Now is the time to get serious about your fishing, especially if you are keen on chasing pelagic species. The ocean is now alive with all manner of game fish, from the ocean rocks to beyond the continental shelf and everywhere in between.
The sea surface temperature is at a peak, with some seriously warm pockets of 24°-plus water and the promise of a chance of pinning a tropical rarity on lures or live bait.
I won’t be surprised if we see a few Spanish and spotted mackerel, longtail tuna or possibly a cobia caught on the South Coast this month. Rumours have already been rife with hushed whispers of such fish so it will be very interesting to see how March unfolds.
Back in 1999 we experienced a unique season with a warmer than normal ocean coupled with flooding rains in Queensland and the NSW North Coast that seemed to force the pelagic fish further down the coast than normal.
Cyclone activity pushing down the coast, rather than across the land, also attributed to the ’99 run of fish. Spotted mackerel to a whopping 10kg were caught off the Bay, the odd cobia and more longtail tuna than I have seen in the following 10 years put together hammered the daylights out of the local baitfish populace.
Similarities to 1999 are unfolding, with the tragic flooding of Queensland setting the scene.
Anglers working the continental shelf may see some wahoo or even sailfish if we continue to experience such warm water.
If not, the current run of bull mahi mahi will certainly keep game anglers stoked. Fish over 20kg have been landed recently and I even heard some rumours of a 30kg fish boated.
Junior game angler Josh Hay weighed a stunning 18.5kg mahi mahi in the Tollgate Classic game tournament in January. It was just one of the many he and his father, Sam, have been catching lately.
School yellowfin tuna have still been present out wide but generally only after a few days of the nor’-east winds that lower the temperature several degrees.
Striped marlin numbers have been pretty good, too, with a few good blacks for good measure. One lucky crew managed to hook eight blacks in one day, after locating them gorging on a tightly packed school of slimy mackerel.
Inshore, kingfish numbers have been OK off Moruya and Durras, with fish averaging 80cm a welcome change from the incessant undersized fish we have been enduring for far too many years.
Getting through insane numbers of bonito to actually hook a king is the challenge, though.
Andrew Badullovich has been putting his lightweight fly rod to good use on the kingfish and having a ball sight casting to 80cm bullets.
Kingfish off Durras have shown a preference for really small baitfish, with 10g metal lures and tiny soft plastics getting the hook-ups.
I have been getting my kids onto the rocks recently, introducing them to spinning for bonito. They have been having a ball learning how to properly cast and fight a tough little adversary on light braid.
Teaching them rock safety, as well as raising fitness levels and cutting Play Station and TV time has been a great experience for them.
Seeing pods of dolphins and seals swimming right past the ledge has only added to the experience.
The Clyde River is also firing with awesome jewfish action continuing to impress those willing to forgo a good night’s sleep.
Anthony McMahon has been getting into the thick of the action, with live yellowtail delivering the goods on jewfish from 10kg to 14kg.
Other anglers have been experiencing the same class of fish with some nights around the bridge boats almost bumping into each other as they vie for a good spot to drop anchor.
The last of the run-out tide used to be the gun time to score the Clyde’s jewfish but lately the top of the tide has been producing just as many fish.
I haven’t heard of anyone getting into the daytime run of fish on soft plastics lately but they would be there for the taking. I definitely prefer to concentrate my efforts around the last hour of the run-out tide, but the high-tide change still produces fish.
Places to try are the rocky point on the right heading upstream from the powerlines, the rock bar on the left as you around the first bend –the deeper water near the pontoons has produced some big hook-ups for me.
Next spot worth a try is the green marker at Chinamans Point that marks a shallow reef inside. This reef holds big numbers of bream, whiting, tailor and mullet at times and if you can be there as the tide slows, allowing you to get a lure deep around the rocky base, you will be in with a chance. I have landed fish to 10kg here.
Next is the famed Big Island stretch, where fish can be taken virtually anywhere around the island and further upstream past the red marker buoy right up to the next set of oyster racks, where you see several pontoons.
On a run-out tide, starting from the pontoons provides a long drift right down to Big Island that provides endless opportunities.
Keep a keen eye on the sounder for schools of bait in the deep water where the jewfish will be.
We have had sensational action in this stretch when big schools of whitebait have been located on the sounder. Once a bait ball has been found, keep close by with an electric motor and get those lures down deep.
If you don’t have an electric then repeatedly drifting the same section is your only option but be sure not to motor over the top of the hot spot. Take a wide arc around the school.
Jig head weights that just get down to the fish will be much more successful than lures that rapidly bomb the bottom. Natural presentation is everything!
The class of jewfish in the Clyde has steadily increased so I have increased leader strength to match after losing a few good fish that rubbed the leader out. When single-figure fish were the norm, 20lb fluorocarbon used to be ample but now I use 40lb fluoro and have not experienced any leader shyness from fish.
Main line choice is less crucial, with 5kg to 10kg braid ample.
Noah Dawson, Jay Breust and Ashley Dawson with the day’s bonito catch after having fun casting lures from the rocks.
Andrew Badullovich with not your average catch, a strikingly coloured silver dory. Expect plenty of oddball catches this month as the tropical water continues to push south.Reads: 2431