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QLD: Cairns Offshore Fishing
Port of Call - Cairns, North QLD Australia
by: John Mondora for: BlueWater Magazine
Where Is Cairns?
Cairns is a full on hustling bustling International tourist venue situated on Trinity Inlet on the North East seaboard of tropical Queensland, Australia, and is the gate way to one of the world’s icons … The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) with thousands of tourists accessing the reef and islands from many vessels each day, numerous reef bottom fishing charter vessels as well as sportfishing and estuary charter vessels.
It has an all weather harbour and cruise boat terminal, International airport, railway and bus terminal and has several trailer boat boats ramps in close proximity to the city.
Although the population is just over 100,000 Cairns has the highest boat registrations (pro rata) in Australia, but with the GBR at its doorstep that is to be expected.
Being one of the tourist capitals of this country there is virtually every type of accommodation known to man and every different type of restaurant you can imagine catering to all tastes and cultures. I haven’t found a Russian restaurant yet but I’m sure there’s one somewhere. There is plentiful seafood and local fresh fruit and produce and local markets.
What is Cairns Famous For?
Cairns is famous for many things. Things like the rainforest, the coral gardens just offshore, and is the scuba diving mecca for many with the warm winters and tropical balmy nights. The scenic railway to Kuranda is popular with tourists many of whom return from the village markets by cablecar. Of course with fishermen it is those giant black marlin that turn up every year from September to December.
Cairns is known as The Black Marlin Capital of the World, and rightly so. In fact the biggest marlin ever caught in Australian waters was caught at Cairns—–1442 lbs. While QLD might be seen as a backward state by some; its fish management laws are first class and as good as anywhere in the world.
However the marine park is now a major worry and the so called green zones are a disaster in the making as they force more and more fishermen into less and less areas, and if that’s smart management I’m a monkey’s uncle.
The Great Barrier Reef can feed Australia forever but IT CANNOT FEED THE WORLD——end of story. A new management regime is needed QUICKLY.
History of Cairns
Cairns was built on timber, canegrowing, agriculture, and mining and is the port and transport hub for Cape York, inland plus the Atherton Tableland, Daintree, Innisfail and beyond.
Fishing-wise there is no doubt the catalyst which forced Cairns from a big bush town to what it is today was a slow talking, and very humble, quiet little American from Fort Lauderdale in Florida called George Bransford. George was in Cairns during the World War 2 as a paratrooper and he asked the rough tough mackerel fishermen of the day if there were big marlin out there and the answer was this.
“Those frigging big bastards of things. Break all our gear including outriggers, bloody things are a menace”.
To cut the story short he eventually moved to Cairns and caught the first ever “grander” for Richie Obach in 1966, and the rest is history. The world went mad as anglers clamoured to fish Cairns and the town has mushroomed to over a 100,000.
Bransford pioneered a mighty industry indeed and I doubt if many recognise that today.
Targeted Fish Species
While those big “granders” are full on there are virtually dozens of species on tap at Cairns. Bear in mind this is the GBR, and where there is reef and currents there are gamefish.
There is a big population of sailfish out there on an almost year round basis, the small black marlin turn up in winter, and can be thick as thieves some years. In fact if you want to catch a small (20 to 40 kilo) black on fly Cairns is THE place.
With the arrival of the little blacks comes a big migration of Spanish mackerel up to 30 kilos (10 to 15 kilos is a good fish though) and these offer great sport to the small boat owner and sportfishing charterers.
Cairns has a big fleet of worldclass game fishing charter boats (all with world class Captains by the way) and these are needed when the big girls turn up. Apart from the huge marlin there are wahoo, dog tooth tuna, dolphin fish etc., which ride the same current. These boats fish from Cairns to the Ribbon Reefs in the north to Dunk Island and Hinchinbrook in the south. Seasonally there are motherships for longer live-at-sea marlin fishing
Inshore there are gut busting GTs (great trevally) year round, barracuda, Queenfish, plus all the delectable bottom dwellers such as coral trout, red Emperor, nannygai etc., etc., and more etc., while only an hour from Cairns live the biggest barramundi on the planet.
In fact the world all tackle record for barra is held at Tinaroo (37.85 kilos), just over the range from Cairns.
Sportfishing and Estuary charter boats fish from Cairns all year round. Cairns is a truly amazing place as far as fishing goes and it’s almost a case of you name it and it lives here, but of course all life is a cycle and you must fish the right months for each species to maximise your chances.