TNQ’s weather can be at its best during November provided you don’t mind the heat. It’s either balmy, hot, light northerlies or a cooler, screaming southeasterly at this time of year, with the first of the summer storms rolling in when conditions are right.
The bluewater is on everyone’s minds when the seas are flat, and when the fish are interested it makes for exciting fishing. Just watch out for the northwesterlies that can spring up. They a particularly nasty wind and they seem to put the fish off the bite, so it’s worth looking at other fishing options when the wind is in the northwest quadrant.
Don’t forget the second of the annual coral reef finfish closures from 14-22 November when it is illegal to target reef species. This leaves pelagics, and I suggest anglers stick to trolling as the best way of avoiding accusations of targeting reef fish.
There is still plenty of time left to chase reef fish before the closures. Coral trout will be in an aggressive mood with many anglers registering their bag limits last year. Most specimens were 3-4kg, which are trophy-sized trout.
Last November good numbers of Spanish mackerel were taking trolling rigged garfish, floated pilchards and live baits around the inshore reefs and islands. The local wrecks around Double Island produced good fish, including spotted mackerel, trevally and cobia, on high speed metal jigs. The calm conditions will often see the pelagics come right in along the coast, so even land-based anglers can target them at places like Palm Cove Jetty.
Estuary fishing is red hot in November with plenty of good-sized mangrove jack, fingermark and barramundi on the chew. Remember, with the closed season in force, barra must be returned immediately to the water unharmed. It’s illegal to target them during the closed season but it’s difficult to avoid them when chasing jacks and fingermark. Live sardines or mud herring are the ideal baits for jacks and fingermark. Rig the sardine with a hook size appropriate to your bait size. Only use enough weight to hold bottom and a long mono trace on a dropper rig, to allow the bait to swim freely. Live prawns, mullet and squid are also excellent live baits when you can get them. If the weather is hot then target deeper snags and rock bars, as the warm water can make the fish a bit quiet.
Small GTs are common in the estuaries in November and make for great fun on lures or an incidental by catch when targeting more desirable species. Grunter and salmon are also on the chew and are popular targets with the bait soakers. The flats out the front of the Cairns Esplanade are a popular destination, but any flats area with yabby banks or a bit of shale or weed are worth a look, especially for grunter. Fresh prawns, mullet, gar or sardines are the top baits for these species and the bigger fish generally prefer live baits. Fishing light (10-15lb) and well away from the boat are some of the key tactics for success with these species. A heavy trace isn’t needed for grunter but salmon require a 30-40lb leader to stop them wearing through the trace. It pays to have a bet each way, with one line using a heavy leader and another without, at least until you find out what is on the bite.
For anglers who like to fish higher up the food and dollar chain, giant black marlin will be patrolling the Continental Shelf off Cairns in November and the world famous heavy tackle season will be in full swing. Plenty of granders (over 1000lb) are tagged annually, and with all the rain earlier this year and the massive amounts of bait around it’s shaping as another record season on the beaked beauties.
For anglers with smaller ambitions and wallets there are usually plenty of good-sized dolphinfish and wahoo on the outer reefs, with Hope Reef fishing particularly well this time last year. They will take trolled lures and rigged baits. Spanish mackerel are still around in good numbers on the outer reefs and these three species make for great sportfishing and eating.
Tinaroo barra will be on the chew, especially in the lead up to the full moon on 5 November. This will coincide with the annual Tinaroo Barra Bash on 4-5 November. Trolling large deep diving lures like Vipers, Killalure Barra Baits and Mann’s Stretch 12s and 20s has traditionally proven a very successful approach. Using mouth almighty as live bait is another popular and successful approach used by the bait soakers.
All up, November is traditionally an excellent month for fishing the north but as always it is greatly influenced by the prevailing weather conditions. For optimum results plan your piscatorial pursuits around the full moon on 5th and the new moon on 21st, and may the weather gods be smiling.Reads: 1050