Catch a Barra to a Whiting and Everything In Between

Multiple Locations

Sure, everyone knows about the deep-sea fishing opportunities off Cairns – it’s one of the world’s most famed deep-sea fishing locations and has even attracted some of Hollywood’s biggest names to try their luck for a marlin. And everyone knows about the Great Barrier Reef. But what’s not so talked about are the world-class fishing options close to Cairns in the Net Free Zone.

And you don’t even need a boat. This region includes many areas easily accessible by land. The headlands around Cairns provide many areas where fish naturally congregate, while the area’s stunning white-sand beaches are full of stunning fishing spots where you can catch everything from whiting to barramundi.

If you do have a boat, Cairns offers a huge tidal estuary that stretches for 85-kilometres and is a boatie’s dream, with everything from golden snapper to grunter lurking below. Or there’s the Barron River, which is one of Queensland’s most significant catchment areas and is full of huge barramundi.

The best time to fish is the warmest time, so be sure to cover up from the sun, watch out for saltwater crocodiles and jelly-fish and pack plenty of water along with Queensland’s famed fishing refresher, XXXX Gold.

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The three main headland locations within the Net Free Zone are at the northern end of Yorkeys Knob Beach, and the start and end of Trinity Beach.

Land-based access is easy with all three headlands having access to ample parking and toilet facilities and they’re only a short walking distance from popular Yorkeys Knob and Trinity tourist beaches, and Yorkeys Knob Marina.

Access for boaties is best from either the Half Moon Creek Boat Ramp or Yorkeys Knob Boat Ramp and the distance between all headlands is less than a five-kilometre run. They’re exposed to the wind and swell so wind strength below 15 knots is recommended for smaller boats. These areas always fish best over the larger tides, especially on the lead up to the full and new moon. All three headlands are fed by nearby creeks and on these bigger tides bait is often flushed out of creek mouths. This bait tends to take up residence around the headlands, which in turn attracts fish such as barramundi and mangrove jacks.

This fishing trail is a terrific option as it allows you to fish multiple locations using the same techniques and rigs over a single tide.

Route Details
Mode of Travel Boat, Walk
Route Type One Way
Fish the Beaches

Cairns is blessed with some of Australia’s best beaches and they offer plenty of incredible fishing spots, especially for land-based anglers. They are all easily accessible. Like the headland route, it’s best to fish over the rising tide and bigger tides and calmer weather with little swell is best.

Machans Beach has many fishable attributes especially with its close proximity to the Barron River mouth. Fishing around the mouth with live and fresh baits can produce some monster barramundi and salmon. The creek mouth is not the only spot to wet a line and anywhere along the open beach may produce fish.

The next stop iis Holloways Beach which is fed by Thomatis Creek and is also a hot spot for salmon and barramundi. When fishing both these beaches, standard estuary gear will do the job. In terms of technique, these beaches are very much highways for both bait and fish and when they come through, it can get red-hot very quickly.

Lures, bait fishing and retrievers will work well in the open beach environment with depth of water being the biggest factor to consider. Trinity Beach is not fed by any creek systems but still has many fishable attributes.

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Mode of Travel Boat, Car, Walk
Route Type One Way
Fish the Cairns Inlet and Flats

Fish a huge tidal-estuary that stretches 85-kilometres with many creeks, drains, wrecks and snags home to barramundi, golden snapper, grunter, salmon and mud crabs. The Cairns Inlet is accessed by two boat-ramps, Smiths Creek Ramp, next to the sugar terminal, and the ramp at Tingara Street-Smith Creek a few kilometres down the road which is preferred for larger boats.

When the weather makes conditions closer to the mouth undesirable, fish the mid-to-upper reaches of the Inlet. Launch your boat around the top of the tide and head up the Inlet and move around the island where you have the option of fishing Chinamen, Four Mile, Garrison or Skeleton Creek.

If lure fishing, the tide will slowly push you down the creek giving you ample opportunity to flick snags for barramundi and mangrove jacks. Once the tide is low, fish the deeper holes at the creek mouth and junctions.

In good weather, head for Hospital Flats as they hold lots of bait after heavy rain, especially prawns which attract fish. They’re best fished on the last two-hours of the incoming tide and the bigger the tide, the better. This area can be good at night for salmon, grunter and barramundi on.

Route Details
Mode of Travel Boat
Route Type One Way

Just north of Cairns lies the almighty Barron River and its side branch, Thomatis Creek. This estuary is best accessed at Stratford, next to the Captain Cook Highway Bridge. This ramp has ample parking, is well-lit and has a pontoon for ease of access.

When starting your Barron River Fishing Trail, launch your boat and head towards the mouth of the creek. Along the way you will see many mangrove-lined riverbanks, which hold good numbers of mangrove jack. However, it is the deeper holes mostly found on the bends of the rivers – especially the last bend of the river before nearing the mouth and the mouths of smaller feeder creeks – which are worth fishing.

Fishing this deeper water on the slack of the tide, preferably the bottom of the tide, with live prawns and mullet, or vibe-style lures, will see some excellent fishing. Threadfin salmon and large barramundi are found in the Barron River, especially when fishing at night. The mouth of the Barron River is also excellent and this is best fished on the outgoing tide. The best bait to use here are herring, mullet and prawn and these can all be caught using a cast net.

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