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With breathtaking beaches, a lush rainforest, and the most famous reef on the planet just around the corner, Port Douglas is among the most popular tourist destinations in Australia. Snorkelling along the reefs and hiking in the jungle make for great vacation expeditions. The real adventure here is the fishing though. From giant Black Marlin offshore to tasty Barramundi in the rivers, fishing in Port Douglas is sure to have a great catch for you.

A tropical, sandy beach curves along the right side of the image. In the front there are some palm trees and the back features small mountains

Only 60 kilometres north of the famous fishing city Cairns, Port Douglas is a quieter place. But the distance doesn’t mean that the fishing here is any worse. From May to September the small town almost doubles in size as anglers from all across the globe come to enjoy the fantastic waters of the area for the season. No matter if you’re coming here for the high season, or if you’re looking for a quiet place to fish after the visitors are gone, you’re sure to have a great time.

Top Catches in Port Douglas

What kind of fish can you expect to catch in Port Douglas? With an abundance of different species right at your doorstep, there’s almost no limit to the kinds of fish you’ll see. From impressive big game species offshore to the colourful reef species, to exciting freshwater fish in Packers Creek, you’re sure to find something that suits you. Here are the ones that you don’t want to miss.

Black Marlin

Billfish, especially Black Marlin, are one of the main reasons why seasoned sport fishers travel to Port Douglas for a challenge. And those impressive pelagic predators are up to the task, with anglers reporting catching species weighing over 450 kilos every year. Even if you don’t have the next world record on the hook, an average Black Marlin is sure to get you out of breath when you’re reeling it in!

The front half of a large Black Marlin pokes out from the water. It has taken the bait and is now hooked to a fishing line stretching to the right

Black Marlin season usually starts in September and lasts until December, when the Marlins come to the area to breed. You’ll need some time to reach them though, so offshore excursions for Black Marlin are usually full-day trips. They can range from 8 to 10 hours, to ensure you have plenty of time to get your fish on. Some passionate anglers even head out for several days, spending nights at sea to make sure they make the catch they came here for.

Giant Trevally

While Black Marlin are impressive with their sheer size and strength, Trevallies shouldn’t need to hide behind them. Giant Trevally, as the largest Trevally species in Australia and one of the most famous game fish in the world, are well known for their strength and endurance. These feisty fish make for a thrilling fight once you’ve hooked one. If you’re up for the challenge you can even try to target them with a fly rod!

A female angler with a huge Giant Trevally on her lap

And you don’t even have to go far to get your hands on one of them. Smaller to mid-sized Trevallies are known for swimming close to the shore and even entering rivers with the rising tide. So no need for an offshore trip if the waves give you trouble. And, while a Giant Trevally is going to give you a good workout, its slightly smaller cousin – the Golden Trevally – is sure to provide you with a good meal.

Red Emperor

Also known as Emperor Snapper or King Snapper, this fish is true marine royalty. They live around coral reefs offshore and pack quite a punch when you manage to hook one. They’ll fight you for every metre of your fishing line, so reeling one in can take a surprising amount of strength. Once you’ve wrestled it onto the boat, you’re in for a treat. Red Emperors are one of the tastiest reef fish out there!

A smiling angler in sunglasses holding a Red Emperor Snapper, with blue skies and water in the background

The peak season is June to August, but you can find them year-round with good luck. Just keep in mind that, due to their slow growth, the size limit for this species is 55 cm. You’ll have to release any smaller specimens you catch back into the water.

Barramundi

The Barramundi is probably one of the most popular fish species in Australia. Once hooked, they show off their skills and beauty by jumping out of the water, often shaking off the hook in the process. Due to their fierce nature, they’re very popular with anglers and are often used to stock rivers and lakes for recreational fishing. On top of that, they’re also generally regarded as a great fish to eat.

A Barramundi that has taken the bait and is jumping out of the water to shake off the hook

The peak season for Barramundi is in February and March, and they’re usually biting aggressively in summer from September through May. Breeding season is between November and January, so you’ll have to release any Barramundi you catch then, regardless of their size.

And the List Goes On

Those are just a few of the many amazing fish species you can catch in the waters around Port Douglas. From Queenfish and Fingermark Bream in the rivers and estuaries to Coral Trout along the reefs, to Sailfish, Tuna and Mahi Mahi offshore on the sea, there’s no shortage of great catches you can make.

Types of Fishing in Port Douglas

With the large number of different fish that you can target come about as many different ways of catching them. From throwing a line on the beach to fighting a large Marlin while strapped to a fighting chair on the open seas, Port Douglas has it all. Just pick your favourite way of fishing and you’re good to go.

Spearfishing

A spearfisher swims in blue waters, looking for fish

As one of the oldest fishing techniques, spearfishing has its own appeal to many anglers. If you like being up close and personal with the fish you want to catch and have some experience diving, then spearfishing is the right choice for you. Dive down into the water to enjoy the bustling marine life around the reefs, pick out your future dinner, and then make your catch with one quick strike and a little bit of luck.

Spearfishing is not only an old fishing technique but also one of the most sustainable ways to catch fish. Not even with a fishing rod do you get to pick the exact fish that you want to see on your plate later on. Just keep in mind that you need to be physically fit and some charters will require you to have previous spearfishing experience.

Shore Fishing

A fisherman on the beach in the middle of casting a line

If you’re looking for a more relaxed fishing experience, casting your line from the shore is possible at many locations around the area. Whether you want to fish in the ocean or the nearby estuary, the locals recommend buying your bait at a seafood outlet. This might be more expensive than catching your own but will save you a lot of time and effort in the long run. Local favourites are prawn, squid, and pilchard.

When fishing on your own, you should look out for areas where fishing is not permitted, as well as the season when fishing is closed for the fish to breed. You can find information on that further down in the Rules and Regulations section of this post. 

Charter Fishing

Two fishermen standing on the bow of a charter boat, one reeling in fish, other taking a video of it

Especially if you’re looking to go fishing for a tasty dinner on the reefs or if you want to get your hands on a trophy catch offshore, booking a fishing trip with an experienced fishing guide is the best way to go. They know all about the local rules and regulations and will make sure that you don’t accidentally fish in an area where it’s not permitted. At the same time, you can gain an interesting insight into the lives of the local fishermen.

What’s more, they usually supply you with the appropriate fishing gear and know-how to give you the best fishing experience you can have. And don’t worry if you’re a new angler – most of the captains will be happy to help you out and show you the ropes. Since you’re at the Great Barrier Reef after all, many charter trips include snorkelling gear upon request for anyone not interested in fishing or if you need a break. So don’t forget to ask your captain about it!

Best Fishing Spots in Port Douglas

Finding a decent fishing spot in Port Douglas can be as easy as casting your line into the nearest body of water. To get you started, we picked out a few of the most popular places around the area.

An aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  • Linden Bank: Located on the eastern side of the Great Barrier Reef, about 60 kilometres from shore, Linden Bank is one of the major fishing spots to visit, if you’re looking to catch a big Black Marlin. Mahi Mahi, Coral Trout, Spanish Mackerel, and various types of Snappers also make an appearance here.
  • Batt Reef: Closer to shore than Linden Bank, Batt Reef is the perfect destination for all of your reef fishing dreams. Coral Trout, Red Emperor, Mackerel, Golden Trevally, and, most importantly, Giant Trevally call this area home. Many charters also offer to bring snorkelling gear along, so you can cool down after reeling in your big catch.
  • Dickson Inlet: As a tidal estuary, Dickson Inlet is a fantastic fishing ground for all kinds of fish. From Fingermark and Mangrove Jack to the renowned Barramundi, you can find a wide variety of species here. Even Queenfish and Trevally have been seen swimming up the rivers on a rising tide!
  • Four Mile Beach: This gorgeous beach offers everything you can dream of. Miles of sandy shore, palm trees that offer some shade if you need a break from the tropical sun, and great fishing at the southern end of the beach. You can watch the kitesurfers while you fish, but be sure to keep an eye out for any swimmers.

Fishing Regulations in Port Douglas

An infographic with the Queensland flag and the text "Port Douglas Fishing Regulations: What You Need to Know" set against a blue background

When it comes to the fishing regulations, there’s more good news. There’s no need for a fishing licence for recreational angling in the state of Queensland. The only exceptions are the 63 impoundments that require a Stocked Impoundment Permit Scheme permit to fish with a line. You can purchase these permits easily online and carry them digitally on your mobile device.

While you may not need a licence, size and bag limits do still apply. To ensure you’re up to date on all the regulations, check the recreational fishing section on the Queensland Government website. There you’ll find size and possession limits for both fresh and saltwater species. You’ll also find information fishing seasons and prohibited locations. You can also find additional information on the different zones of the Great Barrier Reef on the website of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Fishing in Port Douglas – An Australian Adventure

The harbour in Port Douglas. Several boats are moored in front of the harbour building

With an average of over 2,700 hours of sunshine per year, Port Douglas is an enticing destination for almost anyone. Add to that the spectacular fishing opportunities along the estuaries, at the Great Barrier Reef, and on the open seas beyond and it’s truly every angler’s dream.

Have you ever been fishing in Port Douglas? How was your trip? Do you have any favourite fishing spots to share? Feel free to share your stories or any questions you might have in the comments below.