Every year, I get some friends together for a week’s saltwater fishing somewhere on the NSW South Coast. We call it the Kill and Grill Fishing Tour, although all we usually kill is ourselves and the only thing we grill is a good steak, because none of us really eats fish!
Last year we decided that Sussex Inlet deserved to benefit from our financial input into its local economy. Accommodation, petrol, food, meals at the club, local bakery, alcohol and so on – if anyone complains about anglers in their town, they should look twice at what anglers actually spend on a week’s holiday.
After shopping around there was no doubt that going to the local L J Hooker for accommodation deals was the best value and we ended up with a huge three-bedroom house on the water for less than a cabin in a caravan park. The choice is so much easier today with the help of the internet.
Kill and Grill team members come from all over. There was me from Jindabyne, one member from Merimbula, my son from Penrith and two members from Wollongong.
I left sunny Jindabyne on the Friday and drove 2-1/2 hours to Merimbula to pick up Barry and my Polycraft and then it was 3-1/2 hours to Sussex Inlet. It was afternoon before we were settled in and headed down to the local IGA to invest some money in food and, of course, the local grog shop for a bottle of cold ale.
Robert turned up just before dinner and the others in the team were due to turn up over the next day or so.
Friday night we headed to the RSL for dinner but after investing lots of dollars into the club’s meat raffle, it looked as if we would have to go without meat for the week. On Saturday we woke to torrential rain and the best chance of getting a fish was to cast into the water from the back deck of the house and sit under cover. Alas, a leatherjacket or two was the best for the day.
The rest of the team arrived late afternoon just as the rain turned to showers, allowing us to get boats ready for the next day’s fishing.
That night we were hit by cyclonic winds which kept us awake all night. Tarps covering boats flapped violently and we had no option but to get out of bed and secure the boats before they were blown away.
As daylight approached it was evident that the wind was not going to abate and glimpses out the window showed trees blown over everywhere. It was quite scary watching things fly through the air as the power in the house went on and off.
Worse was to come as the coast from Nowra to Batemans Bay experienced some of the worst winds for many years, cutting off power to many homes and closing many roads with fallen trees.
By evening, it had dropped to a breeze and we entertained hopes of going fishing on the morrow. After two days of sitting around studying maps of St Georges Basin, we were convinced that five expert anglers would have no problem getting a couple of fish each.
Monday morning, the sun was shining and the winds had eased, so it was out of bed and into the boats.
As we cruised our way past the township of Sussex Inlet, it was evident that it was going to take weeks, if not months, to clean up after the wind. Trees were down everywhere, houses unroofed, sheds destroyed, fences down, boats sunk and the noise from chainsaws and mulchers was deafening.
With a run-in tide, we decided to do a drift from the Inlet into St Georges Basin, as I had previously done with success many years ago.
We slowly worked soft plastics for flatties. We could see fish on the Humminbird and could watch the plastic just about hit the fish on their heads but they would not open their mouths. Water temperature might have been a worry, with temp still only 13°.
Time to change tactics. We headed over towards Sanctuary Point where there were six artificial reefs that surely would hold plenty of fish to target.
The water was actually getting better but there was still a chill in the air from the westerly breeze. We had the coordinates of the artificial reefs so with the aid of our GPS systems it was not going to any problem finding them – but we could see bugger all on the sounder. We were later to learn that there was not much left of the reefs because they had slowly been covered with silt.
We trolled a few lures around while we tried to locate the reefs and we saw plenty of baitfish but nothing took the lures.
Time to go back to soft plastics. One finally worked when I was retrieving my lure and jagged a 50mm baitfish, which showed just how prolific the baitfish were.
With all that food, where were the tailor?
The wind came up again so we headed back to the Inlet to toss a few hardbodies and blades and Barry hooked up a luderick. They say that you can’t catch them on hardbodies, softies or flies but we have managed to get luderick now on all methods.
I had organised Tuesday as a day out with fellow professional fishing guide Greg Reid. Greg, a St Georges Basin local, had been operating Bay and Basin Fishing Charters for more than a year and had joined the Professional Fishing Guides and Instructors Association (PFIGA) and has been a valuable new member .
We met Greg at 7am and it was a little cool on the water, to say the least. We started headed out from Sussex Inlet into the Basin with a brief stop on the way to target some whiting cruising over the sand flats.
Blades and minnows didn’t exactly excite the whiting that were a little spooky on the run-in tide, so we headed around the corner to a good shallow weed bed where we were to target some bream on hard-bodied lures.
I selected a little shallow crankbait just right for the depth we were fishing and cast it in front of the drift and worked it very slowly with the odd violent jerk. I was first to score with a small bream, not bad given the conditions.
Many more casts and we had covered all the weed bed with out further results so it was time to move.
At our new location we also cast hardbodies over the weed but that wind was picking up and the drift became a little quick so we headed for a shallow, mangrove-lined bay that was definitely black bream territory. The water was a little dirtier as well, making it easier for us to sneak up on the fish.
This water was a little more promising and the temperature reached a boiling 15°.
Robert was first to hook up on a black bream, using a gold shallow crankbait.
With the warmer water I thought I might have a chance at a flathead but many casts later resulted in maybe a strike and a miss but that was about it.
After covering every inch of the bay with hard body lures and soft plastics it was again time to move.
Back to the Basin, where it was a change of tactics – i.e. try and stay warm!
It was evident that if we were to get any flathead it was going to be in the warmer shallows where the fish would be feeding along the edges of the weed, so we changed to plastics and worked the bottom. I was lucky to hook up on a reasonable fish but nowhere near as big as the Basin is renowned for.
Given the conditions, Greg’s expert local knowledge and the choice of a variety of methods to suit the conditions converted what could have been a bad day into a good one. Three of the anglers were PFIGA members, so I am not sure what success Joe Average would have had on their own – another reason to think about hiring a professional local guide when fishing a new area. Even so-called experts would have done it tough without Greg’s help.
Over the next few days the cold wind prevailed, so we retreated from the Basin into Sussex Inlet, where we were at least out of the wind and waves. We produced a few more flatties on soft plastics and hardbodies and once we located the tailor we had plenty of fun trolling and casting to them until our arms hurt.
The tailor were in only one small part of the inlet for the two days we targeted them. Trolling a new area allowed us to check out the location with my Humminbird 798cxi with its side scan and down scan and I think after a pass or two over the bottom we got to know every fish by first name.
While Robert and I played with the tailor, Barry and Cameron headed to the top of the Inlet and drifted with the incoming current for a few small flathead on a variety of plastics. They found the flatties sunning themselves in very shallow water and cast to them from the channel edges.
Overall, the Kill and Grill Fishing Team had a pretty good week of fishing, given some of the worst weather anyone could have experienced. The season was very late and the water temps should have been much higher.
The accommodation was great, meals at the RSL were great value and the town of Sussex Inlet has everything you would want for a holiday.
We’ll be back again and with some luck, better fishing and better weather.
GREG REID’S LURE SELECTION
Hardbodies: Jackall Chubby in suji shrimp colour.
Plastics: Gulp 2" Shrimp in pepper prawn; Gulp Turtleback Worm in pumpkinseed; Gulp Sandworm in camo; Gulp 3" Swimming Mullet in camo and pumpkinseed.
Blades: Ecogear VX35 and VX40 colour 439
STEVE WILLIAMSON’S LURE SELECTION
Blades: Jazz Sonic Boom 7g colour 001; Strike Pro Cyber Vibe 35 black/orange; TT Switchblade 1/8 oz SB01 Golden Boy or SB04 Red Nightmare
Metals: Gillies Pilchard in silver and gold.
Tasmanian Devils: 26g silver/blue No 13; silver/orange No 69
Plastics: Eco Product 5” Eyeball, pink; Surecatch Live Shad 2.0 black (for bream and luderick); Gulp 3” Jigging Grub in pink shine.
LJ Hooker, 1/159 Jacobs Drive, Sussex Inlet, ph 02 4441 2135, fax 02 4441 1806, email --e-mail address hidden--
Greg Reid, Bay and Basin Sportsfishing, PO Box 36 Erowal Bay NSW 2540, mob 0413 610 832, fax 02 4443 0311, email --e-mail address hidden-- web www.bayandbasinsportsfishing.com.au
Sussex Tackle Shop, 168 Jacobs Dr, Sussex Inlet NSW 2540, ph 02 4441 1660.
First fish for the day took a shallow-diving crankbait.