Go all in for marlin
  |  First Published: November 2017


There’s a general feel around the traps that we might be in for a more traditional build up to the wet season this time around. Some indicators are already in place. The days are definitely warm and muggy, we’ve already seen a bit of good rainfall around the place and water temperatures are high.

This time of year, it’s all about marlin fishing. There is a strong contingency of boats from all over Australia working the waters from Cairns to Lizard Island. By the start of October, we started to see a shift in momentum with a few black marlin turning up, although there have been miles between fish. Many have been around the 100-200lb range with a few tags put into 500lb models.

Some crews have resorted to fishing wider of the shelf and have managed some blue marlin as well. No doubt, catch rates will improve considerably. With the Lizard Island tournament just completed, there’s an indicator of how the season is fairing so far. We also have the Port Douglas Marlin Challenge running from 10-13 November with some good tides at hand.

A lot of vessels will leave the top of the Ribbon Reefs and venture down to the Opal Ridge and Linden Bank grounds, which have a reputation for big bites in November. Being the 50th anniversary since the first 1000lb was caught off Cairns, it would be fitting to see a host of big girls tagged and released this season.

There’s been great light tackle action also on the marlin grounds on the shelf with big wahoo and Spanish mackerel cruising around. Yellowfin tuna are in too, which will help entice the marlin to stay in the vicinity. Inside the reef, reasonable numbers of Spanish mackerel, northern bluefin and mac tuna are about. Poppers and trolling techniques have been productive on the giant trevally on calm flat days.

On the reef, numbers of fish have been ticking over nicely with some bumper days on the large-mouth nannygai. Other than this, it’s been an even spread of quality reef fish including coral trout, red emperor, small-mouth nannygai, gold spot and tea-leaf trevally, spangled and long-nosed emperor, Moses perch, cobia and sweetlip.

There’s been a continuation of exotic fish turning up which have included barramundi cod (caught and released), baldy bream and footballer and passionfruit trout. Notably, they’ve been caught in and around the same terrain. With the first spawning just completed we should see a burst of action, especially for coral trout that went into lock jaw for a brief period prior to this. The next reef closure for spawning is later in the month.

As time progresses, day time fishing will drop down half a gear. It’s a good time for a night fish, especially for the reds if you pick the right weather. Inshore, with nice clean water on offer, fantastic queenfish have been up and about at river mouths, beaches and headlands. School mackerel are in tow taking advantage of the healthy bait supply on offer.

In the rivers and estuaries, barra picked up during October. Now with the closure in effect for three months, they must be released. Mangrove jack and golden snapper have remained steady and are definitely next in line to target. The deeper holes are also providing good action with big schools of tarpon holding office. The movement of the tide has been accompanied by mid sized giant trevally at times too. With days expected to get warmer, low light periods and night fishing will produce the best results moving forward.

November generally produces stunner weather, a tad warm, but there’s a plethora of fishing opportunities to be had up here in Far North QLD from the calm waters inshore right out to the blue highway out past the shelf, and everything in between.


November is prime time for big black marlin in Far North QLD. 

Photo courtesy of Jake Wyatt from Reel Chase Charters.



The Port Douglas Marlin Challenge is running from November 10-13. It’s been 50 years since the first 1000lb catch off Cairns, it’ll be fitting to see some big ones caught and released this month.

Photo courtesy of Jake Wyatt.

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