November Rain May Dampen Spirits
  |  First Published: November 2011

Long range weather forecasts are predicting the return of the La Nina weather pattern. With the action picking up in November, the fishing will be very dependent on the whim of the weather.

November is typified by long spells of flat, calm seas and hot temperatures in Cairns but that can be interspersed with periods of strong winds, rain and storms. On the up-side, a fresh in the streams will breed life into the fishing.

The reef is well worth a shot, especially overnight to avoid the heat, provided there are no storms about. It is the build up to the wet and the weather can be very volatile, so keep a close watch on the horizon, or even better on the BOM radar screen.

With the increase in water temperature the turn of the tide will be most productive, so plan trips to cover that period and match it with a dawn or dusk fish for an even better chance of coming home a winner. Keep in mind the final Coral Reef Fin Fish Closure for 2011, November 22-26. There should be a few quality trout in the shallows in the lead up to the new moon closure but they go off the bite after spawning, so forget about trout in the last week of the month.

Big mouth nannygai will be around in the deep water, but a bit patch. They will be well worth the effort though, as there will be quality fish in the 6-8kg range on the chew. Sharks can be a problem at this time of year, so be prepared to move if they start taking fish.


There are usually a few Spanish mackerel to be had with the good old drifting pilchard being the best technique. Try getting the weight right so the pilchard sinks very slowly to the bottom, as this will not only find what depth the Spaniards are feeding at but also pick up the odd reef jack, job fish or cobia. It takes a bit more concentration to periodically retrieve and re-cast the pilly but it can certainly produce the goods at times.

November is the swing month in the heavy tackle marlin season, with the action still in top gear or starting to shut down depending on the season we’re having. There are times when it is the best month of the season and others when it is all over bar the skipper’s shout.

There will still be plenty of blue water action available out wide though, with dolphin fish, yellowfin tuna and wahoo in consistent numbers. Skipping garfish and trolling deep diving lures on stand-up light tackle are often very productive techniques at this stage of the season, with Lindon Bank a good area to start your search.


With barra off the menu, drainos will be focusing on the next best thing. Fingermark and jacks are very highly regarded with many anglers rating these fish better than the iconic barramundi. Both species will pull a barra backwards and fingermark are certainly better eating. The only thing these two species lack is the aerial antics of the barramundi.

Any rain will stir up the systems and get the fish feeding, though a big fresh will push the fingermark out onto the headlands and inshore reefs. The jacks are happy to stay in the fresh and will turn it on once the water starts to clear.

Look for quality mangrove jack in the 40-50cm range in amongst the snags, particularly if there is a bit of depth around the structure. As the tide recedes focus your efforts at the mouths of run-off drains, especially if there is a snag or two present. Jacks love to sit in cover and ambush bait as it drifts out with the tide. Very fresh bait, small live bait and small lures are the king of techniques for jacks. About the only commercial baits worth using are fresh local eating squid or cuttlefish bought from a seafood retailer. Jacks are even fussier than humans when it comes to fresh food. 30lb braid, with 30 lb fluorocarbon leader and a reel with a solid drag will put you in the money.

Fingermark will be active along the headlands and in the deeper sections of estuaries and inlets, with live bait or lures the only real options. I have on occasions caught a number of fingermark in Innisfail on freshly caught butterflied sardines. This technique involves filleting one side of a very fresh sardine from the tail to the back of the head, folding the fillet forward over the head and threading the sardine back and forwards onto a hook, from the tail. The last entry of the hook into the bait needs to pin the filleted flap open and pointing forward over the head, so the hook goes through the fillet and the head in the one motion. Hope that’s as clear as mud herring! Look for deep water structure around the top of the tide, with dawn and dusk tide changes the premium bite times.

There can also be some cracking grunter caught across estuary flats and the Cairns esplanade flats on the incoming tide with fresh mullet strips, butterfly or filleted sardines/mud herring or fresh eating quality prawns ideal for tempting these tasty table fish. Salmon will also be on the prowl on the estuary flats and beaches, with the early and late rising tide the optimum times for these species.


Any fresh in November will stir up the muddies. Small downpours around 25-75mm will push them into the creeks and rivers, while serious rain and river rises will chase them to the mouths and along the beaches and coastal mangrove forests. Fresh fish frames are the way to go, with mackerel and mullet my pick of baits.

Any rain that results in stream rises in spring will really stir up the freshwater action. If there is dirty run-off, wait until the water returns to a milky colour. Focus your efforts at the top of the holes, where sooties and jungle perch will be waiting in ambush. Tiny lures and spinners coupled with 6-10lb line and a light spin outfit, can make for a very entertaining afternoon or morning. If there is too much fresh in the coastal streams look over the range to the rivers that flow west into the gulf. Walking a stream and flicking lures in the cool of the rainforest on a hot November day is one of life’s little pleasures.
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