The stills of November
  |  First Published: November 2015

When Cape York brews hotter than most are prepared to stand, many of the locals start coming out of the woodwork. As much as the stillness and heat of November drive many away from the Cape, this can be one of the best for fishing, diving and boating.

This might be the month you see small boats shooting miles and miles offshore from communities and tiny settlements along the East Coast. Fishing and hunting, gathering the seasonal bounties of late spring.

A few days of calm weather and these East Coast estuaries get so clear, flying over them in a helicopter gives a telescopic view. Stingrays, crocs and sharks can be seen patrolling the sandy shallows, turtles and dugong gliding over sandy reef-flat country.

Walking the many creek mouths of Cape York can be particularly rewarding this time of year. By using poppers, shallow divers, soft plastics and vibes, all manner of species can be caught. Queenfish and trevally of all shapes and sizes will pass through the mouths of even the tiniest creeks in Cape York. Tussling with either of these two on light spin outfits is a thrilling experience.

Add structure to the equation at this time of year and those oyster-encrusted rocks can yield jacks, golden snapper, cod, stripies, tuskfish and all those that hang around the sandy outskirts such as grunter, tarpon and giant herring.

Early morning sessions will almost always be the most productive of the day. With not a breath of air on the water, every ripple, every shadow, every glint of silver reflected in the sunlight provides welcome clues for an angler. Seeing a bow wave after your popper or multiple fish chasing a lure in crystal clear water is what is best about November.

Offshore the big boats will be out chasing black marlin and sailfish. Some of the giant black marlin that make the Ribbon Reefs area famous throughout the fishing world will be alive with boats and baits. Basically the whole food chain is in full swing with most tropical speedsters on offer.

Fishing and snorkelling the shallow coral lagoons all the way north from Cooktown up to around Cape Grenville would take 10 lifetimes. But little glimpses above and below water on my many trips between these two points have been colourful indeed. This stretch of the northern Barrier Reef is the jewel in the crown of remoteness.

Every colour conceivable is represented by the fish, crustaceans, molluscs and corals of the reef. Dazzling specimens such as red emperor, footballer trout, maori sea perch, Napolean wrasse and barramundi cod mesmerise all who see them in their coral lairs.

Red bass are ready to harass almost anything in this neck of the woods. A stray baitfish night or day best be wary of a pack of hungry red bass. Spangled emperor, sweetlip and goatfish will be sweeping around the gravelly fringes, picking up scraps.

Even above water, the reef can be crystal clear this time of year. Simply peering down will get clarity to about 8-10m. A rule of thumb comes into play when fishing reef country, just look for bait and life until you find it. Fishing plastics, poppers and shallow divers up on top of the shallow reefs can be remarkably productive. This is no time for the gently-gently technique.

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