The fishing has been pretty hot with just about everyone catching fish around the place. The water stated to warm up in early to mid October and since then the inshore action has improved out of sight.
It was down as low as 14° in August and September and the fishing was dead. The inshore reefs have now been producing regular catches of snapper and morwong for the charter guys and most recreational anglers have had little trouble rounding up a few reds or mowies.
The backs of the beaches are fishing well for flathead although if you want the better fish you need to go a bit wider.
Most reef systems in 20m to 40m are producing reds with occasional plague of damn leatherjackets biting up lines and rigs. We've had a few days when you couldn't get a bait down and we've ended up moving elsewhere and, on one occasion, calling it a day after losing a heap of gear to jackets.
A bit closer to shore and the pelagics are about, with salmon and tailor cruising along the backs of beaches and headland washes. We've been into them down around Penguin Head on a few occasions as well as around the Crookhaven River entrance and the Coal Wharf.
Look for birds working and you can just about be sure they'll be on salmon getting stuck into bait schools. Chuck just about any small metal lure around the edges of the working fish and you'll hook up.
We've been using 25g Snipers but the old 20g Raider is also a safe bet.
The salmon don't go to waste around our house these days. We use a couple to make fish cakes and the rest get frozen and used for mako baits. We never keep more than half a dozen and release the rest.
The rivers and estuaries have been fishing well for several months.
The Shoalhaven River is turning on some reasonable flathead and some good blackfish around Greenwell Point, despite copping an absolute flogging from the netters. We used to be able to catch some reasonable jewies between Greenwell Point and Shoalhaven Heads at night with squid baits and even lures. These days I wouldn't even bother.
Just about every night there are pros working the river, netting anything that moves. The poor old Shoalhaven is one of the few remaining South Coast estuaries that can be netted and it's paying the price big time.
On the other hand, St Georges Basin has been pro-free for several years and is going from strength to strength. The Basin has been turning on some excellent bream and flathead for a few years but over the last couple it’s turned up some big tailor and even snapper to a couple of kilos.
In October and November it produced some nice jewies to 12kg for anglers fishing larger plastics. I reckon the Basin would have to be one of the South Coast’s most productive estuaries and a great success story about just how good a system can fish once you kick out the pros and their nets.
The fishing out wide hasn't been too shabby over recent months. We had a good run in September with three sharks in our first three trips for the game season.
On the first trip Brad Braddick scored a 121.5kg mako for his first.
The second trip, my eldest daughter Elspeth scored her first shark after losing a couple last spring. Her fish went 163.5kg on 15kg and she was a happy girl after a 40 minute battle.
The best was yet to come, as we were to find out the next weekend. Drifting and berleying along the shelf, we had a big fish up in the trail after just half an hour. It sat back down the trail but after 15 minutes finally ate half a striped tuna on a 14/0 Seamaster. Young daughter Rebecca was on the rod and within minutes she had 200m of 15kg line out on a fish that headed deep.
It was a slugfest for the next hour with Bec upping the drag over 6kg to lift that fish while I moved the boat to change angles. Bec’s friend Helena Allen, who'd never been outside in a boat before, videoed the fight and plied her Bec's with water to keep the fluids up.
After an hour and three quarters, I grabbed the trace and we realised it was a big whaler and a bloody good one on 15kg. Two 7” flyers went in and Bec had a potential IGFA world junior female record at 238kg. If Bec's fish is approved she will join her brother Andrew as holder of an IGFA world record so here's hoping.
We got those sharks in water around 16°. It warmed up to 19° in mid-October and in came yellowfin and a heap of albacore. Most of the albies were 4kg to 6kg and a heap were tagged by most boats and quite a few kept for the barbecue.
The old Rapala X Raps were by far the most productive lures on the albacore and smaller yellowfin. Most boats are running the XR Mag 30s for their yellowfin but Rapala also make a 20 and a 15 which can be trolled on lighter tackle. The 20s did most of the damage on the albacore back in October.
A couple of 40kg to 60kg yellowfin were also caught along with the odd striped marlin so things are looking pretty good for a blinder of a game season. Let's hope so after last Summers' dismal showing.
As a final note I'd just like to wish all our readers a Merry Christmas and hope your New Year brings many enjoyable and productive fishing trips. If you're travelling over the break, take it easy on the roads. If you're fishing with your family or friends enjoy the experience and make the most of it.
Elspeth Finney with a 2kg salmon from Jervis Bay that ate a Sniper lure.
A young angler with a good-sized leather jacket taken on a charter aboard Rathlin II out of Merimbula, on the Far South Coast.
Rebecca Finney with her pending world junior IGFA record whaler shark of 238kg on 15kg line.Reads: 2032