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CAPE YORK CALLING

Dave Brace

Anglers with the luxury of owning a well set up four wheel drive; expansive untouched fishing territory can be explored and experienced within this remarkable country we all call home. We as anglers are extremely fortunate to have so many unbelievable locations and fisheries available to discover throughout Australia and none more so than the Cape York Peninsula in Queensland, where countless rivers and creeks form to create a fishing mecca and paradise. Recently, prior to the wet season, in a convoy of three vehicles travelling with family and friends, we had the opportunity to travel and explore many of these tidal areas of Cape York, one being the tremendously picturesque Skardon River.

The Skardon River is situated on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula and is approximately 100 kilometres north of Weipa as the crow flies, with an approximate distance of 30 kilometres north from the township of Mapoon. Access to the river by four wheel drive is via the Old Telegraph Track, with the junction being about 10 kilometres south of the infamous Gunshot Creek Crossing.

The unsealed track leading to the beach and to the mouth of the Skardon River, before reaching camp, is very narrow in places with some of the track being quite overgrown with native trees and shrubs. There are also many windy sections of very soft sand that can be hazardous for the less experienced travelling angler in terms of becoming bogged steadfast.

Being fully loaded, we had to decrease the air pressure in our tyres quite considerably to get through these extremely soft sandy sections whilst on the track. However, the track has enough clearance in width to tow a small to medium trailer boat or camping trailer into the camp. The distance to the beach is only 75 kilometres, with another 13 kilometres northbound along the sand to the mouth of the river, before reaching the designated camping area of the river.

The track also meanders through the Camalco Mining Lease, with only one creek crossing prior on Boggy Creek, a tributary of the Dulhunty River that is part of the make-up of the Mapoon River system. Boggy Creek is of tidal influence and when crossing, caution is advised as it can be quite a deep crossing on a high tide. Often here the track is impassable until late in the dry season.

In total a distance of approximately 90 kilometres was travelled from the Old Telegraph Track to the Skardon River camp, which took about four hours. Prior to exploring the Injinoo Aboriginal Land Trust area, of which the Skardon River is part, a Land Access Permit must be also obtained from the Mapoon Aboriginal Corporation Council.

Upon reaching the mouth of the Skardon River we were quite excited at the prospect of catching some great fish, especially after witnessing barra, trevally and blue salmon busting up small bait fish in the shallows while driving the final few kilometres along the beach and also directly in front of our camp whilst setting up on arrival!

The boats were pulled off the roofs of the vehicles, motors attached, fishing rods set up and we were on the water before sunset. This is a location that only dreams are made of and the fishing was incredible with many species caught. During our visit on the Skardon River some of the most productive fishing was land based, directly out the front of camp, although close by was some rocky outcrops and tributaries that held plenty of fish, whether it was an incoming or an ebbing tide.

The only disappointment with this location was the crocodiles that continually destroyed our crab pots, even after many repairs were undertaken. Hence the reason that not too many crabs were caught. The fishing however made up for our crab loses. Outside the mouth of the river and only two kilometres offshore, some tremendously hectic pelagic fishing was experienced, with copious amounts of tuna and mackerel being caught. However, with the wind getting up early on most mornings it was tough going in the smaller boats.

When matching the hatch out from the front of camp, a 2.5" ZMan GrubZ in the colour of Bloodworm was attached to TT Lures 1/0 Hidden Weight System (HWS) jighead with amazing results. This one lure caught over 50 fish on one particular day, before it fell victim to a trevally that hit with vengeance!

We were fishing quite light for this area, as we had no idea what larger species were hunting nearby, with a 7' graphite rod and a 2500 spinning reel, spooled with 10lb braid and a 12lb mono leader. The outfit soon got the nickname as the 'Camp Rod', there for anyone to grab when they had the urge to feel a comprehensive tug from a fish on the end of the line. Blue salmon, tea leaf trevally and bream were the main species caught with this lure presentation from camp, land based off the beach. Chris however was overwhelmed one morning when a golden trevally of approximately 75cm took a liking to the 2.5" GrubZ. It fought gallantly and was terrific fun on the light gear. 

Off the main river, small drains and tributaries would ebb on the outgoing tides and these were a great location to pick up the odd barramundi and blue salmon, feeding on the baitfish that were also making their way to the larger body of water from these areas. Casting ZMan 4" SwimmerZ at these drains, where they met the river and retrieving the imitation bait back with a slow rolling motion, we saw, on many occasions, barramundi in an ambush mode attacking this lure presentation with plenty of gusto!

It was unbelievable to witness such a spectacle and even though the fish weren't of any great size, it was still incredibly exciting. This was especially so when sight casting to these poised barramundi, visualising the take and in turn the line ripping through the water as the fish loaded up the rod as it took up the slack line. Being shallow water, the acrobatic displays of these fish was insane, as we tried in vain sometimes to subdue these energetic and spirited fish.

Once the tide had ceased ebbing, we concentrated our efforts immediately around the rocky outcrops on the opposing side of the river, where baitfish were trying to seek cover from these predatory fish with the rising tide. Here, we were fishing in approximately thirty centimetres of water, with the motor up and drifting with the wind over the submerged rocks. All the while we were casting at the explosive action of these feeding predatory fish.

Again it was barramundi, trevally and blue salmon in their hundreds that were contributing to these frenzied attacks on the baitfish. A different technique that we employed involved swimming the same ZMan 4" SwimmerZ but with more haste and just below the surface. The fish were attacking the lure more so as a reaction, making it extremely effective as the bite and feeding period was very furious, yet short lived.

Unfortunately we would have ideally liked to extend our stay at the river to continue exploring more of the river and other rivers further north via boat, as access by land was impossible. One river in particular would be the Jackson River... maybe on our next expedition north. Our experience at the Skardon River will be one to remember for a very long time, as the fishing was something most anglers wouldn't get to experience in a lifetime.

Dave Brace

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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2017