Went for a troll around Double Island to no avail. Mark caught a pufferfish on his Godzilla MD Lure. Couple of Jacks, trevally and a nice mudcrab up the creek. Good sized crocs too.


Mark (mdlures) and myself hit the Russell for the first time in search of a few fish to catch and release on Friday. We were both shocked by the excellent water quality and natural beauty of the area.

Not actually knowing where we were going, we followed the nearest tinny off the main highway and ended up at a boat ramp. Only problem being, we were not even on the Russell, but up the Mulgrave. So we journeyed down to the mouth over some very shallow ground and up the Russell, checking out all we could along the way. The Russell and Mulgrave are a twin river sharing the same mouth.

Most of the morning was spent looking around and being genuinely shocked at the brilliant waterway before us, as well as wondering why we were so stupid to have never fished it before.

Lots of photos were taken, and we felt more like sightseers than fishermen (apart from one little GT caught by Mark). The fish were not playing the game and it didn’t matter. Even the guides were having a rough time. We saw a ton of fish: jacks, barra, grunter, bream, bony bream, scat, jungle perch, something HUGE that looked like a jack on some serious steroids, fat tilapia, tarpon, schools of different types of mullet, and some we just didn’t know…

After exploring a stunning creek with crystal clear water, we ventured upstream. Taking in a new vista at every turn, we could have been in any tropical country, Mark was thinking PNG, I was thinking East Malaysia. True paradise.

The tide was racing out and the current strong. After getting far enough upstream (a fair way!) we drifted back down using the electric to hold on some areas for no more than a few casts, or to retrieve snagged lures, or fish.

Wasn’t long and I was onto a little Jungle Perch sitting in a front eddy off a snag.

Not far around the corner and Mark let out a good “Yep” and his rod was buckling HARD. Keeping its head up out of the sticks and finally under control, Mark excitedly started yelling, “Look at the colours on this Sooty” and sure enough it was a healthy Gold Spot Sooty Grunter. The colours of this fish in the water were totally different and what a pretty fish.

Taking a photo and releasing it we found ourselves sitting up against a bank in a very strong back eddy. We took turns at holding the boat under some branches while the other cast upstream into the eddy. It was a hot bite indeed with three and four hits per retrieve. As soon as the lure hit the water you got a hit, usually followed by one or two mid retrieve, then always a last on just before the boat, all in the space of 3-7 metres. “Yep, OH, Yep, OH, Yep ON” was heard a fair bit. While we caught a few, we certainly lost a fair few as well and tarpon were usually the culprits with their bony mouths and blistering turns of speed. After 10 of the hottest minutes of fishing the bite was over and we headed downstream.

Casting anything and everything, we tried both sides of the bank. Mostly searching for eddys that would hold fish. Coming across a section of river bank with slightly less current Mark suggested we make a move to the other bank where all the fish had been coming from, two casts later and I was hit HARD. Struggling to keep the fish up without breaking the leader, the fight was fast and dogged. I called it for a big trevally (GT) but I was wrong and eventually up popped a flash of red. “Yes” a nice sized freshwater Mangrove Jack!

Not more than 10 minutes later “Yep”, Mark was on. Another magnificent freshwater jack. We motored over to the other side for a picture and a fish near a nice looking stream running the clearest water you’ve ever seen into the river. As we got near I cast my lure over landing it within an inch of the bank near the undercut bank and slowly but firmly twitched the lure back hoping for a double. As I pulled the lure from the water another good sized Jack took one last swipe just missing the hooks. Bummer, nearly had a photo to remember. Mark’s jack was a nice fish as you can see in the pictures.

The next reach I caught another Jungle Perch.

As the sun started falling on the tree-line we decided we’d better get the f out of dodge as we had a lot of ground to cover and not much time until dark. The ride back was one to remember and ensured our regular fishing trip soon became yet another MD “fishing odyssey”. You see, Mark and I have a knack for making a normal fishing trip into something a little more grueling and adventurous. Beaching the boat nearly on dark in a river system that had shown up at least 4 crocs, including one total beast, getting into the water and pushing the tinny out was all we needed, but we survived (again). One of these days we’ll get a regular trip in, but in the meantime, it’s good to be able to tell the story and adds to the adventure.

You can see the look on Mark’s face as we venture up the last section of river in 1-2ft of water. Not the best way to end a trip, won’t happen next time though!


Well this weekend was an interesting one. Generally mixed all round, but still kick ass fun!

'Liberty' Cairns

We went out to Fitzroy Island on Laura’s folks catamaran ‘Liberty’, what started as an awesome fishing trip took a few undesired turns and some good fish were lost! Fitzroy Island is simply stunning and such a nice place to be – I could have just stayed and fished for a living – seriously, forever. It’s hard to fish these fringing reefs, finding nemo all the time. But someone has to do it…

Fitzroy Island

First cast was nailed in about 15 seconds and I was straight onto a Stripey, or Spanish Flag, or Lutjanus carponatus to be precise. Being a Lutjanus, they are fantastic eating and fight very well for a small fish. They are usually the first to take a bait, or lure on the reef and will usually be the first catch of the day. This is where it all went wrong for us. I assumed the bag limits and as usual over estimated with consequences, we could have kept at least 4 or 5 stripeys as I thought the limit was 30cm, WRONG, 25cm. Next time.

Spanish Flag, or Lutjanus carponatus
Grassy Sweetlip

We fished on and caught all manner of reef fish, a few photos were taken but we soon lost all interest in photos as the fish were coming in fast. Laura was having a lot of fun with her new outfit (the first fish on it below), a 3000 Fuego and a e21 carrot stick, getting a good share of fish and loving every second of it. I had a chance to try this outfit the next day and I’m impressed, for such a light rod, this thing has some guts and is a pleasure to use.

Redbreasted Maori Wrasse

I fished on through the late afternoon until dinner and just on dinner nailed a really good little Grassy Sweetlip, Grass Emperor, or Lethrinus laticaudis. These fish pull hard and usually surprise the angler when boated with their size (smaller rather than bigger!). I’m still using a light outfit 2-5kg and a c3000 sized reel, so this felt like a much better fish but I was happy at around 39cm, good eating size. So I got him in and bled it out in a bucket and kept fishing as the bite was on just after sunset. This is where it all started to turn for the worse…

I was blown away by some bigger fish, not even a chance to turn them (USPS hurray up with my new rod PLEASE!), Laura dropped my new pliers into the depths in a total FAIL moment! But wait it gets better… Then some FARKWIT, upon packing up for dinner – changes the water in the bucket containing breakfast (The Grassy Emperor) and just had to add that extra bit of fresh saltwater (to a perfectly good bucket of water already), the boat rocks and the fish gets flushed out the bucket into the ocean. FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! as I strip to my shorts in record time and dive in after it. It was mostly dark and I got two hands on it, it just slid out my hands as I flailed around under the boat in the dark thinking something was certainly watching me. FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! Live and learn.

39cm Grassy Emperor

So what a calamity that turned out to be. I was gutted and still am. I wanted to bake that sucker and taste the fruits of my hard labour. I’ve caught so many little ones but never a good one. This is where even more fail enters the trip, legal limit is 30cm, not the 40cm I thought, thinking they were bloody Spangled Emperors (Lethrinus nebulosus)… Next time!!

Fitzroy Island

We fished the next day in the cute new little tender… I got smashed by something that took line like nothing I’ve ever encountered, then it jumped and was GONE. Got a quick look, but no idea what it was – in a hurray I assume… WE boated a heap of little reef fish, nothing of any consequence, maybe a few legals that we now might know of. But as usual on the reef it was a heap of fun! Yellow & blue back fusiliers, Redbreasted Maori wrasses, tuskfish, hussar, lots of parrot fishes, heaps of unknowns, baby fingermark or Black-spot snapper or Moses perch (another one to work out as Black-spot snapper legal size is 25cm, unlike the mightly fingermark – this is why I always say take a photo of each new fish, get carried away and forget!!).

Tender to Liberty

So hopefully next time, armed with new knowledge, pliers, some brains and some heavier gear we will get some fish for out dining pleasure. Not that is why we fish, but a man has to eat and a good feed of reef fish is always welcome in our house!

'Liberty' Cairns