It’s so good to finally have all that festive season hoo-ha out of the way and to be able to concentrate on fishing.
At this time of year, super-early starts are prerequisites for most of the fishing I partake in, and a big night on the turps with family and friends can make this downright hard work.
Getting an early start when heading over the continental shelf is a good idea, especially if those dreaded nor’-easters are forecast.
Being out wide before the wind gets up at least gives you a couple of comfortable trolling hours before the weather turns sour, which is an almost inevitable consequence of chasing game fish at this time of year.
Some great marlin action has been occurring recently, with healthy numbers of striped marlin and the odd black over 100kg taking lures.
With water around 23° mark and an abundance of baitfish like striped tuna, frigate mackerel and slimy mackerel on the shelf, it should continue to be a bountiful time out there this month.
Loads of really small mahi mahi have also been present and trolled slowly; they make great live bait for big marlin. Dollies around 1kg to 2kg have been visible just below the surface sporadically throughout a day’s trolling but they have been too small to take marlin lures.
Mahi mahi grow really quickly so by the time you read this they would have put on at least a kilo or two.
Recent trips wide have also been yielding good numbers of school yellowfin tuna to 20kg along with a few stray albacore in the colder patches of water, although I suspect the albies will now be well south of here.
A number of rat yellowfin around 6kg have also been nailing diving minnows and Bluewater Squidgies. It has been a number of years since I have seen such small yellowfin, which is a great sign for the future.
These days we tend to run our lure spread to cater for tuna rather than marlin. A combination of diving minnows like Rapala X-Raps, Halco Laser Pros or similar and a mix of sizes of Bluewater Squidgíes generally are called on.
If there are marlin about we will run only one big pusher off an outrigger.
We have experienced enough hard-fought marlin battles to sate us over the years but a really big tuna still eludes us, so that is where our focus will be this season.
Inshore and off the rocks you can expect some small kingfish, frigate mackerel and hordes of bonito.
Working a mix of lures in various sizes and types will work on any given day. Metals from 20g up to 85g, shallow-running minnows, Slug-Go style soft plastics and poppers all get a cast most days in order to find out what the fish are feeding on that day.
Over the past three seasons I have also been experimenting with jigging-style lures off the rocks. There has been some success on quiet days, producing kings and bonito at times when nothing else works.
Knife-style jigs with single assist hooks can be bounced along the bottom in a series of ripping jigs and pauses with surprisingly few snags, whereas trebled lures foul the bottom every time.
Even if it doesn’t produce a hook-up, a jig can simply raise lacklustre fish into attack mode and bring them to your awaiting live bait.
I can clearly remember the first time I cast a big garfish-like 120g jig that raised five kings of 25kg to 30kg right to our feet.
They then proceeded to take every single live bait on the ledge in quick succession and despite coaxing three fish to the gaff, they all won their freedom in spectacular circumstances. Big kings off the rocks are the ultimate beasts.
Off the sand, action should be nearing its best with quality whiting, bream and dart ready to nibble on fresh beach worms.
Some big tailor have been taking white metal lures cast into the surf and the ever-present salmon will also be on patrol.
Jewfish from 4kg up to 20kg should be a chance for the nocturnally inclined and it is hard to go past freshly caught squid as the go-to bait.
Still, flesh baits of almost any kind that is fresh will also work. Slimy mackerel, bonito, mullet, yellowtail, pike, frigate mackerel, salmon and tailor have all produced jewfish for me over the years so they really aren’t the fussy feeders that they are portrayed as.
The heavy rain of last year resulted in Lake Conjola and other lakes in the area opening to the sea (with assistance from excavators) prior to Christmas, hopefully cutting a more useful entrance.
Conjola was so full of fresh water prior to opening that the car park at the ramp where I used to launch my boat was knee-deep and I saw toadfish and small bream searching for a feed over the grass – I’m talking hard-leaf buffalo, not seagrass!
Joes Creek at Batemans Bay filled to the brim before naturally bursting into the Bay, releasing a toxic blend of deoxygenated, black water into the ocean that resulted in a shocking large-scale bream kill.
Along Corrigans Beach, from the entrance at the breakwall right up to the rocks at the south end, we counted an average of a dead bream to every step we paced. Corrigans is a fairly long beach so this added up to thousands of dead bream, not to mention how many would have flushed out to sea.
On further inspection, inside Joes Creek we could see hundreds more bream littering the banks all around Birdland Animal Park as well as the opposite side adjacent to the caravan park.
I never would have believed that little stinky creek could hold such vast bream numbers and it is a real tragedy to see so many fish gone to waste.
In future times of heavy rain this creek would really benefit from excavation rather than letting nature take its course. I would not want to see such a thing happen again.
Estuary fishing will be a winner this month with big flathead prowling the flats, as James Gale recently discovered when this fish ate his bream plastic. James was towed in all directions in the canoe for nearly 10 minutes by this big girl, which was promptly released.
Lake Conjola’s entrance after the deluge. Everyone hopes it will remain open for longer than recent dredging efforts produced.
Now is the time to head wide for some awesome game action, with plenty of yellowfin tuna on offer.Reads: 3411