Now that we’re well into the hotter and steamy part of the year, you should have dusted off your old favourite lures and have been hitting the banks of one of the many coastal tributaries in our region.
Lurefishing comes into its own at this time of year, and can be one of the most effective ways of bumping into one of our tenacious tropical species. In early October the water temperature jumped over the magical 25-26 mark, which automatically meant action. Many locals reaped immediate rewards by simply jumping in the tinny and cruising the banks, flicking lures amongst the snags and at the entrances of small creek run-offs. Lurefishing allows you to cover a lot more ground, and ultimately means fish in the creel.
The mangrove jack are going off at the moment, barra have been providing some brilliant action, the giant trevally have been consistent along the channel edges and the odd king salmon has enthralled lure fishos. It’s illegal to target barra from November 1 to February 1, but the jacks make up for it – and you can expect them to get bigger and meaner over the next few months. A 50cm+ mangrove jack smashing a lure packs more curry than a beef vindaloo.
Do date the shallow diving lures have produced the better results, as the fish have enjoyed feeding closer to the surface, frolicking in the warm sunlight. The same applies very early in the morning or at dusk. For lurefishing in the middle of the day in the coming month, I recommend going deeper with your lure selection. Fish tend to go into a bit of a slumber in the warmer parts of the day, preferring to sit in the shade under a submerged log or in the cool depths of deep bank shaded by mangroves. You need to be able to reach down to them and tweak a slow twitching lure right under their noses.
Remember to try to fish 90% of your lure in the strike zone and 10% retrieving it back to boat. In other words, cast your lure right in amongst a snag or creek run-off. 90% of the lure time in the water should be spent here. Quickly wind the handle once or twice to get your lure to its desired depth and then twitch, dance and jerk the lure in very, very short strokes with a pause before repeating the process. Once the lure is out of the strike zone, wind it in quickly and go at it again. The longer you can work the lure in the desired spot, the more time the fish have to respond and your strike rate will improve out of sight. Your ability to know and work a certain lure is very important in this instance and only comes with experience.
The following are some of the best times to lure fish during November.
• The days leading into the new moon, which arrives on November 13.
• The days leading into the full moon, which arrives on November 27.
• The dropping tides in the morning, before it gets too hot in the middle of the day.
• The first turn of the incoming tides in the middle to late afternoon.
• The hours leading into a tropical thunderstorm, when the barometric reading drops suddenly. The fish seem to sense this and feed actively, no matter what the tides are doing.
• The run-off creeks 24-48 hours after solid rain. These are fish magnets for a food supply.
If you only get the chance to fish during the neap tides, focus along sandbars and flats amongst those single-stranded and multi-clumped mangroves.
Lure selection is personal, but the general rule is to fish more natural colours in clearer water and go brighter as the water gets murkier. Just be sure the lure’s hooks are of good quality. If they bend slightly with the pressure of a pinch between your thumb and forefinger, it’s probably an inferior product (and there are plenty out there). At this time of year I recommend sticking to 3-4” lures in varying depths, but don't be scared to upsize if you know the fish are bashing and crashing at a certain location.
When lurefishing it’s important to have equipment that’s up to the task, or our tropical species will make a mess of it. Visit a reputable tackle shop and be prepared to spend at least $200 for your rod and reel outfit. Be prepared to top up your reel with some braided non-stretch line – it has enormous capabilities amongst heavy timber – and listen to guys in the shop. Your tackle store owner should be able to tell you where you should be setting your drag. 30-50lb line should see you able to set the drag closer to full on that initial hit. Once you drag the fish out of the danger zone, you can shift the drag lower to allow for runs in open water.
Once you have spent the money, don't let it go to waste – practice your lure casting. When practicing in the backyard, keep at it until you can land a lure on a dinner plate from at least 15m away. The overhead casting technique is far superior to a side arm action. It takes a bit of guts when using an overhead reel to avoid getting an overrun, but when the adjustments are made to reel according to weight of the lure, the accuracy becomes paramount. Punch the lure hard into your target zone and don't be scared to get the occasional snag. You know how the old saying goes – if you're not getting snagged, you aren’t where the fish are!
Good luck, and if you apply any of the above I’m sure you'll have something to smile about after spending some hot and dusty hours amidst the sandfly brigade of our mangrove systems.
1) This mangrove jack was caught aboard Fish 1 Sportfishing. Jacks are prolific at the moment, and will get bigger as November kicks in.Reads: 408