Reef rollercoaster ride
  |  First Published: November 2015

With air and water temperatures rapidly rising, certain sections of the fishing world are hitting their peak as we enter the month of November.

The gamefishing scene is currently at its prime time and the big black marlin are making their mark, with healthy numbers of fish being caught from the Ribbon Reefs extending south to Opal Ridge, Linden Bank and the Jenny Louise Shoals. However, proceedings got off to a shaky start in October, mainly due to the atrocious weather conditions, which hindered the fishing for the first two weeks of the month. Blustery 25-30 knot winds left only a brave few to battle the elements, so overall numbers of fish were down.

In saying this, there were individual boats which enjoyed bursts of activity which saw them tag and release up to half a dozen marlin over a couple of days. Once the dust settled and some nice weather returned, more and more vessels took advantage, and fish started popping up regularly. The Ribbon Reefs were the hot spot for the latter stages of October, and what generally tends to happen from this point on is the bite will improve further down south on the back end of the season. To date there’s been a mixture of sizes, with a lot of fish in the 250-600lb range tagged and released. A few bigger fish pushing towards the magical 1000lb range have been recorded, but November is notorious for producing the big ‘granders’ and you’d expect these fish to feature heavily in the coming weeks.

Closer to home, the close of the barra season makes anglers switch their focus to other prime tropical coastal species such as mangrove jack and fingermark. These fish relish the warmer conditions, and for several weeks now they have not disappointed. The Daintree River has been a hot spot for these species, and the local Dickson Inlet has also produced its quota of quality fish. There have also been some good reports of mid-sized trevally entering the local systems, and the tarpon have been thick, producing some really great action on very light gear.

Along the coast around our inshore reefs and isolated rubble patches there have been some impressive reports on pelagic species, including big 1m queenfish, school mackerel and some monster Spanish mackerel. When the weather is calm there is plenty for the small boat brigade to choose from.

For the land-based angler the early and late afternoon rising tides, particularly along the beaches, will put you in the running for blue salmon, trevally, grunter, queenfish, small sharks and incidental barra. Places like southern Four Mile Beach, Cooya Beach and Wonga Beach will offer some good value on those better tides.

On the outer reef it’s a bit of rollercoaster ride at the moment, especially with a couple of spawning periods around the new moons. For a little while now there has been no real consistency, with every day producing a different result. On the red-hot days you’ll have everything on the chew from red emperor, large-mouth nannygai, coral trout, reef mangrove jack, spangled emperor to sweetlip and the list goes on. The quality and quantity of fish returning to the docks has been incredible at times. However, the following day could be slim pickings with bits and pieces hitting the decks.

As the days get warmer the daytime fishing can be a bit more challenging, but the value is still there. A lot of locals turn to a bout of night-time fishing on the reef, which generally sees the red species turn up in better numbers. Just be aware that violent thunderstorms can turn up without much notice, especially if they come from inland. I say this from first-hand experience; they can turn an enjoyable session into a nightmare.

Overall though there’ll be plenty on offer in the coming weeks if you don’t mind the heat. Low light periods will be the optimum time for a lot of species, from river fish right up to big black marlin.

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