Heading north to fish the pristine waters of the east coast of Cape York is always a turn on, and as we made our way to a spot near Lockhart River recently my imagination ran wild thinking of that virtual Jurassic Park. Few people get to these parts, and if you are planning a trip you need to obtain permission from the landowners well in advance. Yes, they are careful who they let onto their lands due to previous bad experiences. For info on who own what properties up there, visit the local Land Department office, or search the QLD Government online services at www.qld.gov.au (fees may apply).
The trip took us 11 hours on some pretty ordinary roads but I know my son Matt always prepares his Cruiser well and carries all the necessary tools, safety and first aid kits. Our camp is well up in the shallow freshwater reaches that offer clean water and a low risk croc habitat. We met up with a few mates and got settled that evening so as to prepare to launch our tinnie into the saltwater river nearby the following morning.
The tides were dodgy and in a shallow waterway that can mean getting stranded for a few hours. We launched our 3.5 metre tinny and headed downstream avoiding rockbars and sandbars. Tricky! All the way we were casting Duo minnows and Balistic LED flashing lures to the mangroves catching jacks, cod and heaps more cod. As we approached the lower reaches a couple of side creeks looked promising but even on near high tide it was a struggle to get the boat in.
Matt had packed the electric which makes life so much easier just drifting along casting, and it wasn’t long before the jacks started to chew. Fish to 1.2 kilos pounced on our Z Man Minnowz and Duo hard bodies. Small trevally, the odd barra and of course those bloody cod latched on at regular intervals. Matt scored a 3 kilo queenie on a Halco Rooster popper and a decent tarpon to boot. So we continued downstream, forgetting the time and tide of course until the inevitable happened. We were stranded up that creek for almost 3 hours, still catching fish whilst we waited for the tide to slowly move in. You would think we would have learned by now!
Later that day we fished near the mouth and snared several queenies then Matt put his popper on again which was devoured by one of the biggest Giant Herring I‘ve seen in a while. What a great acrobatic fight followed and the pics show what a prize capture that was. We did take the time to explore several rock bars and backwaters before stumps, one of the most enjoyable parts of river fishing – you never know what you might find!
The next couple of days we did some pig hunting with Matts dogs, some of the lone boars we saw were over 100 kilos and his dogs worked so well as a team. Thankfully they had good protective Bark ‘n For Bacon chest plates and collars on, plus GPS trackers - High Tech pigging indeed. I did enjoy this kind of hunting for a change but I will stick to my trusty rifle as I’m getting on a bit to be running through that thick bush chasing the pack.
Highlights of the trip include doing a reccie well upstream on wide sand bars that had small gutters on either side. You wouldn’t think they would hold much until you tried casting Yosuri minnows and F1.11 & Stealths in there and Jacks to 52cm, barras to 60cm plus trevally and cod were ravenous. It was close quarters street fighting tactics to haul them out of their heavy timber haunts and I admit to losing one lure to a rampaging jack. Another spot we found upstream had some XOS barra patrolling the shallows, which we easily picked up with our Costa Polaroids. They weren’t too hungry though and I dropped two well over a metre that just nudged the lure. On the last day I did get a 92cm barra in the same spot, my reward for quite a lot of time and effort.
In addition to great hunting and fishing the company was excellent, especially sitting around the fire at night downing a few beers and telling yarns. Some of the characters you meet on these bush trips are top value and soon become friends.
I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story and would encourage any of you keen fishos and hunters to get outback and experience this magnificent part of the tropics we call Cape York, which, in my opinion really is one of the greatest last frontiers.