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November Action Heats Up
  |  First Published: October 2009



Hot days, warm nights and favourable currents have resulted in increased water temperatures throughout the South East. This has promoted baitfish activity and naturally pelagic, such as tuna, mackerel, wahoo, mahi mahi, marlin, sailfish and others, are taking advantage of this aquatic smorgasbord.

The semi-protected waters of Moreton Bay can have many pelagic and demersal species on offer for those who venture out. Whilst pelagic activity is on the increase inshore and offshore throughout November there are still plenty of estuarine species to be targeted. If you like a slower pace then try a spot of crabbing.

Let's look at a few of the varied possibilities.

TUNA

Many species of tuna can be caught within Moreton Bay, however the most prevalent are the longtails, mac tuna and frigates. The latter two are often confused as juveniles, due to their similarity in body shape and coloration, but a trained eye can accurately tell them apart. Other tuna species including striped and yellowfin are occasionally caught within the bay but this is not the norm.

Whilst longtails are the desired target of many, mac tuna can provide a lot of fun and a good bait supply. The edibility of mac and frigate tuna is questionable but longtails are prime fare, providing they are prepared properly. The flesh is best eaten raw or immediately after light searing, as this will ensure their juiciness. Cooking all the way through in the manner used for most other fish will see the flesh become dry and difficult to consume.

Some anglers target longtails for food, but most do so for sport as they can often be pedantic to hook and hard to land, making them a real challenge. Longtails will commonly eat most small-profiled, chrome slugs cast in their direction, however they can be extremely fussy and only be interested in offerings of the exact profile to the bait on which they are feeding.

When they are dining on small baitfish, which is sometimes only 1cm in length, I generally achieve better results with small flies such as Felty’s Spratt and Eyes Flies. If you are not proficient with casting a fly rod, then it is often worth trying a small, translucent stickbait plastic rigged on a resin-head jighead. The usual ploy however, is to cast and retrieve 20-30g, chromed slugs and slices. With these offerings, a fast retrieve is essential to excite the tuna’s predatory response and solicit a strike.

The main channels are the places where prominent concentrations of baitfish can usually be found throughout November and, obviously, also where you will find tuna, mackerel and other pelagics. In the bay your best bets are the Rainbow Channel, Pearl Channel, NE Channel, NW Channel and all the other shipping channels. The action can often spill into other areas with Middle Bank (west from Tangalooma), and The Naval Reserve Banks being another productive area at times.

If you are travelling throughout the bay during November then it can often pay to have a high-speed spinning outfit rigged with a 20-30g chrome slug or slice, as surface action can erupt anywhere at any time.

MACKEREL

Like tuna, mackerel can pop up anywhere, at any time, within the bay, even on the shallow flats at times. Only time will tell whether the spotted mackerel will turn up during November or December, as results on this species were very poor within the bay last season.

With any luck there will again be football-field-size schools of spotted and school mackerel smashing and slashing their way to gluttony on hapless baitfish this month. At the end of the fishing day, hopefully there will be a few white fillets to whack on the barbeque or some great experiences to recall.

Mackerel will take the same chrome lures as the tuna. Although wire leaders will almost guarantee every razor-toothed mackerel you hook will be landed, the initial hook-up rate will be much lower and at times non-existent. It is best to use a 10-15kg fluorocarbon leader and sacrifice a few lures in favour of hook-ups, than to use wire and have no hook-ups at all.

If prominent surface activity is not present, try for a few school or spotted mackerel around the many beacons in the northern section of the bay. These fish can be targeted with either pilchards fished around the beacons towards the tidal change or chrome slugs jigged around the bases of the beacons and cranked back flat-chat during the tidal run.

ESTUARIES

Anglers fishing in the estuaries are always in with a good opportunity during November as the warmer water brings an influx of baitfish and other species into these shallow breeding areas. Apart from the ever-present flathead, bream and whiting, there are also species such as mangrove jack, estuary cod, trevally, threadfin, grunter and other species to be caught.

Live baits are especially productive for the better quality specimens and can often produce some surprising captures at times. Mullet, prawns and herring are the most common offerings. When soaked adjacent to rock bars, rock walls, ledges, creek mouths, eddies and man-made structures, live baits can work exceptionally well, often accounting for the better quality specimens.

During the hot summer nights, fishing with these baits around lighted areas, such as bridges, will often produce some great fishing because species such as jacks, cod and trevally will regularly hunt baitfish and prawns in this precinct. In the Brisbane River, the lights around the bridges and jetties, from the city reaches up and creates a great situation for targeting threadfin and whaler sharks. The threadies can be caught on a wide variety of lures including Trans Ams, Mask 70, Atomic Prongs, blades and many others, as well as live baits, especially prawns.

SHARKS

Sharks in the Brisbane River will respond best to large live mullet or a small catfish suspended a few feet below a float. These sharks, colloquially known as river whalers, are found in all the river systems but are especially abundant in the Brisbane and Logan rivers.

Other systems including the Caboolture River, Pine River, Bells Creek, Coochin Creek, Hussey Creek, Cabbage Tree Creek and Bremer River will also produce a few sharks on live baits and at times on dead offerings, especially mullet fillets and tuna strips.

In Moreton Bay, shark fishing has a long and prestigious history. Many world records have been set for whalers, white and tiger sharks over the years, and several of them still stand. These days it is mainly the whalers to around 100kg that are targeted, however, recent Fisheries law prohibits the taking of any shark over 1.5m. I am not sure what the justification was for this law because there is definitely no shortage of sharks in this area.

Over twenty sharks tagged in a day isn’t extraordinary for someone who knows how to target them. The small number of sharks taken by recreational fishers each year is miserly compared to that accidentally or purposely killed by commercial fishing practices.

Catching sharks in the bay is easy and a lot of fun. I mainly use 4kg monofilament line and manage to land plenty of sharks to over 20kg with ease. Generally, it is best to just float out a whole gar into a tuna oil berley slick whilst drifting in the spoil ground out from St. Helena Island and other areas. Most sharks encountered are less than 20kg but specimens to several hundred kilograms often show up. Most areas wide of the bay islands, prominent channels and the mouth of the Brisbane River are all worth a try.

CRABS

November is a great month to set a few pots with mud and sand crabs being fairly abundant. Set pots in the deeper holes and along collapsed mangrove banks in the estuaries for muddies.

The mouths of small feeder creeks and hard to access spots generally produce the best results, however it is surprising how good the crabbing can be in some of the canals and the suburban creeks, such as Tingalpa Creek. Kayakers can often access the smaller gutters and over grown creeks where access to a boat is limited and therefore they have a good advantage.

Sand Crabs can be caught around the mouths of the rivers feeding into the bay but are more prominent around the bay islands. Setting a few pots along the ledges and channels in the bay will generally pay dividends.

Any oily or strongly smelling bait will work well for sand and mud crabs. Ensure all your crabbing apparatus abides by Fisheries law, as there are regular checks. One of the good things about crabbing is that it can be done in conjunction with a day's fishing, however it pays not to venture too far from your pots, as theft is common.

ARTIFICIAL REEFS

Both the Curtin and Harry Atkinson artificial reefs are worth fishing during November and although snapper are supposed to be a winter species there are still some quality specimens to be caught, especially at night.

Jigging soft plastics and soaking live or fresh baits is definitely worth a try. The Curtin Artificial is likely to produce yellowtail kingfish, cobia, trevally, cod and several other demersal species. Live baiting may even produce the occasional large longtail or mackerel. There has been the occasional Spanish mackerel caught here, as well as black marlin and yellowfin tuna over the years so it can be a real surprise package.

The Harry Atkinson is most likely to produce snapper, grassy sweetlip, yellow sweetlip, cod and a few other demersals but occasionally mackerel, tuna and yellowtail kingfish are also here.

Best results will come at night and both spots can fish well when not crowded.

Although not artificial, the Benowa Track Grounds north of Tangalooma can hold a good number of varied species at times. It can be fished with baits but I have had better success drifting and jigging plastics. Snapper are the main catch and longtails, trevally, cobia and several other species are also serious offerings.

OFFSHORE

The bottom fishing can still be very good in offshore areas however it is usually the pelagic activity that receives the most attention. Billfish, especially juvenile black marlin and sailfish, are the main target of game and sport anglers.

Wahoo would generally be the next prominent target, and other species, such as mahi mahi, yellowfin and Spanish mackerel are also well received. All can be taken on trolled offerings and live baiting will work around condensed bait schools and other areas where prominent baitfish activity is located. Locations such as Hutchinson Shoals, The Trench and around The Group (off Point Lookout) are some of the more popular and productive spots.

The shallows around Flinders Reef, Robert’s Shoals and Brennan’s Shoals will often produce a Spanish mackerel, trevally or yellowtail kingfish on rigged swimming baits such as gar, sauries, pike and school mackerel. Trolling 15-20cm resin-head skirted lures such as Bahamas, Pakulas, Hollowpoint, Meridians and Black Bart is the best ploy for most billfish species, except for sailfish, which prefer a rigged skipping gar or rigged swimming gar or split-tail mullet bait.

These resin-head skirted lures will also account for most other pelagics, however weighted-head skirted lures allow higher troll speeds and can sometimes produce better results for wahoo and tuna. Bibbed and bibless minnows can work well for a host of pelagic species and it often pays to mix it up a little in your trolling spread.

DAYS AHEAD

With so much and more on offer over November, there is definitely some incentive to get out and about on the water. Warm days can take their toll on your body so make sure you drink plenty of water and slip, slop, slap.

Early morning, late afternoon and night sessions make it a much more pleasant experience, however trolling for pelagics, especially billfish, often sees the best action around the change of the tide during the day.

Whether you are anchored up a tiny mangrove creek tending your crab pots, soaking a few baits from the bank or trolling the shelf for billfish, play it safe, be courteous to others and enjoy your time on the water.

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