Map
Greg Bethune with the current World Record queenfish on a 10 kg tippet.
This fish weighed 20 pounds in the old scale, and was taken while sight
casting from a Cape York beach. Lots of people talk about 9 and 10 kg
queenies, but few have ever really seen one in the flesh! They're an
easy fish to over-estimate the weight of!

The quality fishing enjoyed by many in Australia's remote tropical regions basically boils down to that one important word; 'remote'. The pocket Macquarie dictionary left over from my school days (where, unfortunately, I paid little attention to it!) offers the following definition: remote, adj. Far away; far distant in space and time; far removed.

This describes my home turf on Cape York rather aptly; far away and removed. "Lucky bugger!" I hear you say. Well, okay, but someone has to do... blah blah blah... You know the rest!

Of course, these remote regions are only far away until you throw modern aircraft into the equation. The space factor is then reduced to air-conditioned cabins and the time to hours.

The economic beauty of Cape York (if there can be such a thing) is its 'accessible remoteness', an oxymoron perhaps, but true. The Tip as it's affectionately known, is situated at the northern end of the populated eastern seaboard of Australia. Cairns lies only three hours and 20 minutes flying from Melbourne, in the far south, then a little over two hours more in a twin engine aircraft will see you in a pristine fishing wilderness.

This is where you catch some serious fish; many and various species, and plenty of them. It's a lot easier and more 'do-able' than you think, too.

The available fishing resource (or lack of it) adjacent to the big population centres is really brought home to you while you are in this wilderness, especially when you think for a moment of the fishing back home while you decide which direction to cast in a boiling sea of fishes! Miles, tens of miles, then hundreds of miles of nothing and no one, except the rivers, estuaries and reefs that have not (yet) been impacted upon by man. This is revealed to me almost daily during our operations as our clientele relate stories of "what it was like back when" and "we used to", and anecdotes of a mate wining a local "fishing classic" with an "unconfirmed bite!"

The Under Rated Queenfish

One of the most spectacular and under rated tropical sport fish species in found here in great abundance is the ubiquitous queenfish. These fish are architect-designed, and by that I mean purpose built. You could not think up a more perfect light tackle and saltwater fly adversary than the queenfish, given the following design brief: Must readily take flies and lures, fight hard, but not for too long, must jump, look spectacular, photograph well and be tough enough to revive and swim away when released.

Starlo
Starlo with a big flyrod queenfish from the waters of Cape York.

Queenfish are a tall, thin-bodied fish which is one of the things that makes them such tough fighters. Weight is not a good way to describe any fish in my book. Weight generally equals dead. Queenfish do not weigh heavy; a seven kilo (15-odd-pound) queenfish is around a metre long and 300 millimetres deep (bit over three-by-one on the old scale!). It's an impressive creature... With a head on it like a robber's dog and a mouth that would swallow your arm!

Despite what some people would have you believe, queenfish are also very good eating. Their firm, flavoursome flesh is especially suited to specialist dishes like pickled fish or 'nammus', as some Pacific island people call it; also known as 'kakonda' in Fiji and 'ceviche' in the Americas. Basically, it's just quickly pickled or marinated fish, using limes, coconut milk, vinegars and other ingredients, depending on the exact recipe... Fantastic with a beer or three after a big day on the water!

The Trouble With Queenfish

Randell
Randall Bryett with yet another Cape queenie.

Catching these fish in the tropics is sometimes more accurately described as trying NOT to catch them. They are so abundant at times that it is impossible to make a cast and not hook one. Hookless poppers and popper-flies are an absolute blast to use on queenies, which are so often in the five to seven kilo range.

Without hooks, they grab your offering and blast off for 10 or so meters, before letting go and allowing another one to immediately grab on. It is an interesting, twist; stripping or retrieving and getting a fish on twice as far out as it is possible for you to cast, thanks to several queenies "dragging and dropping" your fly or lure. Fact is, we have landed many, many fish on flies and poppers without any hooks; a clear testament to their ferocity!

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