Written by Greg McLean. Originally published 01-Nov-2017

Before Port Douglas became a tourist mecca it was renowned as a sleepy fishing village where the catches were as plentiful as the stories shared about ‘the one that got away’.

These days, the waters off Port Douglas are regarded as a tropical paradise for recreational anglers, with the closest access to some of the best fishing playgrounds on the Great Barrier Reef and beyond.

As the region prepares to host the Formula 1 of fishing, the Port Douglas Marlin Challenge, we caught up with those in-the-know to find out what makes Port Douglas such an underwater oasis whether you’re a first-time angler or fishing fanatic.

1. Port Douglas is also where the big fish holiday

Photo by Perrin Clarke Photography

According to Port Douglas Marlin Challenge organiser and Fishing Port Douglas operator Lynton “Heff” Heffner, Tropical North Queensland is regarded as the Holy Grail for big game fishing.

“More than 80 per cent of 1000-pound-plus marlin are caught here in the waters off Far North Queensland,” Heff said.

“It’s the Formula 1 of fishing, with the ultimate in big game vessels, the best fishing gear and operators who know where to find the big boys.”

Heff explains that the black marlin descend on Tropical North Queensland’s warm waters between October and December each year to breed off the continental shelf.

“The best places to find them are Linden Bank, Opal Ridge and the Ribbon Reefs running tuna or mackerel baits on 130-pound line from a game boat,” Heff said.

“Marlin tend to be most active in the afternoon, in the mornings you’re better off rigging up light tackle to chase wahoo, dolphin fish, tuna and mackerel for some exciting sports fishing.”

If you don’t have the budget to go chasing the big marlin, there’s still plenty of reely (pun intended!) good fishing to be had on the Great Barrier Reef

2. It’s a fishing perk to have the reef within reach

Photo by Outrageous Fishing Adventures

Bill Hansen of Outrageous Fishing Adventures said Port Douglas’ proximity to the Great Barrier Reef and the variety of species made the destination ideal for anglers of all abilities.

“Port Douglas is the closest town to the Outer Reef fishing grounds, you can get there in under an hour,” he said.

“Batt, Tongue, Rudder and St Crispin’s Reefs tend to be the best spots to hook up GTs, big Spanish mackerel, nannygai, red emperor, pick a species and you’ll generally find it enjoying a nibble on your line.

“You can catch them on poppers, live baits, dead baits, lures, we mix it up a fair bit depending on the conditions and it’s not unusual to pull in a metre-long Spanish or 60-pound reef fish.

“And the reef fish are such good eating, but probably my favourite part of the job is the look on the faces of people reeling in a decent fish for the first time.

“I’ve taken kids out for their first fishing experience and they’ve returned 10 years later and fishing has become a major part of their life, I get a real kick out of that.”

3. It’s not just offshore fishing, there’s plenty of inshore action

Photo by Hook Up Charters

The fishing can be just as fierce on inshore reefs and up the estuaries, as Hook Up Charters guide Glen “Shawry” Shaw explains.

“The best part about inshore reef and estuary fishing is the fish are right there, you don’t need to travel to the Outer Reef as you can catch plenty on a half-day charter,” he said.

“You only need to go out the front of the inlet to get onto some nice perch, mackerel, coral trout, sweetlip, there’s more than 40 different species patrolling a small area.

“Head up the creeks for some big barra lurking around the snags or mangrove jacks in the estuary and throw in some crab pots, the possibilities are endless.

“The best times for sports fishing in the estuaries are generally the couple of hours before and after low tide or you can target the GTs and queenies on a big high tide, it doesn’t really matter when you fish, as long as you’re with someone who knows the conditions and what fish generally bite where.”

4. You can fish the reef and the rainforest

For a rainforest fishing experience, the mighty Daintree River 45 minutes north of Port Douglas is home to a myriad of fish species and plenty of adventure. 

Daintree guide, Jamie Beitzel, is an expert in the subject, having reaped the rewards of high rainfall and complex mangrove systems in the river all his fishing-life.

“It’s a real adventure fishing in the Daintree and great family bonding, no two creeks are the same and you’re really close to Snapper Island and inshore reefs for variety,” Jamie said.

“The Daintree River is famous for barra, but there’s also plenty of queenfish up to four-foot long, trevally, you name it and we can tickle them on the nose either trolling, casting, lure and even fly fishing, particularly in the calmer weather.”

Have you been fishing in Port Douglas? What did you reel in?

Post by: Greg McLean

Greg can be found exploring parts of Port Douglas & the Daintree off the beaten track, usually in bare feet, as the operator of independent tour agency Adventures Port Douglas & Daintree.




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