Jacks rampant in the estuaries
  |  First Published: November 2003

NOVEMBER is an interesting month to go fishing. There are plenty of options, particularly in the estuaries, and summer is just around the corner.


November sees the water temperatures in the estuaries rise by a couple of degrees and the usual summer species start to move around more. It is also a month with frequent afternoon storms and a bit of rain. This year water temps increased to normal November temperatures in September, and constant hot northerlies and dry conditions seem to have induced early activity of species like great trevally, estuary cod and mangrove jacks. This month these species should be very catchable.

By November most of the big flathead have spawned and moved out of the Seaway and Jumpinpin to places unknown. The water on the top of the flats also warms up a lot which seems to bring on the whiting and sees flathead numbers drop off a bit.

This month is an excellent one to fish hard-bodied lures for mangrove jacks in the Nerang River. Trolling the bridges and rock bars at dusk with deep-diving minnows is a reliable way to get hooked up to big jacks up to 60cm long. Getting them out is often a lot more difficult than hooking them though.

Good lures to target jacks with include Mann’s Stretch 20s, Tilsan Bass, Halco Crazy Deeps and Reidy’s Goulbourn Jack. Troll into the tide and don’t be afraid to get the lure into very tight cover. Snags are a part of the game, but most of the lost lures result from big fish boring into heavy cover. The bust-ups can be spectacularly fast, leaving anglers looking perplexed at a chunk of limp line. A run-out tide at dusk is generally the best time, and weekdays tend to fish better than weekends due to the decrease in boat traffic.

As well as the Nerang, the south arm of the Coomera, the Pimpama and the rock walls and marinas in the Broadwater are also worth a look for jacks. The bycatch of jack trolling includes GTs, estuary cod, the odd mulloway and big flathead. Jacks, however, are the main prize, and every one caught is generally the result of several hours’ work.

Another way to catch these same species (except perhaps flathead) is to cast poppers around oyster leases, rock walls and rock bars. This gives plenty of exciting surface strikes and is surprisingly effective in the right spots. Gold Coast jacks are very aggressive surface feeders at night, late in the afternoon and at dawn. Many of the boils which anglers assume are trevally are in fact jacks. That was a very pleasant surprise to me a few years back, and since then most of the jacks I’ve caught have been on poppers.

In the Seaway and around Jumpinpin, November is a good time to target mulloway on livebaits and possibly soft plastics. The mouth of Swan Bay, Kalinga Bank and the mouth of Duck Creek are all good places to try at high tide, just when the current flow slows right down.

Whiting are also worth a session or two. Squirt worms, shrimp and small soldier crabs are generally the best baits. Yabbies are OK if there has been a recent fresh. As the month gets hotter the whiting catches improve.


November is a very fickle month on the offshore grounds. The first trickles of the East Australian current start to move in towards the end of the month, and with it arrive dolphinfish and small black marlin. Each season we seem to see more and more sailfish in this area, especially east of Tweed and Jumpinpin. The first of these are often seen in November, and it’s a good time to go for an exploratory troll in a south-easterly. If the season is going to be a good one, quite a few small black marlin are seen in November, and the dolphinfish generally precede them by a few weeks. At this time of year I generally troll lures so I can cover plenty of water. I usually start around the Cotton Reef east of Jumpinpin as this area tends to hold a lot of bait. If there are big schools of pilchards we often change tactics and use livebait.

One of our projects this season is to jig up a black marlin on a soft plastic shad. That’s a bit different from catching a flathead! There have already been plenty of billfish caught this way, and a big soft plastic shad twitched around a bait school should be a good way to get a bite from anything from a tuna to a cobia to a black marlin. At the very least, it will be fun trying.

Bottom fishing tends to shut down as the water warms up and the current increases. Jigging for amberjacks and yellowtail kings is still a good option on the Kingy Reef, located in 50 fathoms north-east of the Seaway. At this spot a 300g jig gets down quickly on braid, even in heavy current.

There will be a few squire and small snapper as well as pearl perch for bait fishermen on the 24, 36 and 50 fathom reefs, but the current can make it tough. Rosy jobfish and pigfish are another two common species on the wider reefs in November.

On the inshore reefs around Palm Beach and Mermaid a few cobia show up in November. 10 years ago this was a very predictable run of big fish, especially on the small reef just off Snapper Rocks. The past few seasons have seen a lot more cobia in the winter and less in the spring.

There are often small schools of tuna just off the Seaway on the edge of the run-out tide water this month. These are mostly frigates and small macks, with the odd bigger longtail reported at times. Tuna spinning is great fun, and now is a good time to stock up on bait and berley for the coming mackerel season.

1) Now is a great time to target mangrove jacks in the Nerang River.

2) A small black marlin. If these are around in November it’s usually a sign that the season will be good.

3) Dolphinfish should arrive towards the end of the month.

4) A cobia comes aboard.

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