Fish early and late
  |  First Published: November 2017

Fishing has been patchy of late, with some awesome catches and other trips coming up short. The calm seas have been heavily used by those wanting to head east and this month should see a continuation of significant periods of flat water. Boating conditions and fishing will hopefully be ideal, though a tad on the warm side. Working your fishing excursions around dawn and dusk and avoiding the heat of day will both improve your catch rate and comfort level.

The reef has been sporadic to say the least. Many boats come home light on for action, while others have found action aplenty. Overnighting has been popular and reasonably productive, though the sharks have wreaked havoc on way too many occasions. The coral trout have turned it on in patches, with some great hauls of quality trout in the mix.

While overnighting certainly improves the comfort level, storms can be a bit of a hazard this month. Make sure you are closely monitoring the horizon and the BOM radar, to avoid getting caught out. Discretion is the better part of valour with these storms, as they can really pack a punch, no matter how small they may appear on the radar.

The two coral reef finfish closures this year are at the start and end of this month. The first is from October 28 to November 1, and will be over already. Keep in mind there is a second closure from November 26-30. The trout often turn it on either side of spawning, so make them a target species if you get out there either side of the new moon. If the weather comes picture perfect right in the middle of the closure, don’t discount a trip chasing mackerel and trevally.

While the Spaniards aren’t usually thick in November, they’re still around and often ‘homer Spaniards’ are hanging around deep water pinnacles. These particularly large specimens don’t migrate, preferring to stay in the same area year round. One ‘homer’ can more than make up for a brace of rat Spaniards, especially in the fight department.

The fishing usually gets patchier as the water temperature rises, but there can be quality large-mouth nannygai around in the deep water, as well as big red emperor and the odd reef mangrove jack. They’re not usually in schooling numbers, but they can make up for a shortfall in numbers with size.

Fish over 7kg are common and it only takes a couple of fish like that to put a smile on the dial of most reef anglers. The odd trip in the past few years has hit the mother lode and come home with bag limits of monster large-mouth and red emperor. There can also be good numbers of smaller, less targeted species, like Moses perch and stripeys on the bite in large numbers and size.

Pelagic enthusiasts will have plenty to hold their attention this month, with the well-healed right into the heavy tackle season, chasing that elusive grander black marlin. Big game anglers will be hoping for a repeat of the 2013 season, where there was a near record number of granders tagged, mostly around the Ribbon Reefs, Opal Ridge and Linden Bank. Those on a more modest budget will still find plenty of action, with mahimahi, wahoo, northern bluefin and yellowfin tuna all around in good numbers.

Inshore waters will be worth a look, especially during the light wind periods. A light, cool, breeze is a little more comfortable than a dead-still, sand fly infested mangrove creek, as the temperatures rise. The inshore reefs, islands, wrecks and wonky holes will be worth a look for school and Spanish mackerel, golden snapper and large-mouth nannygai. These features can fish surprisingly well at this time of year, especially on dusk, early evening, pre-dawn and first light. An added bonus is the conditions on the water are so much more pleasant during these hours.

With barra off the target list for the next three months, there is still plenty to keep estuary anglers interested, with mangrove jack, golden snapper and grunter around in good numbers. With a little planning there’s always a species to target – neap tides, around the 1/4 and 3/4 moon are a good time to focus on golden snapper and the bigger tides. Around the new and full moon is ideal for chasing grunter and mangrove jack. If there’s plenty of bait around, the small to medium sized giant trevally will be moving around the systems causing mayhem. They’re great fighters and an underrated table fish, especially fresh.

If there’s been a storm or early down pour, with enough rain to dirty the water, then it’s well worth putting in a crab pot or two. Without rain however, it can be thin pickings for this delicacy. Barra are still on the menu for those fishing Tinaroo Dam and around the full moon on the 14th is considered one of the best periods all year to chase these monsters. Don’t forget to obtain your Stocked Impoundment Permit before chasing barra in Tinaroo.

The key to successful fishing this month is to make the most of the weather conditions and avoid the heat of the day for the sake of both enjoyment and productivity.


Golden snapper, like this beauty caught by Craig Dayes from Mareeba, will be well worth targeting this month.


Quality red emperor and large-mouth nannygai, like these caught by Jordy Wedrat and Matt Coleing, will be on the bite in the deep water, especially at night.

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