At this time of the year, you will be basking in the summer heat and spending long days out on the water. The prominent action on the briny blue should make your efforts worthwhile. As the water temperature rises, so does the metabolism of most species which creates some pretty hungry piscatorial targets for those fishing the bays and estuaries. During November we should encounter a diverse array of species with increased action among the pelagics within the bay as well as numerous other species including mangrove jack in the estuaries plus crabs, threadfin, snapper and plenty of other favourites.
Warmer water temperatures should increase baitfish activity within Moreton Bay. This will catalyse an increase in the prevalence of pelagic species such as tuna, mackerel, bonito, cobia and others. Mackerel are probably the most hotly targeted species due to their succulent table quality and sportfishing prowess. Additionally they can be relatively easy to hook once they are located. Obviously, due to their ravenous feeding activity, surface feeding schools are the easiest opportunity on offer. In this situation pelagics will hit a broad array of artificial offerings. Small chromed slugs and slices and some jighead rigged plastics (Zman jerkshads in bubblegum colour are popular) are extremely easy to cast and they will generally solicit a strike from any mackerel when retrieved in a flat stick manner. You cannot wind fast enough for these predators- if they are following your lure and not striking then you are not winding fast enough. I would advise you to use a high-speed reel that will retrieve at least 100cm of line per turn of the handle. Line doesn’t need to be heavy with 4-10kg being the regular choice. Whether spotted mackerel or schoolies are on your radar a spinning outfit is a good option. Spinning allows fast and long casts to put the offering into the zone quickly once some surface activity is located. Scanning the horizon for sea bird activity or visible splashing on the surface are the best indicators of surface activity.
The shipping channels, Rous Channel, Rainbow Channel and the edges of most flats are the best places to search on a low or rising tide. Towards the top of the tide, mackerel will often harass baitfish up on top of the flats. Even if you can’t see them, trolling small, deep-diving minnow lures will often produce results on small numbers or individual fish cruising on these flats. I like light (10-15lb) braided line for this pursuit as it allows the lures to get down deeper and permits you to troll a bit faster than you could using thicker line. The last two hours of the run in tide are generally the best for this pursuit. Mackerel patrol these zones to ambush baitfish flushed from the flats with the receding tide. Trolling the edges of these banks as the tide begins to fall will often be rewarding Try Middle Bank, Tangalooma Banks or any of the other prominent banks for this pursuit. Be aware however that some banks have a 6knot speed limit in place once you leave the main channels.
As beacons and other vertical structure usually hold baitfish species these are naturally productive places to try. Vertical jigging with chromed slugs and slices, micro jigs and blades often work a treat. Drifting pilchards or small live baits in these zones will regularly produce fast and vicious attacks so be ready to strike and set the hook. Multiple mackerel can often be taken off the same beacon but if the action goes quiet then move on to the next structure and perhaps return to try it again later.
When tuna (mackerel, frigate and longtail) are surface feeding, they can often be tempted with the same approach and lures as mackerel. Longtails will additionally eat a broader array of offerings and can be responsive to vibration baits, stickbaits, sliders, flies, poppers and numerous other offerings. They can also be caught on live and occasionally dead baits around beacons, along current lines and large baitfish conglomerations. Longtails can often be lurking around the fringes of mixed pelagic and baitfish concentrations, attacking fleeing baitfish and slurping up wounded pilchards, whitebait and others left after the onslaught of mackerel and tunas. A well placed cast to a cruising fish can be met with an instant strike. Slow sinking offerings will often be slurped up, especially a baitfish profiled fly. These can be a little harder to present over distance than other offerings however are generally more life-like and sink at a natural rate once in the water. I often use bay baits, surf candies, polar fibre minnows, eyes flies and bay candies however there’s a huge array of good patterns that can produce. An intermediate fly line is a good choice however floating lines and fast sink lines can suffice. A cast-far and strip-quick approach will generally get you in the game. There’s nothing like a rampaging longtail to get your heart racing and your fingers line burnt.
Snapper, sweetlip, cod, morwong, tuskfish and numerous other bottom dwellers will continue to be caught during the warmer months. I often find that some of the better quality snapper are taken during November, even though the numbers are down on the cooler months. The usual locations and techniques will still work with anglers employing both lures and quality baits for their results. The usual grounds generally receive a lot less attention during the warmer months because many anglers believe that snapper are only a winter species. The dawn and dusk periods are a little more important for good results at this time of the year however I have caught big snapper in the middle of the day at times, especially when baitfish numbers have increased dramatically around the bay islands and artificial reefs. Snapper can often be located feeding right off the surface, especially the larger specimens that will rise up through the water column to harass garfish, hardiheads, pilchards, whitebait and other species. Often they may even be found underneath conglomerations of other feeding fish where they will engulf any wounded baitfish left after the onslaught of other species.
In the shallows (3-10m) around the bay islands, snapper will commonly roam therefore you do not have to be on any particular hotspot to be in with a chance. Anglers fishing baits often anchor in a particular area, usually adjacent to some form of submerged structure, ledge or contour line. Hopefully other anglers will have the courtesy to give you a wide berth because noise is the quickest way to deter quality snapper in these shallower waters. Anglers who fish lures will drift through an area, repositioning themselves with the use of electric motors if they have them. I don’t believe it is imperative that you have an electric to fish these zones providing you set up a favourable drift line, keeping in mind the wind and current direction. A GPS mapping system is a big advantage when fishing these zones and will show you the areas with slight bottom contours where baitfish and predatory species are likely to be found. Around the bay islands, a long drift line can generally be anticipated and from here it is just a case of drifting and working your plastics, vibration baits and other lures back with the current. Keep retrieves slow and work the lures throughout the water column and that whack and screaming run will not be too far away.
Tuskfish numbers are generally healthy throughout the warmer months. Although tuskfish are sometimes encountered by anglers chasing other species, specific targeting will heighten results considerably. While tuskies will eat most baits, they definitely have a preference for crabs. Even when using crab imitating plastics I have noticed an increase in the number of tuskfish strikes. For the larger blackspot tuskfish (fish up to 15kg), anglers use whole crabs or even portions of crabs. The three-spot crabs are ideal as they can be taken at any size however if you are using sand or blue-swimmers then they need to be of legal size. Often anglers will glue a hook to the crabs back to allow a live crab to move around unencumbered and keep the hook point proud for maximum penetration. Gear commonly used for these tuskies is usually in excess of 37kg with monofilament preferred over braid as it is less likely that hooks will tear out due to the degree of stretch. Hard-monofilament leaders (60-90kg) reduce the chance of getting rubbed off when these powerful brutes head for the nearest structure. Many anglers will screw down the drags on their reels as tight as they can because you will generally need at least 15kg of drag pressure to be in with any real chance of landing a 10kg plus specimen. Overheads are generally preferred with the low gear ratio ‘old school’ reels such as Penn Senators and Daiwa Sealines being favoured among many serious tuskfish anglers. Large tuskfish are a real challenge and a species that remains on my piscatorial bucket list. Maybe this summer might fix that.
Even though water temperatures have risen over the last few months, anglers will still be able to find a few mulloway in the Brisbane River during November, as well as snapper, bream, threadfin, cod, flathead and numerous other species. Threadfin in particular will be around in numbers, if previous seasons are anything to go by. The lower reaches are where the majority are caught however they will be spread right throughout the system. Although you may need to do a degree more searching than you do in the lower reaches, it is surprising how many ‘threadies’ are caught around the city reaches. Threadfin are commonly found along the declines into the main riverbed, adjacent the numerous jetty and dock pylons and on submerged ledges and other structure particularly in the area from the Gateway Bridge down to the mouth. Anglers with side imaging sounder technology can usually locate them easily as, due to their large air bladders, they tend to show up prominently. A host of other species can also be located in these zones, especially mulloway.
The numerous rock walls in the river offer great homes and ambush locations for estuary cod. These are commonly caught to around 3kg in weight but much larger specimens are about. However most anglers are left with a limp line, friction burnt thumbs and an astonished ‘what-the-hell-was-that’ look on their face after encountering one of these. Estuary cod will hang tight to structure, generally in ambush mode, therefore it is best to work your lures or present your baits close to this structure to heighten chances. Lures which rattle and crawl across the structure will soon get their attention. This can include numerous artificial offerings however I prefer deep diving minnow lures and weedless rigged soft plastics (mainly prawn and shad profiles) for this endeavour.
November is a prime time to be crabbing in the bay, rivers and estuaries. Mud, sand and blue-swimmer crabs can be caught in numbers at times with some well-placed safety pots. The mud crabs are mostly confined to the rivers, creeks and estuaries while the blue-swimmers and sand crabs are more common in the more open sections of the bay and the lower sections of the estuaries and rivers. There are numerous styles of safety pots on the market and all will catch crabs, however there is definitely a variation in the quality of the mesh and framing with some pots deteriorating quite quickly. Well-made pots will last years and serve you well however you will need to keep an eye on them to avoid loss. Most quality pots will cost in excess of $30 and up to $80 but there are a few around the $20 mark that are decent if you are on a budget. Check the restrictions relating to pots which includes labelling and minimum sizes on floats.
Numerous baits can be used including whole fish heads and frames, chicken carcasses, whole mullet or even a few pillies in a wire mesh bag. For muddies, set pots adjacent to collapsed mangrove banks, in deep holes, the mouths of gutters and drains and in the more remote reaches of the creeks and gutters leading out of the mangrove expanse. In the bay, good spots to set pots for blue-swimmer and sand crabs will include the channels between the bay islands, the contours around the margins, deeper channels, the edges of prominent sand banks and deep holes. Don’t set your pots too close to those of the commercial fishers because pots have a habit of disappearing when you do this. Check the regulations relating to minimum sizes of crabs and also bag limits for each as they differ.
With so many possibilities during November, anglers will be spoilt for choice. One thing for certain however is that you will need some good sun protection including hats, buffs, long sleeve shirts and pants and a good sunscreen to survive the onslaught of the sun. Make sure you have a good supply of water also. It isn’t worth spoiling a good day on the water with a case of sunburn or dehydration. When transiting the bay have a spin rod rigged and ready for when that pelagic school appears nearby as you don’t want to miss an opportunity to secure a tasty mackerel or tuna. Setting a few pots can also make a tasty addition to the days catch. The fishing in November can be as hot as the summer sun beating down so slip, slop, slap, slurp and fish to your heart’s content.
The popular locations in the bay will still produce quality snapper throughout November. This one was taken on a Samaki Thumpertail during a family day out with my girls, Jemma and Josie.
Sand crab numbers will be healthy within Moreton Bay during November but check that your crabbing apparatus is within regulation.
The Brisbane River will produce some quality threadfin as well as other species during the warmer months. Aaron catches and releases plenty like this specimen taken from the lower reaches on an array of lures.Reads: 641