Queensland is a big state, which means there are ample opportunities for experienced anglers and fishing amateurs alike to achieve a catch. North Queensland, in particular, offers some of the best fishing in the region. So whether you’re on a road trip from Bundaberg to Gladstone or beyond, here is our guide to the most popular fish species in North Queensland. From fish species inshore and offshore in North Queensland, we guarantee you’ll be hooked!
Affectionately known as a “Jack Attack”, the bang, snap and crash of catching a Mangrove Jack have left many anglers reeling — literally. This species is found in many saltwater creeks, rock bars, mangrove beach areas and coastal tidal mangrove estuaries (hence their name). After heavy rainfall, good specimens can be caught upstream in rivers among structured areas and weed beds. Lure fishing for “Jacks” is a favourite pastime for those living in or visiting tropical North Queensland. These “tropical assassins” ambush their prey with a vicious attack on anything that passes close enough to their lair. However, casting needs to be accurate because if an angler’s reflexes are a little slow, or their line a little slack, it can be all over in a split second. Best caught during the warmer months, they can still be found year-round, and many fish are caught using standard bait fishing methods, rods and handlines. Size limits apply.
Black Bream is one of the prime winter species caught in river mouths and estuaries. It is easily identified by its charcoal grey colouring (while its brighter cousins, Silver Bream, are predominantly silver with yellow fins). They should also not be confused with the Sooty Grunter (also known as Freshwater Black Bream), which is found in freshwater rivers. From June to September, large schools of breeding fish will congregate in estuaries and tidal river structures to spawn. When in their aggressive pre-spawning mode, they will attack most baits with gusto — even larger bait meant for larger fish — however, fresh live prawns are their morsel of choice. Size and bag limits apply.
Sport fishing enthusiasts often regard this fish as one of the most challenging freshwater species to catch, so it is highly sought after, although very common in north Queensland’s pristine rainforest rivers. However, the more remote the location, the greater your chance of catching one! They love to hide out in the shade of overhanging foliage during the warmer months and have excellent eyesight, so they will go for small flies and lures with exuberance. However, their relative rarity means most guides will insist on a “catch and release” situation only.
As their name implies, these fish have a distinctively flat head and a profile they use to great effect as they lie in sandy patches and wait for their prey to come to them on the tides. Two main types inhabit our river mouths and tidal estuaries. The Tiger Flathead and the Dusky Flathead. Both will take shallow lures cast around weed beds, sandy or muddy bottoms and small draining channels. Their preferred bait ranges from small sardines and mullets to mud herring and prawns. They are most active during the cooler months, from May to September. Larger female specimens are probably breeders, so they should be returned to the water unharmed, and overall size limits apply.
This is a prime fish species in North Queensland that is more commonly known as a GT by most anglers. Giant Trevally are widely caught by bait and lure fishermen in estuaries, rivers and rocky headlands and typically lurk around reef structures. These magnificent fish will offer one of the hardest fishing contests in the tropics. Fish up to 25 kilograms are prime targets but require the best quality tackle. During the cooler months from May to September, they patrol gutters or sandbar drop-offs in search of food. They are often caught using bait fishing techniques rather than lures but will take medium-sized lures and flies if they are presented when they are in feeding mode. Most Trevally species don’t handle the freezing process well, so they are best released if no cooking facilities are available on the day you catch one.
Imagine a metre-long silvery streak charging from the water’s surface, shaking madly to try and escape, and then crashing down to do it all again. That’s the magnificent Queenfish! Making for a spectacular catch on either lure or bait fishing, “Skinnies” are a favourite target fish. They patrol the gutters and mangrove channels during the cooler months but can typically be caught in tidal estuaries year-round, as well as reef areas and close inshore rocks. Fish up to 10 kilograms are quite common — what a meal! Live sardines are the perfect bait, and a cast net around mangrove points and weed beds will assist with a catch. They also don’t handle the freezing process well, so eat them on the day you catch them.
Another popular fish species in North Queensland is the Cobia, which is also commonly called the Black Kingfish. The winter months are the prime time to target these migratory beasts, and they are usually caught while targeting other species. They have a habit of trailing sting rays, sharks and whales searching for dropped food, so an alert angler will entice one by casting a lure near one of these gliding monsters. They range in size from five to 45 kilograms and are fast-growing, so catching one under five kilos is rare.They are a serious contender, so require seriously tough tackle and landing a Cobia usually requires more than one attempt. A prized catch in many ways, Cobia offers the excitement of a long, hard fight and the reward of a quality fish.
Various members of this fish species inhabit our warm tropical reef waters, with the best results achieved in the cooler part of the year from May to September. However, larger specimens can be found near shore islands and around deep water reefs and can be targeted using jigging techniques. Narrow-barred Mackerel or Tanguigue (more commonly called Spanish Mackerel or just “Spaniards”) are the prime targets in our waters, with specimens over 27 kilograms quite common. Quality tackle is a must with them as they have superb eyesight and sharp, scissor-like teeth. Spotted Mackerel, or “Doggies”, can be similarly caught on reefs and capturing on lures is one popular method. Size and bag limits apply.
“Jewies” are a cousin of the Southern Mulloway and look fairly identical apart from their scales, which are much darker and have a black spot. They love to frequent wrecks, inshore reefs and deep structures. They are not a common capture and are more prominent further north, but there is the occasional report of a local catching one. They are hard fighting and make for excellent eating, and size and bag limits apply. The Silver Jewfish is its smaller cousin, most commonly caught during the cooler months. They will take most small baits and prawns fished on the bottom of a standard running rig and are not a prime target species but an excellent option for a family fishing day.
This tropical reef fish is highly prized for its eating qualities and is one of the most popular fish species in North Queensland. Its colouring varies from dark crimson to grey/light pink with blue spots. They are best targeted during the cooler months, from April to October. The preferred method to catch this magnificent eating fish is to use fresh fish and squid baits. If intended for the dinner table, Coral Trout, like all prime-eating reef fish, should be immediately bled, gilled and gutted and placed in a slurry of ice and seawater to ensure optimum quality. Size and bag limits apply.
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