Cooktown Coral Flats
Fishing Personality And Lure Maker
Andrew is a Mackay local who is obsessed with the extraordinary multi-species lure fishery on the coral flats around Cooktown. He’s developed a reputation for amassing large numbers of fish species on both commercial and his own handmade wooden lures.
Andrew’s Top Tips For Fishing Coral Reef Flats
- Weather tends to override other considerations such as tide or lunar cycle. In the Cooktown area, November and December are the prime months. Winter and early spring months tend to be windy, autumn trips can be ruined by monsoonal activity.
- Smaller lures in the 110 to 130mm give constant action on fish of all sizes and are recommended if you want to experience catching lots of species. Sizing lures up will dramatically reduce the number of fish caught, but will usually result in quality fish.
- Cast strategically,not just long. A fish that hits a lure a long way from the boat has to be dragged through a lot of structure and has a much greater opportunity to escape.
- Move quietly around the shallow reef flats as fish are often in less than a metre of water and can be easily spooked. Use an electric motor or drfit your boat across the flats for best results.
- When fishing an area that may contain larger fish, put a few casts in with heavy tackle first. If nothing is caught, pepper the area with smaller lures on the lighter tackle.
- The trick to playing fish on the coral flats is to keep the rod tip high so that the fish can’t get its head down. Andrew has developed a retrieve style that ensure there is no slack in the line when the fish takes the lure.
- Sinking stickbaits tend to be the most effective lures, poppers seem to attract less fish. Bibbed minnows are ok too, but don’t cast as well as stickbaits.
- Go prepared and fish hard. don’t muck about! Getting out on the water early with all rods rigged and ready to fish, then working hard to find the fish ASAP is a good strategy, but have a “Plan B”. If you don;t get a fish in the first few casts, keep moving along the reef or switch reefs until you find active fish.
Andrew’s Coral Flats Tackle Selection
- Andrew uses spin gear for ease of casting lighter lures when the wind is blowing. He has three outfits on the boat and selects which to fish based on what’s on the chew.
- The lightest tackle Andrew recommends is 50lb and he carries a heavier 70lb outfit for general fishing. He uses a Saltiga rod and 4000-5000 size reel with braided line. It’s important that the rod and reel are light enough for constant casting and the rod has plenty of guts but is light enough in the tip to enable a small stickbait. Leaders range from 50-80lb, depending on conditions.
- He also carries a heavy rod (80lb) for when GT’s, Maori wrasse or red bass are around. Leaders on the heavy gear are usually 130lb minimum.
Andrew’s Top 3 Lures For The Cooktown Flats
- The #1 lure that covers everything on the reef is the Nomad Mad Scad sinking stickbait 115mm is a great all-round size that will catch both large and small fish. Larger sizes work too, but tend to reduce the catch dramatically – though all fish caught tend to be larger in size.
- Andrew uses his own handmade wooden stickbaits of 120-130mm length and finds they are as effective as the Nomad Mad Scad.
- Other small stickbaits of 115-130 mm size are also good and include various Maria, Smith, Zerek and Rapala models are all good choices.