Frequently Asked Questions
Q What’s the best time to go fishing in Cairns?
A Well it really all depends on the type of fishing your interested in and the angling targets your after. Different species are more active during different times of the year. Barra like warm water so the summer months from October to April are best, marlin come in to spawn from mid September to mid December while queenies and trevally are best in our rivers during the cooler periods. Check out our Fishing Calendar for all the details.
Q What time of year offers the best weather for Cairns?
A We have a true tropical climate (similar to Florida in the States or Hawaii, or Singapore), we don’t have a winter as such but the cooler part of the year is from June to August. Day time temps. are still mild, nights are cool with little humidity. The summer months from December to March is also our rainy season and conditions can be quite humid – the stuff our barramundi just love. Check out our Weather Info pages for current and historical data.
Q What is the best tide for river and estuary fishing?
A The Cairns region sees a tidal range of between 3 inches and 3 metres (10ft) of water movement (now that’s a lot of water rushing in and out of a system) and conditions need to be assessed at the time. Its pretty obvious that on big fast moving tides the bait and predators feeding on them are not going to be out in the middle of the current being uncontrollably swept away. And on slow moving tides the bait is not going to be bunched up tight against structure either. Fish deep water on slow tides, shallow water on big tides is a pretty good rule of thumb! The hour and a half either side of high and low tide is also the best time to try your luck. Current tidal information is available.
Q What kind of fish can I catch?
A Lots and lots and lots of different and exciting species – way too many to mention here, anyway. As our motto says, “If you can’t catch it in North Queensland, it’s probably not worth catching”. See our Target Species section for the lowdown on what’s lurking locally.
Q Are there bag limits and rules about where I can fish?
A Recreational fishing in Queensland is governed by a series of regulations designed to make sure that our fisheries stay healthy. There are bag limits, restrictions on fishing practices and access to certain areas of the Great Barrier Reef, and rules regarding fishing inland waterways and estuaries. Links to the various agencies involved are under Rules And Regulations in our Fishing Info section.
Q Should I do a half day or full day charter?
A Now a lot depends on your budget and time allocation of course but its pretty obvious from the above “tide” comment that by fishing to the clock (i.e. half day) you may not get to fish a peak tide period. On the other hand a full day charter could see you fishing in at least three peak tide cycles – last in, first out and even last out! Get my drift.
Q Should I go with a guide or can you point me in the right direction to do it myself?
A Of course we make our living by booking clients onto fishing charters but that’s not the main reason why YOU should go with a guide. All over the world fishing conditions, target species, peak angling times, preferred rigs and bait, and fishing locations vary considerably – there is no substitute for local knowledge. You could fish for years in a new location and still not learn as much as you could possible glean from a day spent with one of our expert professional guides.
Q Should I do a share or sole charter?
A Once again it all depends on your fishing targets, your angling desires, fishing style and budget. Nearly all marlin fishing, blue water G.T. fishing and calm water lure & fly fishing is conducted on a sole charter basis. One to three / four anglers only (depending on charter type). Its obvious to most fisherman that you can’t have 6 anglers all trying to cast lures / fly’s to structure, boiling fish pods or rocky outcrop etc from a drifting boat…….no matter how big the vessel…..its just not practical and down right dangerous and expensive on tackle. Ouch…..that $300 custom rod / fly outfit just broke in half! At the other end of the scale, if your out chasing 1,000 lb blacks, how many shots do you get for your bucks – I know if I was out there and I didn’t even get to hold a rod I’d be pretty pissed off! You just don’t get a few dozen shots a day at these monsters.
Q Should I do a live aboard or day trip for marlin?
A The prime marlin grounds are located outside the Great Barrier Reef – the reef is not one sold wall, but a series of structures varying from 15 to 50 miles off the North Queensland coast. A lot of activity takes place out wide once the big blacks arrive, north of the Ribbon reefs and around the Lizard Island area. Day charters are restricted to the immediate waters off Cairns and limited opportunities may arise. Of course budget considerations are taken into account. Extended cruising also has the added advantage of offering other fishing styles throughout the day as well as the opportunity to swim and snorkel, explore a remote sand cay or tropical island perhaps and just lay back and watch the sun set on another glorious day in paradise.
Q What’s the cost of a black marlin charter?
A How long is a piece of string ! It all depends on the vessel we are able to secure for you. Million dollar boats, varying in length from 30ft to 60 ft and fitted out with the most modern electronics and comforts are not cheep. It all depends on vessel size, which dictates comfort at sea, cruising speed (and fuel consumption which could be upwards of $6-800 a day), vessel fit out, berthing arrangements, age of vessel and most importantly – Skipper experience. After all its the skipper that puts you onto fish, not the fancy boat. Larger vessels may also have up to three crew who, although loving their jobs, must also be paid something for putting up with clients needs 24 hours a day Ha Ha. Price on application and subject to vessel availability. Refer our Game Fishing Charters pages.
Q Why use a hand line for reef fishing?
A Because its the most effective, efficient and economical way of extracting prime eating fish like coral trout, red emperor and nannygai from their reef homes. These fish are dirty fighters, they take up your bait and try to dart back into their reef – a bit of slack line, some mono stretch and twang!…..its all over.
Q Can I use a rod and reel to fish the reef if I wish?
A Sure can, but be warned – if your not familiar with reef fishing and hard pulling tropical species the skipper will not be pleased seeing $5 worth of terminal tackle disappear on each drop – the tackle manufacturers and tackle shops will love you though.
Q Why can’t I catch fish, I’ve tried all the right things but my catch rates are still down?
A The most common statement from recent (and not so recent) arrivals to this beautiful city & region. Local knowledge does not come out of a box, or magazine or even a bloody good web site like this one. It can take years to develop the skills, the subtle reading of tides and moon phases, weather conditions and even sussing out that right bait or lure to tempt your targets. Sure, research all you can, read all about it, check web sites and even go into tackle shops for advice BUT YOU WILL LEARN MORE IN A FEW HOURS FROM A GUIDE / SKIPPER than you will learn in a life time by struggling along on your own. Do yourself, and your family & friends, a big favour – pay the bucks and go with a guide at least once.
Q What’s the best place to catch a fish?
A The fish shop – I’d be a very rich man if I had ten cents for every time I was asked that question. Hell what do you mean catch fish – reef, river, estuary – blue or calm water – local or extended charter – remote location mothership or land based – marlin or barra. We do in fact cover the lot but please think about your preferred angling targets, your skill levels, preferred angling method & fishing locations and narrow it down to what you really want to do. And remember – as with most things in life, YOU DO PAY FOR WHAT YOU GET. There are reasons why a half day share charter to the estuary costs $75pp, why a sole charter to the river starts out from $550 and a heavy tackle black marlin trip will set you back a grand or two.
Q What’s the best lure for barra?
A A gold one is usually the reply – but its obviously more involved than that. Consider where your fishing, is it salt or fresh water. What are the fish feeding on and how big. How deep is the water I’m fishing. Use a deep diver in deep water snags, and obviously a shallow runner over the weed beds and sand / mud flats, gutters & drains. Check our Tackle, Rigs & Bait section.
Q How do I join two pieces of line?
A What size, what type and for what purpose – obvious isn’t it! Some things are too general and a good knot book is an essential part of any tackle box. Or try our knot tying guide.
Q What knot do I use for……….!?
A Hmmm…….a very good question and one that has many different answers depending on what part of the globe you live in and what your angling targets are. With the advent of these new braided lines and advances in mono & “nylon” technology its hard just keeping up with the colours!. And then we have a whole range of knots specifically designed for the fly fisherman……….do everyone a big favour, buy a good knot book and study it carefully. Don’t try to memorise dozens of different knots but become an expert at tying just a few of them. Our knot tying guide covers the majority of common knots. Practice them regularly until you can tie them in the dark with one arm tied behind your back and a stubby in the other one.
Q Where is a good place to fish from the shore or bank?
A What a lot of visiting anglers don’t realise is that:
- Our rivers & estuaries generally have thick bankside vegetation, often dense mangroves
- Our banks are often made up of thick bottomless mud
- Our rivers & waterways are home to big lizards – crocodiles
Local knowledge is paramount and for comfort and safety reasons you should only fish where you know its a safe location. Ask around, check the tackle shops and ask the locals in the area. Please note that these areas are also home to mozzies and sand flies, make sure you have reliable insect repellent and apply it before you find them intolerable. Of course there are some very good beachside, river mouth and rocky headland fishing spots available – check the Fishing Locations guide.
Q What should I wear while fishing?
A We are in the tropics and the sun is quite hot on bare skin. Common sense depicts that long sleeved cotton clothing is best (it breathes, cools and protects). A broad brimmed hat, sun glasses, long shorts or short longs will do the trick on the lower part of you body and of course quality sunscreen is a must. Visit our Weather section to see local historcial climate data.
Q I have a pair of sun glasses. Are they OK for fishing?
A Yes and No! You need quality eyewear, especially in bright light and in tropical conditions. Those cheap plastic sunnies just don’t do you any good and could in fact be doing more damage than offering protection. Sure they look dark but that may just open up your eye ball and allow all those nasty UV rays in. You need quality polaroid glasses that cut the glare and reduce the UV rays. They also allow you to see into the water, suss out that snag properly and you may even enjoy your fishing more by seeing the strike / take.