Paradise Found- The Eclipse Cape York Experience

In our over exploited and increasingly urbanized environments experiencing quality and what is perhaps best described as mind blowing fishing can be a hard thing to come by. Looking further a field to more remote and less populated locations is what is increasingly required to experience exceptional fishing.
Cape York is once such place that pops to mind when far flung and remote venues are sought, with the region north of Weipa home to comparatively untouched fishing and minimal human habitation. A Mecca for a myriad of tropical angling species, The Cape is perhaps best experienced from the comfort and luxury of a multi-day mothership guiding operation, with the legendary Eclipse Charters operation the crème de crème of choices on offer.

And the Winner Is?
Such an adventure was up for grabs on the 2005 Daiwa BARRA Tour, with 44 year old Seaforth Fishing Guide, Arthur Lovern winning the much envied randomly drawn sponsored prize at the last event at Lake Tinaroo in November. A seven day all expenses paid trip on the Eclipse was just what the hard working guide from NQ needed. With the trip booked in for August 2006 the hard part for Arthur would be the waiting for his holiday to arrive.

Your Home Away From Home
The Eclipse itself is a fisherman’s home away from home, with the 15 metre air conditioned multi decked vessel providing anglers with all the comforts they need for a week of hard-core tropical fishing.

Sumptuous, belt busting sized meals are liberally provided throughout the day, with the return to boat for lunch seeing you refueled and ready for another hot afternoon session. While comfortable beds, hot showers, unlimited freshwater, and a spacious living area further add to the list of features on the Eclipse, it’s the sensational fishing on offer that is of most interest to those that come aboard.

A Week in Heaven
Fishing from sunrise to sunset each day as you leap-frog your way along The Cape, a week on the Eclipse as you’d expect will produce a blur of angling mayhem. For Arthur and the crew this was definitely the case. A handful of sessions stand out though, and highlight perfectly the diversity and quality of fishing available when you spend a week in angling heaven.

1. Action Jackson

The afternoon of day two of the trip was a lesson in tuna feeding mayhem, with wave after wave of feeding mack and longtail tuna decimating bait ball after bait ball only a kilometer off the beach at the mouth of Jackson River. With scant regard and concern for the running outboard and the slapping hull of the boat, the schools roamed around at speed, inhaling any resemblance of bait they could find.

“It was amazing to see, the ocean was like a wave of tuna surfing across the water. You’d see them coming and they just wouldn’t stop feeding, eating as they swam towards the boat, around the boat, and under it”, explained Eclipse regular Mark ‘Chainsaw’ Lawson.

The fishing as expected was red hot, with any cast placed in their path consumed with gusto. While the screaming runs and relentless circling of hooked fish were tough, getting them to take a lure was not, with the tuna gladly taking whatever we through at them. Slugs, buck tail jigs, and flies were some of the standouts, with the local shark population appreciating the free feed offered by the long fight time of using fly. It was the end of the first full day and for many of us our arms were already sore. Not a good thing with another six days to go.

2. Jack Attack

If you’re into tropical creek fishing then mangrove jacks are generally on your hit list. A day on the MacDonald River scratched this itch for Mark and Arthur, with a rising tide and active fish delivering redhot action. Targeting timber strewn edges the pair used an assortment of bibbed minnows to rack up fish after fish.

“They were holding in fairly shallow water, and they were in good numbers”, explained Arthur. While a steady flow of fish was forthcoming it was the concentrations of fish they found on some snags that was most exciting.

“Some laydowns would produce jack after jack, after jack”, explained Arthur.

“I think the most we pulled from one snag was 8 fish”, he added. “To see multiple fish, lit up and competing for your lure is fantastic”, Arthur concluded.

This run of hot creek fishing was experienced by other crews fishing the MacDonald, with Steve and I bagging out on jack, barra, and cod on the same afternoon, using a mixture of suspending jerkbaits. For Mark and Arthur they struck it the best tallying up 10 different species for the day, and a long list of multiple hook-ups. Not bad going in the tropics for the middle of winter.

3. Flats Feast

Few things epitomize The Cape more than sight fishing gin clear flats under cloudless blue skies. The flats leading into the MacDonald River provide just this experience one morning, with light offshore southeast winds delivering ideal conditions to spot cruising fish. Identifiable as groups of grey smudges mooching their way across the sandy bottom, the fish fell to small chrome slugs and plastics, lead cast to them and retrieved past their nose.

While primarily a mixture of queenies, and trevally, one pod of blue salmon had Steve Morgan and I jumping out of the boat, and chasing them along the beach. The end result of a double hookup, Simon: 1, Steve: 0 and the rest of schooling continue on their journey along the beach.

Some of the other highlights from the flats include, shadowing a group of permit as they frustratingly ignored all we presented at them. Watching a 1.02 metre queenfish go nuts in two foot of water was a buzz, while the two hours anchored up on the drop off from the flats into the river produced a string of fish and a host of species.

With the fish riding the flooding water into the river mouth, the catch card read as role call of northern species, including, golden trevally, queenfish, barracuda, big eye trevally, salmon, and mackerel. All on a mixture, of bucktail jigs, clousers, lipless crankbaits, jerkbaits, slugs, and of course, surface poppers.

4. Fingermark Frenzy

The day spent trolling a small inshore reef of Port Musgrave was one of the most brutal encounters of the trip. Bouncing deep diving minnows (4-6 metres) along or just above the bottom was the gun technique, with the hits violent, abrupt and the hookup often short lived. The strike was like hitting a brick wall, with the lure stopped in its’ tracks, then towed home to the reef below.

“It was aggressive heart in your mouth fishing”, explained Steve Morgan. “Pulled to you feet on the strike, then straining under a locked drag, you just never knew if you were going to win or if the fish was going to brick you”, he added.

The lure loss as you’d expect was high, with each passing run past the Eclipse providing the spectators with an update of the lure count. By lunch time we’d loss five lures and were already looking for reinforcements for the afternoon session.

The largest fished wrestled from the reef tipped the ruler at 75cm, while Arthur added a new PB to his list of achievements from the trip with his 65cm fingermark. Other notable captures from the session included a 94cm gold-spot estuary cod on baitcaster gear, and watching a 3kg fingermark getting eaten at the side of the boat by a 40lb cod. It was primeval fishing at its’ best.

Back on the Eclipse it was actions stations also with an array of species, including fingermark, sweetlip, coral trout, and golden trevally poled onboard.

5. Barra Bonanza

No trip to The Cape is complete without a hot barra session, and it waited until the last day on the Wenlock River to arrive. Fishing the smaller feeder creeks running into the main river, it was quintessential barra fishing, casting lures as bank side timber on a rising tide. To patterns emerged from two different boats, one involving slow rolling Texas rigged plastics through the structure, while the other involved more traditional bibbed minnows.

“It was great fun”, explained Steve Morgan, “One snag in particular we must have pulled 20 fish from, not big fish, but great sport none the less”. Not to be out down was the crew of Arthur Lovern and Mark Lawson, who in contrast used more vibrant pink colour hard bodies to tempt their fish.

“It was out of this world the aggressiveness of the fish we found”, explained Arthur. “It was a constant barrage of hits, strikes and hookups, one fish in particular floated up behind my lure sitting motionless on the water, and boofed it off the surface. It was awesome to see”, concluded Arthur.

Some of the other highlights of the morning session included Peter Morgan’s 75cm barra, two beautifully coloured Queensland groper, a couple of fingermark, and a string of hyper alert archer fish that lined up to eat Mark and Arthur’s lures.

The Final Word
While the fishing draws you to The Cape it’s the experience of the Eclipse and its’ crew that help make the trip truly memorable. Skipper, Dick Forster, guide, Shane Miller and cook Janeen Burns ensure that all you have to do once onboard is enjoy yourself. With warmth, humour and genuine hospitality the staple for your week aboard, you step off the ship at the end trip already planning your return visit.

For trip prize winner Arthur Lovern it was a fishing trip of a lifetime.
“As a guide it was nice to be on the other side for a change”, explained Arthur.
“The service onboard was fantastic and the fishing was sensational. You were chasing tuna one moment and 30 minutes later you were onto jacks and barra, you couldn’t ask for much more. The diversity of fish, angling and the non-stop fishing was something to behold. It was like dying and going to fishing heaven”, concluded Arthur.

Fact Boxes
Fact Box 1
List of species caught on the trip Archer fish, barramundi, black spot cod, gold spot cod, Queensland groper, mangrove jack, fingermark, grey mackerel, Spanish mackerel, pikey bream, queenfish, big eye trevally, giant trevally, golden trevally, mudcrab, mack tuna, longtail tuna, tomato cod, coral trout, grass sweetlip, barracuda, blue salmon, tarpon, giant herring, pikey bream.

Fact Box 2
If the thought of feeding 500 lb groper, and experiencing the best fishing Cape York has to offer is of interest, than a trip on the Eclipse is for you. Operating between April and December, the Eclipse provides an exclusive 7 day, 6 angler remote fishing experience that will satisfy the most hardcore angler. Operating out of Weipa, the fly in, fly out expedition is light tackle fishing at its’ finest. For enquiries or bookings contact Eclipse Charters- (02) 9453 9377,,