The vagaries of the game
  |  First Published: September 2011

With lead times of five to six weeks, it can be pretty tricky predicting what to expect each month and a lot can happen from the time I send off a report until you read it.

This is particularly evident with the fickle nature of game fishing.

Last month I hinted that we may see some southern bluefin tuna arrive. By the time you read this you may well have missed the best bluefin run the south coast has experienced in recent memory.

Hopefully this isn’t the case because as I type there are still fish being captured in South Australia and Victoria. But our recent local run of fish has headed way east and out of reach of recreational anglers.

From what I understand the bluefin migration path takes them away to New Zealand waters after travelling along our coast.

Multiple reports of boats tagging 30, 50 and even more fish in a day were common as the game fishing grapevine went troppo for several weeks.

So thick was the run of fish that it became a comical exercise to see how you could catch the next SBT. Cubes of donuts, snakes and other lollies, cigarette butts, bare hooks, soft drink cans, you name it, the tuna ate it! Fish were even free-gaffed from the cube trail.

The size range seemed to be 40kg to 50kg but if you could get through the masses, some bigger specimens close to double were boated.

Ray Smith and Sam Owen ended up fishing hookless poppers and stickbaits and had even more fun not catching fish once they had boated and released a heap.

But fear not, if the SBT aren’t around the albacore and yellowfin tuna will be.

Albacore numbers continue to build with sub-10kg fish taking all manner of lures, as well as cubes in a berley trail.

Yellowfin tuna around 20kg to 30kg have been common with the odd 50kg and 70kg fish keeping anglers on their toes.


Back on land, it seems rock anglers are having a field day on big black drummer and this month will be a top time to get into some close-quarters combat with one of the best brawlers with fins.

I haven’t experienced such good numbers of drummer since the late 1990s and I have been getting my kids into the thick of the action, too. I took my 14-year-old daughter Ashley and 11-year-old son Noah to a favourite location to hopefully christen Ashley’s new birthday rod-and-reel combo, a punchy spin outfit loaded with 10kg braid ideal for belting metal lures – her favourite style of fishing.

The bonito and other surface fish had been scarce so an introduction to using bait off the rocks was in order to put a bend in the rod.

It was also an introduction into a bit of cliff climbing because the spot is somewhat of a goat-track climb but the kids did it easily. The swell was fairly rough but my chosen spot is a protected, washy hole that does not cop the direct brunt of the swell.

Armed with a kilo of cheap imported cooked prawns, we proceeded to hook and land a whole mess of solid drummer on far from natural bait presentations. We even managed to land a triple hook-up of near 2kg pigs.

The final tally was nine fish kept for the table, about 10 more released, a bunch of bream and salmon and we also released and a couple of silver drummer.

I have dabbled in the use of cooked prawns before but this season I am sold on them. I used to drive all over the countryside in search of fresh cunjevoi or salted abalone gut (now no longer available due to the Victorian abalone virus) but now I won’t bother, the prawns work that well.

A kilo for around $13 provides a heap of bait and the heads and shells are all I use for berley. Add some lightweight braid outfits and you have a recipe for some serious fun.

Bream numbers are still really good, which is a little out of the ordinary for this time of year. Most drummer sessions have usually had several solid bream featuring in the bite.

Snapper will still be on the go this month but in what depth will be something to experiment with, because they have been highly mobile lately.

One week the fish have been right in tight to the rocks in very shallow water and the next they seem to be in 20m to 40m or more.

Radical shifts in water temperature could be the reason, as there have been swings of 4° inshore.

In the past we have experimented in pursuing snapper off the rocks on soft plastics but this season we have been putting in a concerted effort to score consistently. The results have been quite an eye-opener, to say the least, with fish to 6kg taken from the stones on days when bait failed to even raise a bite.

I won’t say more than that because I will be penning a feature article on the subject soon.

Ray Smith with one of many solid southern bluefin tuna taken on spin tackle. There is still hope for the fish to reappear this month, injecting some much-needed tourist dollars into coastal communities.

Ben Roberts releases another chunky snapper captured off the rocks on a soft plastic. Stay tuned for a full report soon.

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