Cairns Reef Fishing

Fish Tales Charters Cairns offers a truly Sportsfishing adventure; only a short distance from Cairns-into the Great Barrier Reef, on board vessel dont know, your fishing guide Darryl, this is our Cairns Reef Fishing Charter. Within the world famous Great Barrier Reef Marine Park their are numerous wrecks, reefs and islands with up to 1400 known fish species.

Fishing methods include 

  • live-bait and/or dead-bait fishing,
  • bottom fishing,
  • jigging
  • as well as lure and popper fishing with surface lures.

We ask you to meet vessel `dont know` and our experienced fishing guide at the Cairns Marlin Marina in front of the Pier Shopping Centre on Finger D berth 2 at 6.30 am. Parking is available underneath the Pier Shopping Centre.

From 6.30 am to 3.00 pm (app).

Common Reef fish species caught but not limited too:

  • Cobia,
  • Trout including Common Coral and Barred cheek,
  • Fingermark and Reef Jacks,
  • Mackerel Species including Spanish, Doggie, School and Spotted,
  • Trevally species including Golden, Giant, Bludger and Tea leaf,
  • Nannygai species including Small mouth and Large mouth,
  • Barracuda,
  • Red Emperor to name a few.

On all our Cairns Reef fishing Charters  we supply the following gear PENN 560 slammer reel on a 15-20 kg ugly stick rod with 50 lb. braid fishing line.

For our popper fishing charter we supply Shimano Saragosa reel on a Jawbone Popper rod with 50 lb. braid fishing line. If you prefer you can bring along your own fishing gear.

Check out our fish gallery https://fishtales.com.au/fish-gallery/

As of 11th July 2022 there is a temporary fuel tax add to our Reef Fishing Charters-per person is $40.00. On our Private Charters for Reef Fishing there is a fuel tax of $100.00.

ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT CHARGE

Locally known as EMC from 1st July 2023 the EMC will be reinstated; $8.00 per person and forwarded on the GBRMP Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

https://www2.gbrmpa.gov.au/access/environmental-management-charge

CORAL FIN FISH CLOSURE

The following dates are for the Coral Fin Fish Closures.

18th October 2025 to 22 October 2025 and 17th November 2025 to 21st November 2025.

8th October 2026 to 12th October 2026 and 6th November 2026 to 10 November 2026.

26th October 2027 to 30th October 2027 and 25th November 2027 to 29th November 2027.

15th October 2028 to 19th October 2028 and 13th November to 17th November 2028.

This applies to following groups of fish species Cods & Groupers, Emperors, Parrotfish, Sweetlips, Wrasses, Trout, Fusilliers, Surgeon Fishes, Tropical Snapper and Seaperch.

More details can be found https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/fisheries/recreational/rules-regulations/closed-seasons-tidal-waters

EAST COAST SPANISH MACKEREL CLOSURE

New east coast Spanish mackerel fishery management arrangements are in place from October 2022. The changes aim to strike a balance between rebuilding the stock and providing more controlled access for recreational & commercial fishers. This applies to Spanish Mackerel only!

30th September 2024 to 21 October 2024 and 29th October 2024 to 19th November 2024

18th October 2025 to 8th November 2025 and 17th November 2025 to 8th December 2025

More details can be found https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/business-priorities/fisheries/sustainable/legislation/management-changes-for-east-coast-spanish-mackerel

CAIRNS REEF FISHING CHARTER

SHARE CHARTER

Full Day Reef Fishing

From 6.30 am to 3.00 pm (app.)

Maximum of 5 people per share charter

Live/dead-bait & bottom bouncing fishing

Only a short distance from the Cairns Marlin Marina, your charter may start with the gathering of live bait before travelling into the Great Barrier Reef Marine ParkMultiple locations are selected for bottom bouncing based on tides, weather conditions, current movement and target fish species.

Bottom bouncing simply means dropping baited hook with heavy sinkers in the water; this is a productive way of fishing.

Let us know before your Cairns Reef Fishing Charter if you have a preferred target fish species (happy to help out with the bucket list!).

We supply the following for your Cairns Reef Fishing Charter

  • all top quality rods and reels,
  • all bait including dead and live and tackle,
  • cooled bottled water,
  • esky with ice,
  • a delicious lunch,
  • you will be guided by our experienced fishing guide.

We ask you to wear and bring onboard

  • a long sleeve cotton shirt & wide brim hat; along with your sunglasses, camera, sunscreen and a few beer cans are okay.

Require more information? Email us

$270 per person

plus Fuel Tax $40 pp

CAIRNS REEF FISHING PRIVATE CHARTERS

Bottom Bouncing and/or Live/Dead Bait fishing

From 6.30 am to 3.00 pm

From 1 person to 4 people only

Bottom Bouncing simply means dropping baited hook (with either live bait or dead bait) with heavy sinker into the water; this is a productive way of fishing. Only a short distance from the Cairns Marlin Marina your Cairns Reef Fishing Charter starts; your fishing guide may start with the gathering of live bait via a cast net, before moving into The Great Barrier Reef. Multiple fishing locations are selected based on tidal movement, weather conditions, current movement, target fish species

Let us know if you have a preferred target fish species (always happy to help you tick off your bucket list!)

We supply on all our fishing charters

  • all top quality rods & reels,
  • all bait including dead and or live and tackle,
  • cooled bottled water,
  • a delicious lunch,
  • esky with ice,
  • you will be guided by our experienced fishing guide.

We ask you to wear the following and bring onboard

  • a long sleeve cotton shirt & wide brim hat; along with your sunglasses, sunscreen, camera and a few beer cans are okay.

Require more information? Email us

$1500 per full day

Lure and/or Popper fishing

From 6.30 am to 3.00 pm (app.)

From 1 person to 3 people only

Within a short distance from Cairns, on the Great Barrier Reef are numerous wrecks, and inshore reefs. All these make potential target sites for you, your rod & reel along with a selection of lures and or popper attached. Ideal Popper fishing is tidal flow over rocky outcrops and exposing reefs. With a little technique, vessel positioning and a keen eyes….It`s your turn for the fun the begin!

We supply the following on your fishing charter

  • all top quality rods & reels,
  • all lure and poppers (supplied on bases if lost to be replaced),
  • cooled bottled water,
  • esky with ice,
  • a delicious lunch,
  • you will be guided by our experienced fishing guide.

We ask you to wear and bring onboard

  • a long sleeve cotton shirt & wide brim hat; alaong with your sunglasses, sunscreen, camera and a few beer cans are okay.

    Require more information? Email us

    $1500 per full day

    GT Popper fishing on the Reef

    From 1 person to 3 people only

    From 6.30 am to 3.00 pm (app.)

    Only on short distance from Cairns on the Great Barrier Reef, on the reef edges & bommies, with the low tide exposing and the sun shining, let the battle begin. Giant Trevally commonly referred to as GT`s will not only continually smash poppers, they will ambush deep diving lures, in, under and around structures; all done with great speed, hard fights and mind blowing runs. To add to your fun day, the Giant Trevally GT or GT`s maybe in schools, shoulder charging through the water in pursuit. While conditions have to be right, is it your turn to experience the mighty Giant Trevally GT or GT`s caught on popper…..Let the fun begin!

    We supply on your fishing charter

    • all top quality rods & reels,
    • all lures and/or poppers (supplied on the basis if lost to be replaced),
    • cooled bottled water,
    • a delicious lunch,
    • esky with ice,
    • your experienced fishing guide.

    We ask you to wear and bring onboard

    • long sleeve cotton shirt & wide brim hat; along with your sunglasses, sunscreen, camera and a few beer cans are okay.

    Require more information? Email us

    $1500 per full day

    COMMONLY CAUGHT
    REEF FISH SPECIES

    Reef fishing on the Great Barrier Reef on the inshore reefs from Cairns, Queensland, Australia on board vessel `Don't Know` with fishing guide `Darryl` for Barcheek Coral Trout.

    Barcheek Coral Trout

    Plectropomus maculatus
    Can be found around inshore and coastal reefs, islands in the warm tropical waters.
    Have distinguishing horizontal elongated spots to the head. Colour pattern can vary, depending on where they live for example living in deep water they can be bright red while those species that live in shallow water can be dark brown. Minimum size take is 38 cm.

    An extremely rare catch of a Barramundi Cod while fishing on the Great Barrier Reef; was released to fish off!

    Barramundi Cod

    Cromileptes altivelis
    An extremely rare catch!
    The barramundi Cod is easily recognised by it`s concave dorsal head profile and scattered black spots on its body and fins. All catches will be returned to the water!

    Steve`s first Black Marlin while reef fishing from Cairns!

    Black Marlin

    Makaira indica
    The black marlin are a highly prized game fish for their speed and jumping abilities. Cairns is known as the Marlin Capital of the world in the heavy tackle season. While we actively don`t seek to target the larger fish species, we do on the odd occasion are able to catch a baby.

    Showing us a Blacktip Reef Shark while fishing on the Great Barrier Reef

    Blacktip Reef Shark

    Carcharhinus melanopterus
    The Blacktip Reef Shark is commonly found in inshore waters, shallows, rock ledges, sandy flats and are well known to enter into brackish and freshwater. Easily identified by the prominent black tips on their fins as well as it`s yellow-brown to grey along it`s back; with a distinctive white underside and dark stripe running from below the first dorsal fin to above the ventral fin.

    12 year old Harry showing us his Bludger Trevally while reef fishing from Cairns!

    Bludger Trevally

    Carangoides Gymnostethus
    Commonly known as a Bludger! These species of trevally are strong and robust with aggressive feeding patterns. A highly prized sportfish in the warm tropical waters. Hold on!

    Ahmad proudly shows his catch of a Tea Leaf Trevally

    Brassy Trevally

    Caranx papuensis
    Locally known as a Tea-leaf trevally. The Tea-Leaf Trevally is a strong, robust sports fish with aggressive feeding patterns making them highly sort after sports fish. The name Tea-leaf derives from the small, dark tea leaf like patterns found on their body. Their bodies can be from silver to gold, green to grey in colouration’s with lightly coloured fins. Can grow up to 12 kg and up to 90 cm typically caught around the 4 kg.

    Kate showing us her catch of a Chinaman Fish while fishing on the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns!

    Chinaman fish

    Symphorus nematophorus
    Known by the locals as a `galloper`. Minimum size 50 cm to maximum of 80 cm. The adult fish are mottled pink and red, forming indistinct vertical bars (stripes). The small adults and juveniles have horizontal blue stripes on body and elongated spines on the soft dorsal fin, growing to long filaments. A highly regarded eating fish.

    Steph and her Cobia (Black Kingfish) while reef fishing from Cairns

    Cobia

    Rachycentron canadum
    Known as a Black king fish. This is a pelagic species with dark brown on back and down sides; two sharply defined narrow silvery bands; and yellowish belly. Minimum size: 75 cm and are common up to 1.1 metres. An excellent table fish.

    Smiles all round from Bec and her Common Coral Trout while fishing on the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns

    Common Coral Trout

    Plectropomus leopardus
    Can be known as a `Leopard Trout`. has a minimum size limit of 38 cm. These are a bottom-dwelling fish species. Horizontal elongated spots to the head distinguish this species; wide colour variations; from brilliant reds/oranges to pale red/oranges within each species and similar colour forms between species can make some trout difficult to identify. These are highly regarded for their eating quality.

    Flynn and his caught of a Coral Cod while reef fishing at Fitzroy Island

    Coral Cod

    Cephalopholis miniata
    Minimum size limit is 38 cm. Coral Cod has a red coloured body with blue dots as well as a yellow edge to pectoral fin. Makes it one of the prettiest fish species to encountered..

    Darryl showing us his Flame Snapper while fishing on the Great Barrier Reef!

    Flame Snapper

    Etelis coruscans

    The Flame snapper is not a commonly caught fish species for us; as it is a deep sea fish species. They are a slender deep pink to reddish jobfish, with pick to reddish fins. A relatively slow-growing and late to mature species. Spawns over the summer months in Queensland. An excellent table fish!

    Another happy customer showing off his catch of a Fingermark (Golden snapper) while fishing on the Great Barrier Reef!

    Fingermark

    Lutjanus johnii
    Also called Golden Snapper. Fingermark as adults can live on the reef. Their bodies have a bronze to silver sheen, shading to silver-white on the belly and underside of their head. On back a round black spot/saddle (usually above the lateral line but below the anterior soft dorsal fin rays). Scales have a reddish-brown spot often in the centre of each scale, giving an overall appearance of horizontal lines on the body. An excellent table fish!

    Micheal`s and his catch of Frypan Bream while reef fishing from Cairns

    Frypan Bream

    Argyrops spinifer
    Minimum size 55 cm. Juveniles and young adults have broad dark red bands which converge at a point beyond the top of the spiny dorsal fin; bars fade with age and fish become pink-red all over; dark edges with fine white margin may still be visible on dorsal, anal and top and bottom of tail fins; each scale carries a white dot.

    Sam and her Giant trevally (GT) on poppers while on the Great Barrier Reef!

    Giant Trevally

    Caranx ignobilis
    Referred to a `GT`. There is no size limit. The body and head are silvery grey; with a black back; usually paler belly; fins are usually uniformly grey to black. Excellent sports fish for popper fishing. Plus a bucket list fish species.

    Robert proudly showing us his catch of a Gold-spotted trevally

    Gold-spotted Trevally

    Carangoides fulvoguttatus
    Locally referred as `Gold Spots`. These trevally species are a strong and robust sports fish. They have aggressive feeding patterns making an excellent target fish species for the sports fisher. They have silver belly coloration’s and golden to yellow coloration’s in the upper torso`s and fins. They have orange to gold coloured spots throughout the side of their body with a small mouth with small teeth.

    Jaime from Cairns, proudly showing us his catch of a GoldBand Snapper

    Goldband snapper

    Pristipomoides Multidens and P. typus
    Minimum size is 38 cm with possession limit of 5. Has a forked caudal fin; yellow/rosy colouration with 6 broken gold stripes; top of the head has yellow bands; side of snout (below the eyes) has 2/3 golden strips bordered by some blue; dorsal fin is covered with with yellow stripes or rows of spots.

    Darryl and his Golden Trevally while fishing on the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns!

    Golden Trevally

    Gnathanodon speciosus
    These trevally species have no size limit. The body of older fish has yellow-green back, pale belly, The Golden Trevally like all trevally species is a strong and robust sports fish.

    Fish Tales Charters Cairns Reef Fishing

    Goldspotted Rockcod

    Epinephelus coicides
    Here in Cairns we call them Gold spotted Estuary Cod. Commonly referred as `the coral trout of the estuaries`. The flesh is coarse yet creamy texture. Delicious table fish species. Size up to 180 cm and 100 kg. Minimum size limit is 38 cm to 120 cm. Usually lives alone or in small groups, covering a variety of habitats from rivers and estuaries to offshore reefs.

    Hailey and her Green Jobfish while fishing on the Great Barrier Reef

    Green Jobfish

    Aprion virescens
    Can grow up to 112 cm; with their long torpedo shaped body with pale green colouration across it`s upper half leading to purple to paler green towards the belly, and have may dark spots. Has an incredibly powerful jaw, full of strong/sharp teeth. Minimum size is 38cm. Green Jobfish are very good eating.

    Check out these 2 Large mouth Nannygai locally known as Red`s while fishing on the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns!

    Large-mouth Nannygai

    Lutjanus malabaricus
    Known as a Saddletail snapper. There minimum size 40 cm. Has crimson all over with dark saddle blotch becomes less distinct with age has bigger mouth than crimson snapper (small-mouth nannygai). Known for there excellent fighting abilities and known as an excellent table fish.

    Billy and his Longnose Emperor while reef fishing from Cairns!

    Longnose Emperor

    Lethrinus olivaceus
    Minimum size 38 cm. Night feeder with large eyes. Have a long pointed snout with wavy lines that break up into spot radiating from eyes across snout and check. Top lip is commonly red. It`s eating qualities are mild, slightly sweet flavour, low oiliness and moist with firm flesh with large flake.

    Reef fishing for Mackerel Tuna locally known as Mack Tuna

    Mackerel Tuna

    Euthynnus affinis
    Locally known as Mack Tuna. While known as a smaller tuna, they have gained the reputation of a feisty and unstoppable stamina, no second chances when encountering the Mackerel Tuna. Easily recognised by their distinctive mackerel patterns on their shoulders. Have 3 to 5 small black spots below pectoral fin. Can grow up to 15 kg, however not uncommon for 6 kg species.

    Travis and his Reef Jack (an adult Mangrove Jack)

    Mangrove jack

    Lutjanus argentimaculatus
    Locally known as a Reef Jack, this is an adult Mangrove Jack. While juveniles spend their first few years in rivers and estuaries; once they reach maturity between 40 and 50 cm in length (taking 4 to 8 year to reach maturity), most mangrove jacks move on onto offshore reefs. Adult mangrove Jacks around 70 to 80cm long can be anything from 15 to 30 years old. While, as a juveniles, there is nothing like catching a jack on Lure! just wait until you come across an adult! Hold on!

    Flynn and his Moses snapper (Moses perch) while Reef fishing with his family from Cairns!

    Moses Snapper

    Lutjanus russelli & Lutjanus species
    Colouration from whitish to silvery greyish-pink. Has a horizontally-elongated black spot on lateral line. Juveniles generally found in sheltered areas and estuaries. Minimum size is 25cm.

    Painted sweetlip (Slately Bream) while reef fishing from Cairns!

    Painted Sweetlip

    Diagramma pictum subsp. labiosun
    Live fish are flushed with bronze that fades to slate-grey with death. They may have irregular dark spots scattered over the upper body. Have small mouths with large fleshy lips. This fish species undergo dramatic colour changes as they grow. Minimum size is 25 cm with a possession limit of 5.

    Check out Darryl`s Passionfruit Coral Trout while out fishing on the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns in Far North Queensland!

    Passionfruit Coral Trout

    Plectropomus areolatus
    The Passionfruit Coral Trout is quite rare in these waters! Listed as a `Vulnerable fish specie` Colouration is whitish to pale grey coral trout covered in numerous small, dark-edged bright blue spots, often with 4-5 dark blotches forming saddles along the back, a narrow white margin on the rear of the caudal fin, and often a broader dark or pale sub marginal band. Can grow up to 80 cm and can weigh up to 20 kg.

    Wombat showing us his catch of a Purple Rockcod locally known as a Cattle Dog Cod while fishing on the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns!

    Purple Rockcod

    Epinephelus cyanopodus
    Locally they are known as Cattledog cod. This is a greyish rockcod covered in irregular fine dark spots along with slightly larger black spots. Small juveniles are mostly yellow with dark spots, that gradually become blueish to pale grey with yellowish fins. This fish species mostly feeds on sand-dwelling fishes and crustaceans.

    Nyall showing us his Red Bass while fishing on the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns!

    Red Bass

    Lutjanus bohar
    NOTE: The red bass is a no-take species!
    It is a known ciguatoxin carrier and must not be eaten. Has dark red-brown upper body paling to reddish on sides and belly; fins dark red with almost black outer edges. Excellent sports fish for popper fishing.

    Reef fishing on the Great Barrier Reef on the inshore reefs from Cairns, Queensland, Australia on board vessel `Don't Know` with fishing guide `Darryl` for Red Emperor

    Red Emperor

    Lutjanus sebae
    Minimum size 55 cm. Juveniles and young adults have broad dark red bands which converge at a point beyond the top of the spiny dorsal fin; bars fade with age and fish become pink-red all over; dark edges with fine white margin may still be visible on dorsal, anal and top and bottom of tail fins; each scale carries a white dot.

    Sandy and her Redthroat Emperor while fishing on the Great Barrier Reef

    Redthroat Emperor

    Lethrinus miniatus
    Maybe also known as a Sweetlip Emperor. Have large eyes for feeding at night. Colouration can be from red to orange on spiny dorsal fin-base of pectoral fin-around eyes and inside mouth. Minimum size is 38cm.

    Luke`s and his caught his caught of the Robinson`s Seabream while fishing the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns

    Robinson`s Sea Bream

     Gymnocranius grandoculis
    They commonly referred to as sea Bream they are not related to the Perch or Bream family. They are a highly sought after table fish found in the northern warmer waters. Have large eyes for feeding at night with wavy blue lines across their snout and check. Minimum size is 25 cm with a possession limit of 5.

    Fishing on the Great Barrier Reef for Rosy Jobfish (Crimson Jobfish)

    Rosy Jobfish

    Pristipomoides filamentosus
    May also be known as a Crimson Jobfish, with a minimum size limit of 38 cm. Pectoral fins are long and the caudal fin is forked. Their backs and sides are variable from brown to lavender or a red-purple colorations. Can have narrow yellow lines and blue spots around the snout.

    Popper fishing for Scaly Mackerel on the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns

    Scaly Markerel

    Sardinella lemuru
    A pelagic species with strong migratory habit. Spawning generally occurs at end of wet season. Spawning grounds are not known and not a commonly caught fish species.

    Reef fishing for School Mackerel on the Great Barrier Reef

    School mackerel

    Scomberomorus queenslandicus
    Minimum size is 50 cm. Has a silver-grey body. Sides of adults have 3 indefinite rows of indistinctive bronze-grey blotches were as juvenile do not. Found along the Queensland coast in inshore waters, bays and estuaries. Considered an excellent table fish.

    Darren`s showing us his catch of a Small mouth Nannygai (Crimson snapper)

    Small-mouth Nannygai

    Lutjanus erythropterus
    Also known as a crimson snapper. Minimum size catch is 40 cm. Has evenly serrated teeth on both jaws and dark and or black tinge on the caudal fin rays. While mostly caught on the reef at certain times they can be caught while fishing in the estuary. An excellent table fish.

    Todd showing us his Spangled Emperor!

    Spangled emperor

    Lethrinus nebulosus
    Minimum size 45 cm. Has large eyes for night time feeding. The top of pectoral fins are blue in colour. Distinct scales and strong spines on their fins. Pale blue spots are ‘spangled’ over the upper body, blue lines radiate from eyes over snout.  Their is a presence of a pale-blue spot located centrally on each scale that forms longitudinal streaks along the flanks.

    Will showing us his catch of a Spanish Mackerel while fishing on the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns!

    Spanish Mackerel

    Scomberomorus commerson
    Minimum size 75 cm. A pelagic species; has numerous thin, wavy vertical bands on body; iridescent blue-grey back; silver sides with bluish reflections; juveniles frequently spotted. Not only are they an excellent target fish they have excellent fighting abilities.

    Flynn and his Spanish Flag Snapper (Stripey Snapper) while reef fishing from Cairns!

    Stripey Snapper

    Lutjanus carponotatus
    In Cairns we call them Spanish Flag Snapper. A bluish-grey to whitish snapper with 8-9 yellow to golden-brown striped along the sides, can have yellow fins. They can feed on fish and invertebrates. Juveniles generally found over inter-tidal areas.

    Darryl showing us his Tomato Rockcod

    Tomato Rockcod

    Cephalopholis sonnerati
    Not a commonly caught fish species in Cairns. A reddish-orange to reddish-brown grouper with a dense network of spots on the head, fainter spots on the body and fins, and bluish fin margins. Adults are deep-bodied with a hump-headed appearance. Juveniles are dark with darker spots with a broad paler blue margin on the caudal fin.

    A juvenile Whale Shark at the Apron`s from Sudbury Reef

    Whale shark

    Rhincodon typus
    The whale shark is a slow moving filter feeding shark with extremely large mouths feeding on plankton and small fish. With an estimated life span of 80 to 130 years, this photo shows us a juvenile, known to be very gentle and inquisitive. This is not a target species.

    Sandy and her Yellowfin Parrotfish while fishing on the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns

    Yellowfin Parrotfish

    Scarus flavipectoralis
    Minimum size is 25cm. Parrotfish are hermaphrodites and live in harems with a dominate male. They are not territorial, living and feeding in harmony with other fish species. Their teeth are fused into powerful beaks which are used for grabbing filamentous algae from dead coral, often found feeding in a cloud of sediment.

    A juvenile Whale Shark at the Apron`s from Sudbury Reef

    REEF CATCH GALLERY