The heat is on
  |  First Published: November 2013

The heat will be on this month, with November often the hottest and driest time of the year in the Cairns area. The only relief will come with storms and hopefully some early wet season build-up rain.

The fishing has been surprisingly good considering the miserable wet season we had at the start of the year, but another failed wet will spell disaster for fishing in the short term. While it might be hot, it is generally mostly calm seas, so as long as you work around the heat and not in it, there will be some good fishing to be had.

Early morning, late afternoon and tidal changes are the main ingredients to work with this month, unless we get enough rain to run a fresh in the rivers.

With barra off the agenda from midday on 1 November, mangrove jack, golden snapper and grunter will be the main target species, for those chasing a feed, while queenfish and trevally of all types will keep the sport fishos happy. The fish feel the heat as much as humans, so use the middle of the day to curl up under a shady tree, or better still, in the air conditioning. When fishing the estuaries or inshore, my main plan of attack is to always come or go in the dark. If seriously early starts are not your forte, and I’m talking before 4am, then that leaves the afternoon and evening as your best option. Between 8am and 4pm, it’s all over, bar the sunburn.

Sometime this month there should be a huge hatch of bait fingerlings that will appear inshore and in the estuaries and with them will come trevally and queenfish. Matching the hatch can be difficult unless you are a fly fisher or enjoy tossing small silver slugs and working up a sweat with super fast retrieves. Live baiting is a more sedate approach but catching suitable bait can be a real challenge at times. While there are massive schools of fingerlings for the pelagics to feed on, finding bait big enough to go on a live bait hook can prove frustrating. Trevally will mostly be on the small side but there will be the odd monster giant and golden trevally getting in on the action and smoking undergunned anglers.

Bait soakers will find grunter and salmon their most productive target species, with the top of the tide the best option for both species. Work the early morning and late afternoon/evening high tides around the new and full moons for the best results.

Using 1/2kg of eating prawns and squid from the local seafood supplier will give you some excellent grunter bait and small mullet and large sardines will put you in the money for salmon, along with the fresh prawns. If there are storms around, they can really stir the fish into overdrive, so provided it’s safe, be on the water around the storms, for some great action.

If there is sufficient rain to bring a fresh to the streams, fish the mouths as soon as the water starts to clear and remember the crab pots. If there has been little to no rain then forget about crabbing.

Chasing mangrove jack in the heavy timber will be a worthwhile exercise, with fresh local squid or cuttlefish about the only bought bait worth bothering with. It is far better to catch other bait with a cast net, before wetting a line. Using live baits around snags in the barramundi closed season could see you run foul of the B&F patrol, so it’s best to stick to dead baits.

Live baiting for golden snapper on deep water structure is less contentious and can be very productive this month. Live sardines, mullet, prawns and squid are top baits, with a dropper rig made using 30-50lb fluorocarbon leader and a 5/0 to 7/0 octopus style hook is a very successful combination.

The inshore reefs, rubble patches and wrecks are also worth a visit for golden snapper, trevally and big mouth nannygai. Overnighting at the reef is a good option, as long as a very close eye is kept on the storm situation. Mobile phones, notepads and notebooks now make it very easy to check the radar on the BOM website and I wouldn’t go to the reef at night without this technology, now that it is so readily available.

Coral trout will be on the chew after the final Coral Reef Fin Fish closure for 2013, which ends at midnight on 4 November. Focus your efforts in the 25-40m water depths, as these areas will have had less of a hiding from the live trout dories that hammer the reefs off Cairns at this time of year. Keep a floating pilchard or live bait out the back, as there will still be the odd Spanish mackerel and cobia on the prowl.

There have been plenty of quality large mouth nannygai and red emperor on the chew in recent months, so chasing trophy reds on the 40m+ rubble and around isolated bommies is a great overnight option. Sharks have continued to be a problem this year, so be prepared to lose a few good fish to the razor gang and don’t hesitate to move if they get too aggressive.

A lot of people shy away from using expensive leader and hooks at the reef, due to the attrition rate from snags, getting bricked and sharked. I can’t recommend highly enough using quality fluorocarbon leader, especially hard types like Black Magic Tough Fluorocarbon and Sure Catch Fluorocarbon and chemically sharpened hooks. Compared to the cost of the reef boat, fuel and bait, it is a very good investment. When you are paying $40-60 a kilo for coral trout and red emperor fillets, one good fish will more than cover your tackle cost.

The heavy tackle season will still be underway for the well healed, while the small boat brigade will find plenty of action on sailfish, mahi mahi, yellowfin tuna and wahoo out around Linden Bank, Opal Ridge and the Continental Shelf. Skipping garfish and trolling deep diving lures are often productive methods at this time of year.

Working around the prevailing weather conditions, like storms, rain and the searing heat, rather than suffering through them, will result in a more comfortable and productive November.

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