Cape York’s Fishing Hotspots

Aerial view looking back on the very tip of Cape York. If you do go for the walk to the tip, it is worth taking your fishing rod and casting a few lures from the tip. Many quality fish have been landed from this spot.

Aerial view looking back on the very tip of Cape York. If you do go for the walk to the tip, it is worth taking your fishing rod and casting a few lures from the tip. Many quality fish have been landed from this spot.

We wanted to find some of the hottest inshore spots to fish in Cape York and figured the best person to ask would be someone who has lived in and fished the region and knows the place inside out. Cape Yorker approached Anthony and asked him to name the top three places that he would recommend to give the visiting angler the best inshore options on their stay in Cape York. We reckon this is sure to get the casting arm twitching in anticipation.

Cape York really is one of the ideal spots to visit for the travelling angler. With numerous options for the drive-in or fly-in tourist, and a number of quality fishing guides or self hire boats plus a generous amount of varied accommodation options the only limitation is knowing exactly where and when to go and just how long you have to spend there.
The whole region has so much to offer the fisherperson both in the variety of species to target and the tackle required that you could fill this whole magazine with info so when you have to narrow it down to just three locations, it makes the job a little harder.

Steve Blackmore from Gladiator Tackle was pretty happy with this little trevally caught while fishing the Punsand Bay area on a recent tackle-testing trip.

Steve Blackmore from Gladiator Tackle was pretty happy with this little trevally caught while fishing the Punsand Bay area on a recent tackle-testing trip.

Firstly, the time of year that you visit Cape York will play a part in what you can expect to catch. Most tourists’ visit between the ‘dry’ season, which generally runs from the Easter break through to September and October, so this article will focus on that time of year. When it comes to timing your fishing for the inshore areas, the build up to the full and new moon are your best options and if I had to narrow it down even further I would say that your prime times are 3 to 4 days prior to either the full or new moon. In my experience, the rising tide has always fished better so it is presumed that these are the best tides for the locations covered in this article.

Weipa

Without a doubt, the most publicised location to fish in Cape York is Weipa and it is any wonder. Weipa really has it all with many options for the fly-in tourist and also the ones who choose to make the drive.
You can hire boats from Weipa or book a trip out with one of the many guides who have made Weipa their home. The other option is to bring your own boat (car topper or trailer) and start exploring the area yourself. If you are only targeting the inshore areas, then a boat of at least 4 metres in length is recommended.
Heading away from the main ramp at Evans Landing, and out the Embley River, the first thing you will notice is the channel markers. These can keep you occupied for many days alone as they hold some quality fish. Fish in tight to the structure with chrome lures and hang on. I have seen some monumental bust ups from these markers and there is a resident grouper there with at least $500.00 worth of lures and terminal tackle attached to it.
Moving from the leads, pointing the boat to the port direction will find you heading towards well-known locations such as Westminster, Red Cliffs, Pera Heads and Thud Point – all within an hour and a half or so from Weipa in ideal conditions.
Westminster is one of the closer spots and is basically a group of rocks that jut out from the beach. Take care here as many boaties have done considerable damage to their hulls and props when going through on the wrong tide. This is an area best approached towards the top of a rising tide for the first few times until you start to get to know the place. The rocks also go a fair way out from the beach so pay attention when heading further down the coast. Spin gear is the better way to fish here with a species list including barramundi, queenfish, trevally (numerous species), mackerel, giant herring and blue salmon. Chrome slices, poppers and both soft plastics and hard bodied lures will work. There is another area close to Westminster called Rainforest. This is also worth a look and conditions are similar to those described above.
Further down the coast is Red Cliffs. This is about an hour from the ramp and is easily spotted – just look for the red cliffs on the coast.
The northern end has a bay coming off a rocky headland/spit and this is well worth a look on the rising tide for barramundi, blue salmon and threadfin salmon. Further along, you can drift and cast towards the rocks for barramundi and queenfish to name a few. Keep an eye out wide too as there is a good chance you will start to spot birds working the surface with schools of longtail tuna and mackerel balling the bait up. I have also encountered large schools of golden trevally surface feeding in this area so you just never know what is going to turn up.
A short run further down the coast will bring you to Thud Point. This is a well-known spot for tuna and mackerel out wider, while the rocks in closer hold some quality giant trevally. For those who are keen on flyfishing, there are also some very large milkfish that move through the area. These are best found earlier in the day and on a rising tide. A short way offshore will also take you to some very good jigging grounds where fish like golden snapper will give you a real good run for your money.
If you do travel down to Thud Point, keep an eye on the weather as it can be a nasty trip home with the wind and chop making for a rough ride home.

Jewfish can be a common catch around Seisia if you hit the right spots on the right tide. Best options are on the very top, or bottom of the tide when there is little movement.

Jewfish can be a common catch around Seisia if you hit the right spots on the right tide. Best options are on the very top, or bottom of the tide when there is little movement.

Seisia

The next hot-spot for Cape York is an area that is not as publicised but is well worth the visit. Seisia is towards the tip of Cape York and offers the travelling angler a great place to call home while you explore the inshore and offshore fishing. Being based on the western side of Cape York (like Weipa) you are often sheltered from the south-easterly trade winds so fishing is a little more enjoyable. If you have towed your boat up with you, then chances are that you will be launching at the main ramp besides the Seisia jetty. Hire boats are also available at Seisia. While on the subject of the jetty at Seisia, this is one spot you don’t want to overlook as there are sometimes huge schools of baitfish sheltering around the jetty and a large variety of good quality fish have been hooked right from the jetty. A local fella actually speared a billfish a number of years ago from this area so you just never know what is going to turn up.
Out from Seisia, there are probably more open water options available to the angler than Weipa. There are a number of islands close by and the tip of Cape York is less than an hours run north. This region is definitely more of a paradise for the blue water angler and having spent many days out with local fishing guide ‘Bat’, I can honestly say that there is an impressive variety of fish to target including Spanish mackerel, queenfish, giant trevally and then you have the bottom dwellers like golden snapper, saddeltail seaperch (nannygai) and coral trout, just to name a few.
On the way from the jetty to the tip, there are also a few smaller creeks that are well worth a look, particularly at the mouth on the rising tide.
Heading south from the jetty will find you heading towards the Jardine River. The area around the mouth of this system also fishes well with the species list including regulars such as barramundi, queenfish, trevally and some big jewies on the right tides. This is generally towards the top of the tide on the rising moon. For the jewies, try to pick the slack in the tide so that you are fishing the very top or bottom of the tide.
It is important to remember that a lot of the water you will be fishing is open water so you really need to pay attention to the weather, as things can get ugly pretty quickly.

Visiting angler, Paul Gomes was pretty happy with this average threadfin salmon caught on lure at the mouth of this estuary system in Weipa.

Visiting angler, Paul Gomes was pretty happy with this average threadfin salmon caught on lure at the mouth of this estuary system in Weipa.

Pennefather

The third hot spot is not as well known and tends to be kept quiet by those in the know. It involves about an hour and a half drive north of Weipa on the road to Mapoon. The inshore fishing here can be absolutely sensational if you pick your timing right. Following the Mapoon road, take the left hand turn (just under an hour from Weipa) into Pennefather. The last section of the track is all sand so a 4wd is essential, but well worth the effort. You can hire these from Weipa. The track will lead you to the mouth of the Pennefather River where there are camping facilities.
While the mouth can fish very well, I tend to focus my efforts south of the mouth by either walking and sight casting or simply driving along the beach (on the right tide) and spotting fish from my landcruiser. The best time to do this is on the rising tide as the predatory fish will be moving in to chase the bait along the shoreline. You will find a very wide variety of fish along the coastline here including the regulars such as queenfish, trevally, blue salmon, threadfin salmon and barramundi, however there are sections of rock/reef within casting distance from the shore and I have regularly caught coral trout here on fly from the beach.
Tarpon, giant herring and snub-nosed dart are also found along this section of coastline, again, on the rising tide.
This spot would have to be one of my favourite spots to fish and the sight-fishing is definitely a highlight.
You will also notice semi-permanent camps set up along the dunes. These are private camps so please make sure that you keep away from them and only use the camping area at the mouth.
If you do time your trip right, you may also have the opportunity to see the turtles nesting along the beach at night. The local ranger (at the campgrounds) is the best person to see about that sort of thing.
When it comes to planning a trip to Pennefather, it fishes better on the lead-up to the full moon (3-4 days prior) and the rising tide is my preference. Take a variety of lures (soft plastics, hard bodied, poppers, chrome slices) as they will all have a place at Pennefather. For the fly angler, it is pretty hard to beat a place such as Pennefather. Typical clousers, baitfish profiles and crab patterns will see you frequently hooked up.
Keep in mind that the camping facilities are pretty basic so be prepared and bring your own water and supplies so you can enjoy your time there.

With these three ‘hot-spots’ on your inshore Cape York fishing agenda, you are sure to be in for a trip to remember and I am sure that there will be many drag washers being put to the test, along with fully loaded rods and busted up lures. Just don’t tell anyone else about these locations so that you can come back next year and do it all over again!

Regardless of where you fish in Cape York, always be aware that you are in crocodile country and keep a close eye on the water at all times and try to avoid scenarios (like cleaning fish at the waters edge) that may possibly put you in danger. It is the crocodile you don’t see that is the one you have to worry about.

Longtail tuna are a favourite among the sports fisher and these are common out from Weipa from May through to August each year.

Longtail tuna are a favourite among the sports fisher and these are common out from Weipa from May through to August each year.