Jacks prime November target
  |  First Published: November 2012

After a dry winter and spring the estuary has been a bit of a bait free zone.

There have been scattered schools of frog mouthed and white pilchards in the river mouths, and this has changed the fishing a bit as there has been a lot less bait around for bigger fish to feed on.

This month the prime target for many anglers will be mangrove jacks. This takes a bit of practice and persistence to get consistent catches. The key to catching jacks on the Gold Coast is to work areas of rocky structure where there is a fair bit of current, and to fish dawn, dusk and into the night. For every jack you pin in daylight hours you will get triple that after or before the sun is in the sky.

A lot of anglers like to cast lures for jacks, but trolling and live baiting can produce more consistent results. I like to fish the bottom half of a run-out tide. The best jack rivers in the area are the Coomera and the Nerang, but in more recent years Sovereign Islands has produced consistent catches.

Popper fishing at night around pontoons and bridges can be very successful. I always have two rods rigged; one with a popper and the other with a shallow running minnow, like a Smith’s Saruna or small B52. My favourite popper is the Storm Chug Bug. If I get a boil on the popper but no hit and the next couple of casts don’t get belted, I change to the shallow running lure. Sometimes this converts follows to swallows.

This month is the best to chase jacks and if you get a couple per session you are doing very well. By-catch includes big eye and giant trevally, estuary cod and flathead. Jacks are tough fish to land and bust ups are common.

There should still be plenty of flathead around as well. The action in the deep water has been very erratic, and it seems the spawning run this year is a month or so late. The big fish moved into the deep sections of the Seaway and Jumpinpin entrances in mid September but then went very quiet again, and some days there were no fish at all.

In the deep water there have been some decent mulloway around with most being around 80-90cm long. These fish should still be around in November. The new Gulp Nemesis has been producing good results on both flathead and mulloway this season.

Further up river as the water warms whiting will increase in numbers this month. Good baits include blood worm, soldier crabs and shrimps. Shrimps have the added advantage that you can catch them at high tide with a dip net. Look along sandy edges with mangroves or overhanging bushes.

Shrimp are a very convenient bait and with a large fine mesh net are generally pretty easy to get. They are also an extremely effective whiting bait in the Nerang River, where they make up a big part of the whiting’s diet.


November 2011 saw some really big marlin, including one that on length measurement was over a 1000lb (a black marlin). Hopefully this season will see similar activity on the wide grounds and there are promising signs with water warming up and a lot of bait beyond the 50 fathom line.

Closer inshore there have already been good reports of small black marlin turning up. The small black marlin season along the Barrier Reef has been outstanding this year and it is these fish that will move south with the East Australian Current as summer approaches. While it is still very early in the season, a day’s exploratory light tackle trolling targeting small black marlin could definitely be worthwhile.

For those with slightly bigger boats it may well be worth chasing blue marlin out wide. Last November we caught and released a really good blue estimated at around 300kg from my 6m tinny; it took 3 hours and 20 minutes to subdue.

There have also been some decent medium-sized black marlin turning up on the 36 and 50 fathom line in October.

As well as having a chance at catching a marlin, November usually sees the mahi mahi turn up in numbers as the current moves in. Most of these will be between 7-12kg and can be caught on trolled skirted lures. Mahi mahi love bright colours and are a good target fish this month.

Bottom fishing is generally pretty quiet in November as the current increases in strength. There should still be some decent pearl perch on the 50 fathom line as well as kingies and amberjacks.

Snapper catches will drop off this month as the water warms. Jigging is a better option than bait if the current is running hard. The 36 fathom line should still produce a few snapper but the big nobbies will have moved offshore as the water warms up and the spawning run is finished.

Closer inshore there should be a run of cobia starting on the inshore reefs around Palm Beach and Mermaid Reef this month as the water warms. The Tweed Nine Mile often holds cobia in November as well. Most of these fish are between 6-12kg.

The inshore run of juvenile cobia generally precedes the first spotted mackerel of the season. A session anchored up on Palm Beach Reef and berleying with chopped pillies while live baiting and fishing pilchards under a float could be a good option.

Overall, November is an interesting month to fish the Gold Coast. It generally has good sea conditions at this time of year and with all the great marlin reports coming from further north the upcoming summer game fishing season looks like being a ripper.

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