The Cairns region offers more than gamefishing. South of the city are rivers like the Russell and Mulgrave; to the north are the Daintree and Mowbray Rivers. Anglers heading inland will find opportunities like the famous Lake Tinaroo on the Atherton Tablelands.
One of the wonderful aspects of Cairns is that you don’t need to travel far to find exciting fishing. Take Trinity Inlet. This mangrove- lined estuary is just a couple of minutes drive away from the Cairns CBD and, in its 90 km of waterway, you can catch a diverse range of fish species.
I fished the inlet with Robert Anderson and Nathan Ruth, as diverse a pair of anglers as you are likely to meet. Cool, calm and methodical, Robert is a retired wool broker from Corowa who split his time between a house at Kurrimine Beach, south of Cairns, and Melbourne. Nathan worked at Tackle World, and was one of that up-and-coming group of young anglers blessed with an uncanny ability to drop a lure on a 5c piece hidden under a mangrove root.
Trinity Inlet is primarily a huge tidal basin with several creeks but no major river flowing in. It offers almost year-round action and is a prime fish-breeding and nursery area, one reason why larger predators are consistently caught here.
We launched Robert’s 4.35 m Quintrex Hornet at the ramp upstream of the shipyards. Within 5 mins of starting the 50-horsepower outboard, we were fishing.
Robert proved a capable guide. We started by casting small hard- bodied and soft plastic lures around the mangrove roots, into small run-offs and across snags. The results were slow, although Nathan managed to hook a barramundi of about 60 cm, which subsequently tossed the lure.
Nathan said the small creeks fished better when the tide was rising because the fish head up the creeks and drains after baitfish and prawns. In other areas where I have fished barramundi, anglers prefer to fish creeks when the tide is running out. Casting lures into small drains, creek mouths and among snags isn’t difficult – provided you are accurate. The lure rarely travels more than 15 m, often much less. Precision is the key to avoid hooking up on timber, so do your casting practice.
Our best results were to come from trolling the rock bars. The inlet has a large population of mangrove jack, an aggressive red fish that seems to fight well above its weight. We caught them to 1.4 kg. Nathan had a few spots that he liked working the lures and, on each one, mangrove jacks were waiting for the lure to come across their line of vision – or so it seemed. The fishing was consistent, the jacks and small giant trevally were plentiful, all within cooee of the city centre.
Baitfish and prawns abound in the inlet and locals use cast nets to catch their bait.
Prime species in this water include flathead, long tom and fingermark. During the cooler months, giant trevally (GT), queenfish, estuary cod, flathead, bream and grunter are more prolific.