November is typified by prolonged spells of flat seas and calm winds, making it an ideal time to head east.
Reef fishing has been fairly consistent. Plenty of quality trout are coming from the shallows, and some excellent big mouth nannygai are being hauled out of the deep water; be ready to take advantage of any flat spells this month.
The build up to the wet usually commences around now so be on the lookout for storms, especially when over-nighting out wide. The advent of 3G has made the storm season much safer, with lap tops, iPads and iPhones all giving easy access to the up to the minute BOM radar, making it possible to track the path of any suspect storm cells flashing on the horizon.
Generally, if the weather is good in November, then the fishing matches. If the sou’easters are howling then the fishing shuts down until the winds abate, so keep an eye on the long range weather forecast when planning your fishing trips.
The last of the two Coral Reef Fin Fish Closures takes place from 11-15 November inclusive, so if you must head east in that period, make sure you stick to trolling for pelagics. Any form of bottom fishing can be construed as targeting reef fish, but if you are trolling the surface there is no argument. Likewise, trolling deep diving lures over reef country will also see you under the microscope, so use your common sense.
Most trout will be in the under 30m range, while big mouth nannygai and red emperor will mostly come from the 40m+ country. When conditions allow, an overnight trip to the reef can be very productive at this time of year. Heading out after lunch and fishing the remaining daylight, for trout and mackerel, followed by the evening or whole night chasing reds in the deep water, will put you in with a big chance of catching a feed. Just before dark head for the deep country and find some rubble patches or isolated bommies in over 45m of water.
A good way to locate the right country is to follow the contour lines on your chart plotter. Contour lines mark a change of depth, which is where you are more likely to find reef/hard bottom as opposed to weed or mud bottom. Learn how to read your sounder so you know the difference in the bottom by the colour. Turn the gain up as much as you can without blotting out the screen with interference. This will improve your ability to pick up bait schools and fish on the view finder. Go onto any of the fishing chat sites and you will find plenty of information on how to improve your ability to read your sounder.
Finding the right country is one thing but it can also be a matter of having the right bait to get the reds on the chew. One of my favourites is a combination of squid and pilchard. Thread the squid on first, onto an 8/0 long shank hook, then finish with a half or a third of a pilchard to add some smell.
At times this bait just gets hammered by pick fish and you spend most of your time retrieving, re-baiting and getting back to the bottom. When this happens repeatedly, try using a piece of a freshly caught pick fish with the bones still in it. Often when there are lots of pick fish about, there is also the odd big red emperor or big mouth around but they don’t get a chance to get to the bait before the pick fish have striped the hook clean. Cut a whole pick fish into strips, diagonally across the spine to create long baits. Leave all the fin and bones to reduce the impact of pickers. This type of bait has produced some of the biggest reds and big mouth that I have caught.
At other times, big mouth can be very finicky and will pick and suck on a bait for ages. Patience is the key in these situations, as well as keeping the line loose to allow them to draw and suck. Another tactic that can help in this situation is to go small with your bait. Dropping back to a 6/0 or 7/0 short shank hook and using minimal bait will often improve results.
Fishing with lighter line is another tactic, although you have to be prepared to get bricked occasionally. I always use fluorocarbon leader even though it is expensive. It consistently out-performs normal leader or plain mono leader. Keep in mind that one red more than covers the cost of a spool of fluorocarbon leader. I saw red emperor fillets on sale at a local seafood shop for $63.90 a kilo last month!
Always have a floater out the back, with a pilchard or live bait set for cobia and Spanish mackerel. Spaniards in the 5-10kg range are still around and the cobia can come in any size. Make sure you get a good look at any suspected shark hooked at this time of year, as they can often turn out to be cobia on closer inspection.
The heavy tackle marlin season is drawing to a close but there will still be a few granders out on the Shelf, waiting to be tagged. The stand up tackle brigade will also have mahi mahi, yellowfin tuna, wahoo, cobia and Spanish mackerel to play with.
With barra off the menu for the next three months, it’s time to turn your attention to other great tropical target species of mangrove jack, fingermark and grunter. There have been excellent fingermark and good numbers of jacks and grunter on the chew lately. Low light periods and the turn of the tide are key features to consider when chasing these species – not only for better fishing but also for comfort. Planning your trips to coincide with a turn of the tide near dawn and dusk will improve your chances.
Another great feeding trigger is storms. If you can get on the water just after a storm passes, or as one is building, the action is often enhanced. A building storm is always a bit of a gamble though, as there’s nothing quite as frightening as being on the water with lightening striking around you. Storm rain also stirs up the mud crabs, so have the pots ready if there is a dump of more than 50mm of rain.Reads: 1358