Article By:
Doug Leoni

Doug Leoni
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Townsville may be a little dryer than its northern friends  but there is no doubting its significance as a major fishing destination. Situated on Cleveland Bay, the joint cities of Townsville and Thuringowa enjoy a lifestyle that most would envy, with a laid back approach to most things and a recreational opportunity for every taste.


Recreational fishing is at the top of the list with around 40 per cent of the population of 140,000 between both cities participating in one form or another at least once a year. These latest statistics reflect the nature of the life style here and when combined with one of the highest rates of boat ownership it is not difficult to see what people enjoy most!

Cleveland Bay is quite a big area, protected from most prevailing south east winds by Mount Cleveland and its cape. While across the front, Magnetic Island protects the northern aspect from north east winds which are common during the warmer months. Within the bay are a number of reef and rubble structures and on the south side nine estuaries feed into the bay. With all this relatively protected water accessible most of the time to small craft, it is not surprising most fishos in the region fish locally.

Ross River is the major system in the area, which not only supplies town water from its dam, but holds large numbers of stocked Barramundi to around 25kg in the weirs below. The heavy rains tend to liberate many of the big female fish over Aplins weir and where they enter the estuary. Many anglers have enjoyed excellent fishing here, with numerous trophy catches. Some of the Barra travel from the Ross and cross Cleveland Bay to be caught in the many estuaries.

Out the front of Ross River is a series of large sandbars, and this is also an excellent area for a range of winter species including Whiting, Bream and Flathead. Crocodile and Alligator Creeks are the two main systems in the sheltered back of the bay. Both have a variety of habitats and many feeder creeks harbour the full gamut of estuarine species found in the north.


During summer, Barramundi and Mangrove Jack are the primary target species, with Bream, Whiting, Flathead, Salmon, Queenfish, TrevallyCod and Barra for those who know how during the winter. Bait is generally easy to get using a cast net around the lower estuary at low tide. Prawns congregate in big numbers during summer and autumn, making up a top quality sea food platter for the diverse angler when combined with a variety of fish and big fat mud crabs. With all estuaries and most foreshores in the back of the bay comprised of mud, the highly sought after Mud Crab is quite common and wide spread.

Fishing of all estuaries is a tidal thing and this region is no different. Bait fishing with prawn and cut baits is best for general fishing with live baits best for predatory species like BarraJacks and pelagic species. The action is hottest when fishing deep gutters, drop offs and snags during the last couple of hours of a falling tide and the first couple of hours of flood tide.

Mackerel are a major target species for anglers during winter, with Spotted, SharkGrey and Spanish all found at various points throughout the bay and adjacent headlands. Spotted and School Mackerel are common in the shipping channel servicing Townsville Harbour in Ross Creek and just off the grass beds in the back of the bay. Fish usually run in the 2kg class taken mostly on floating pilchard baits with the odd Cobia and big Spanish Mackerel taken in the same shallow areas.


Bigger Spanish are taken in the deeper waters around Cape Cleveland and the back of Magnetic Island. These areas also produce quality bottom fish, especially Fingermark during summer and Trevally during winter. Out wider and around the surrounding islands anglers enjoy excellent sportfishing on Tuna, Trevally, Queenfish, Cobia, Spanish mackerel and billfish, including both Sails and small Marlin.

For most oceanic species it is a case of find the birds and you find the fish. Of course reef fishing is a highly sought after recreational pursuit in the area. Even though the reefs are a long way out, the advent of GPS has meant anglers can find Nannygai and Red Emperor ‘hot spots’ in between the reef and the mainland.

To the north of Townsville lies Halifax Bay with Rattlesnake Island group and further to the north east lies the big Palm Island group of some 13 islands. Last but not least is the Townsville foreshore where lots of land bound anglers enjoy the many breakwaters and vantage points for a range of species. Places like the rock pool and the casino walls offer bait and lure species including Barra, Salmon, Trevally, QueenfishMackerel and many others.


Townsville itself is ideal for families, with lots of areas that are designed for kids. The beautifully landscaped esplanade, called The Strand, has a rock pool and water park, which are perfect for kids and adults alike. What could be better than having a BBQ and a swim, looking out to Magnetic Island and the Coral Sea?


For those without kids (or who are lucky enough to have a babysitter on hand!) there are also more bars, nightclubs, cafes and restaurants than you can poke a stick, or a rod, at! Plus, for the punters amongst you there is also a top quality casino.


So if you fancy a full on fishing trip for you and a few mates, or you just want a day of easy going fishing for yourself and the family, give us a shout on 1800 288 378 or email us on and we can help you with everything from providing some friendly advice, to booking tours and charters and even flights and accommodation.

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