Fishing Cairns with Great Northern Brewery

By Jamie Crawford

Great Northern Brewery recently hosted two sponsored anglers from Shimano to their beach house in Cairns, Far North Queensland with the task of filming an advert for their Great Northern Larger. Tough gig… I know. With the prowess of Benny Godfrey (Krank Productions) behind the camera, we had two full days in paradise to catch some fish, have a couple of beers at the end of the day and try to capture this moment on film.

Carlton United Brewery released a larger a few years ago in honour of Queensland’s first brewery, the Great Northern Brewery, which was established in Cairns back in 1931. We had legendary game boat Shikari booked for two days to help us on our mission, with myself and gun fisho Chris Henry on the deck, together with GNB host Jack Strickland helping us to raise a few fish for the camera.

We hit the water early on the first morning, and steamed some 30km from Cairns before running a spread of skirts and skipping gar for small black marlin. The skipper Alex and his deckhand Allan were pretty tuned-in to targeting marlin – something these guys specialise in. We managed some nice Spanish mackerel and a lone scaly mack on the troll, but being early in the season the blacks were quiet.

After a morning spent trolling, we changed tactic and pulled into the lee of a shallow reef system, and started casting soft plastics and stick baits at the edge of coral bommies. This was great fishing, and by making our way along the lee edge of the reef we were constantly working new water as our skipper slowly edged Shikari around the reef.

This was shallow water fishing, mainly in the 5 to 8m bracket, and we had a great time catching a range of reef species and small trevally on light gear. Some of the better fish included a passionfruit trout at 65cm, green jobfish, yellowtail emperor, barracuda plus a range of other tropical reef species, and inevitable dustings on the shallow coral.

Standout lures for this style of fishing were 125mm whip baits and 110mm paddle tail prawns on 14g weapon heads. Soft plastics are a very versatile lure around coral, and by allowing the plastics to sink down the edge of the reef and hop back to the boat, fish would dart out from the reef to smack these lures. Sinking 160mm Orca Pencil Baits were another effective lure in this shallow water, and they cast like a bullet allowing coral bommies to be worked from a distance. Chris scored a lovely green jobfish on the stickbait.

My outfit of choice for this work was a Stradic FK 5000 matched to an Anarchy 5-10kg with 20lb Power Pro braid. The relative lightness allowed the lures to be worked with ease, but there was still enough pulling power in reserve to direct fish away from the reef.

That night we anchored over a sand clearing on the protected side of the reef, with a number of coral bommies a short distance from the back of the boat. Once the sun had set we flicked some half pilchard baits back into the clearing on 10lb threadline gear, and we managed several nice spangled emperor to 64cm on the building tide. Cool fun.

The following morning we decided to spend a bit of time casting poppers and stick baits for GTs on the ocean side of some nearby shallow coral. After 2 or 3 spectacular surface explosions but missed strikes we eventually came up tight on a half decent GT. I was using a Twin Power SW 8000 on an Ocea 6’9” heavy spin with 50lb Power Pro braid. I was glad it was only a manageable size GT and not a coral-loving behemoth. After a short but solid fight Chris lifted the GT over the gunnel for some quick pics.

We did a bit more soft plastic fishing after that, catching a nice red bass along with some more yellowtail emperor and a nice coral trout. Our skipper Alex pulled Shikari up behind a sand cay at lunch time, giving us the opportunity to jump in for a dive over the reef.

As well as producing a great beer, GNB did a great job in planning our few days in paradise. Cameraman Benny was happy with the content he shot over the two days on the water, so it should make a pretty cool promo clip. Stay tuned.