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Fishing the Cassowary Coast

You don’t need a boat to score big whilst fishing the Cassowary Coast in Tropical North Queensland. The warm, fertile waters offer up a plethora of fish that can be found close enough to the beaches to be caught from dry land. Below are some of the goodies you might be able to land yourself with a good cast and some luck.


Everyone in Australia, it would seem, has heard of the famous Barramundi. But what can you expect from them if you hook one from the beach?

Well, to start with, the reason they are so highly prized is because of the fight they’ll give you. They have been found at up to 1.8 metres long and 60kg! These bad boys don’t migrate far either, so should be found in shallow waters year round.

Image credit: IG @adrian.tuck

As for their features, they have a big old mouth pointing slightly upward (like an underbite) and high, arched back. Often silver in colour, their large scales can develop patterning with age. Their dorsal and ventral fins have ridgid spines, whereas the rest of their fins, including tail, are soft.

Have fun fighting with this one.

Bigeye Tuna

These beasts are a probably one of the less common fish you’ll be able to get up close and personal with, but are still a possible catch. Personally I have seen a few of them chasing after the Swallow-Tail Dart in Etty Bay, and I even watched a kid - maybe as young as 12 - pull one in solo from the rocks. It was probably half the size of him!

A massive fish at its zenith, they can be up to 2.5 metres long and 180kg. But it’s unlikely to be this sort of a monster you’ll get from dry land. They are a classic tuna ‘torpedo’ shape, muscular and streamlined. Their markings are very distinctive also: broad blue backs, with silver sides and bellies; yellow dorsal and tail fins; bright yellow, triangle finlets, with black edges; long pectoral fins; and a huge eye.

Sadly, these bad boys migrate vast distances, so you won’t find them in these waters on a regular basis year round. However, That doesn’t mean you won’t get lucky…

Coral Trout

The Coral Trout is actually a Leopard Coral Grouper - a much better name, I think you’ll agree. And not only is the name good, but they are great to eat.

These fish are most obvious to identify by their colouring. Whilst the background of the fish can be anything from an olive-brown colour to a pinky-orangey-redish colour, it’s the detailing which lets you know you’ve scooped a tasty treat. For all along their backs they have evenly spaced blue spots, as well as often having a nice blue ring around their eye.

Sorry to say it though, chances are you won’t be catching one of the 120cm bigguns. But catch a couple of the smaller ones and you’ll have a tasty feast nevertheless.


Dusky Flatheads are common all year round in these waters, but summer is still your best bet. Nice bays along the East Coast with anything from sand to grass can offer up some of these funny lookers.

The name sort of says it all really. Their bodies, especially their heads, are wide and flat, with eyes found protruding from the tops. This allows them to keep a watch on prey above whilst being buried in the sand. Their body is long and often dark green in colour, often with lighter spots and patches.

Image credit: IG @adrian.tuck

If you manage to catch a flathead, be careful when handling it. If you’re unlucky enough to be had by one of the spikes on their heads you could be hurting for a good couple of days. Don’t worry though, they are far from fatal. Just show it who’s boss by eating it, since Flatheads also make for a decent table fish.


A variety of Mackerel live in the coastal waters of Tropical North Queensland, including the firm fan favourite of the Spanish Mackerel. While it’s therefore difficult to say which family of Mackerel you will encounter at the end of your line, the general features of them should still make it somewhat obvious you have landed one.

Commonly, they are somewhat similar to tuna. They have large eyes, silver bellies - sometimes with patterning/colouration along their backs - and multiple finlets along the tail portions of their bodies. However, they are proportionally longer and more tubular in shape, looking more athletic than muscular.

These fish also school. So where you find one, there should be many more.

Mangrove Jack

The Mangrove Red Snapper, or Mangrove Jack, is a good looking fish. It is often a beautiful copper/bronze to dark red colour including an intricate, criss-cross pattern arising from each scale having a darker middle than edge. The array of large, sculpted fins tend to be of a brighter pink, while the head is adorned with lovely, full lips.

But don’t be fooled: this is not a fish to be kissing in celebration. The powerful jaws are filled with sharp teeth for securing prey. Teeth that the fish will not be afraid to use to give any unsuspecting fishers a nip should you get too close.

Image credit: IG @adrian.tuck

Although spawning out on the reef, where most of the larger adults can be found, the juveniles head to mangroves and estuaries to feed and grow. As they mature they can migrate around to rocky outcrops and headlands before heading out to the reefs to breed. The waters around Etty Bay are ideal, then, considering all of these habitats can be found close by.

Other notable mentions

The above is far from an all-encompassing list of what you might find fishing in the surf. Catching a Swallow-Tailed Dart, a Bream, a North Queensland Flathead or maybe a Whiting is certainly a possibility, as are larger creatures such as rays and small sharks.

Image credit: IG @adrian.tuck

But whatever happens, make sure you know the guidelines around size of your catch etc., and do be safe when in, or even near, the water. Marine stingers are sure to be found in summer and crocodiles frequent these waters year round. No one wants a nip from one of those.

Many of the incredible images in this article are taken by IG @adrian.tuck For more inspirational Fishing & Photography from Far North Queensland, follow Adrian @


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If you're looking for a base to #exploretnq you can't go past Mission Beach Camping & Caravan Park and Etty Bay Caravan Park & Cabins.

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