “dry season” for the remainder of the year with cooler temparatures and less rainfall.
Clearly, these distinct seasons affect the variety of fish available as well as the locations that fish well and the techniques that work. The good news is that whilst many will tell you that the fishing is quiet through the cooler months, you’ll find barra, mangrove jack, trevally, cod, grunter, queenfish and plenty more willing species if you know where to look and how to fish.
Jimmy Falkenberg is a regular visitor to the Hinchinbrook area and has a recognised track record when it comes to catching quality fish year-round. These are his tips for the top 5 winter fishing spots around Hinchinbrook.
Hinchinbrook Fishing Spot #1: Lucinda Jetty
Tide: In winter, any time high or low tide changes coincide with dawn. If you’re boat fishing, fair weather is also an important factor.
Species: Queenfish, trevally, barramundi, fingermark, mackerel, cod, tuna…… but pretty much any pelagic or reef species found in North Queensland can be taken at various stages.
Located at the southern end of the Hinchinbrook Channel and just outside of the Hinchinbrook World Heritage Area, the jetty structure at Lucinda is one of the longest in the world. A 5.76 km there are over 660 fish attracting concrete and steel pylons to keep anglers busy.
The main Lucinda Jetty is only accessible to boating anglers, being off limits to pedestrians. However the smaller jetty to the north can fish just as well if you are a land-based angler. Fish this area when there are large tides running as the “no run, no fun” rule definitely applies. Fishing can be tough when there is a strong current running, but focussing your efforts on those short windows around the tide changes will pay dividends.
Tackle: Spin rods of 7′ or longer, matches with 5000-6000 reels, 30lb braid and 50-60lb leaders are the minimum required for this location as the pylons are unforgiving and large, tough fish need to be controlled.
- Metal slices in the 40-80g range are a great option and will take many of the species present at the jetty – plus they cast well into a wind. Fire out long casts and let them sink all the way to the bottom, then crank them back at full speed for several turns, stopping occassionally to let the lure sink to the bottom again. Or, after reaching the bottom, work the lure back with small hops and lifts for a gentler more demersal-friendly presentation.
- Soft Plastic Paddle Tails in the 4-7″ size range rigged on 1/2 to 1 1/2oz jig heads are an exciting option that rarely fails to attract some fish. Vary the weight depending on the current, water depth and wind and work them fast for pelagics or slower and deeper for demersal species.
- Fishing Lucinda Jetty with 100-150mm stickbaits and poppers can be a very effective technique when the queenfish, trevally, tuna or mackerel and feeding near the surface. Retrieves vary depending on the lure style and the species, so experiment with fast cranking, walk-the dog, large sweeps and blooping techniques until you get results.
- Soft vibration baits such as the Nomad Vertrex in 95 to 100mm sizes or bigger are key lures to have in your Hinchinbrook fishing kits. These versatile offerings can be sunk and hopped back in short lifts and drops or can even be trolled as you’re looking for structure or aggregations of fish on the sounder.
Hinchinbrook Fishing Spot #2: Herbert River Mouth
Tide: Fish this area on tides of 1.5m or bigger, and only fish around the top of the tide unless you like being stranded on a sandbank for many hours!
Species: Golden trevally, giant trevally, permit, barramundi, mangrove jack.
The sandflats and banks around the mouth of th Herbert River, at the southern end of Hinchinbrook Channel are a great place to find feeding fish over the cooler months and the shallow, clear water means that the angler is often sight casting to some pretty amazing fish. Higher tides in the afternoon result in sandflats that have been warmed by the sun becoming inundated, warming the water, stimulating bait and attracting fish.
Tackle: Tackle can be lighter for fishing the flats as there isn’t any real structure for the fish to run you into – play them patiently and you’ll get most of them to the boat. A fast action 7′ rod 3000-4000 size reel and 10lb braid will cast the smaller, lighter lures and still have enough stopping power for this spot.
- Bucktail Jigs and Crab Flies. The latter can be fished by slipping a small ball sinker into the loop knot when you’re tying them on. These are great lures when the golden trevally and permit are on the flats and you can sight cast them. Figure out which way they’re moving and cast sufficiently far ahead that you attract their attention without spooking them. It’s trial and error to figure this distance out, so expect to spook a few fish along the way.
- Soft plastic prawn imitations in the 2-4″ size range are a great offering for barramundi and mangrove jack that come onto these flats and again can be sigh cast to some quality fish.
- Soft plastic paddletail lures in the 3″ size range and rigged on 1/4 to 1/2oz standard jig heads work well when cast well ahead of fish and simply slow rolled back past them.
Hinchinbrook Fishing Spot #3: The Bluff
Tide: Neapish tides and best in this area.
Species: Barramundi, mangrove jack and grunter.
Adjacent to the mouth of the Herbert River, the Bluff is a deep water fishing spot strewn with boulders and structure that hold quality fish on the smaller tides, when other spots can make for tough fishing.
- The DOA shrimp can fish particularly well here. Rigged on a 3/8 oz jig head this lure can be sunk to the bottom and worked back in short bursts to imitate a prawn.
- Various 50-120mm shallow running hard body lures (such as the time-proven gold bomber) can be deadly in this area and can be worked simply by casting long and slow rolling back past the fish.
Hinchinbrook Fishing Spot #4: Benjamin Flats
Tide: Best towards the bottom of the tide.
Species: Barramundi, mangrove jack and grunter.
Benjamin Flats has been a local secret for many years but has recently become more widely known as a place to target barra, jacks and grunter in particular. Unfortunately the local mosquito and sandfly population have also discovered the flats so be sure to bring plenty of repellant or you’ll be in for an uncomfortable time!
The fish here feed on baitfish and prawns swept off the flats on the outgoing tide and into the many small mud drains that offer a little more depth. Look for these areas and put plenty of casts into the drains, particularly if the water is a bit stirred up and dirty as the barra in particular love these conditions but may not bite unless you get the lure right on their nose. You won’t always be able to see these fish (unless you spook them), so peppering the area thoroughly from every angle is the best approach.
These drains can also fish well on the first hour or so of the run-in tide as the baitfish are pushed into them by predators.
Tackle: Similar tackle to the Herbert River mouth will work here as again there isn’t any real structure for the fish to run you into. A fast action 7′ rod 3000-4000 size reel and 10lb braid and a decent leader 10-40lb (depending on species) is about right.
- Benjamin Flats is a wonderful place to fish for barra and jacks with 4″ Pop Frogs rigged weedless on 4/0 to 5/0 unweighted worm hooks. Cast these well up onto the mud above the waterline and then plop them back into the drains and work them through for spectacular surface boofs.
- Small stickbaits in the 75-100mm size range are worth working though the drains also, but be sure that the terminal tackle is up to the task. If necessary, replce hooks and split rings with heavy duty, barra-friendly versions, taking care to to spoil the action of the lure.
- Soft plastic prawns in the 3″ size range and rigged on light jig heads are once again a very effective barra and mangrove jack lure in these areas.
Hinchinbrook Fishing Spot #5: Island Creeks Near Cardwell
Tides: Best fished on the higher tides, many of these systems don’t hold much, if any, water at low tide so take care to avoid getting stranded.
Species: Barramundi, mangrove jack and grunter.
Jimmy had a few issues trying to figure out which of his many spots would fill the final slot, but opted for the myriad of small creeks and inlets that line the Hinchinbrook Island shoreline opposite the township of Cardwell. Most of these are not on maps but are visible on Google Earth.
The mangrove fringes, inlets and creeks can all fish well, but the rocky outcrops should not be ignored and are a terrific place to cast surface lures.
Tackle: Long spin rods are great for making the longer cast that are often needed when fishing the Hinchinbrook Island margins, especially with the smaller lighter lures that are often used. However, there is definitely also a place for the more standard 6’6″ baitcast rods more typically thought of as barramundi tackle.
- Shallow running hard bodies lures are very effective here, especially when slow rolled through or past structure.
- Small stickbaits worked around the rocky outcrops will often result in some good fish, but please note the warning about about beefing up the terminals to cope with barramundi fishing!
Whether you’re a southern angler escaping the cold winter or a northerner looking for a place where the barra and jacks still play through the dry season, the Hinchinbrook area has a lot to offer.
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