It’s been a funny season with weird ocean currents and inshore temperatures basically staying at a flat 20° all year so far.
For months on end, a big fat eddy of 24° water parked itself wide of Jervis Bay well beyond the continental shelf and refused to push down any further, but it has at long last shown signs of moving south.
Recently there have been two 3kg mangrove jacks captured in the Clyde River and we are still hooking good numbers of striped and blue marlin on the continental shelf in almost 22° water. As a consequence, traditional Winter targets have been pretty slow to start.
Yellowfin tuna and albacore have yet to show properly, with crews cubing for a full day for barely a shark encounter.
I suspect this will have all changed by the time you read this and we all hope the tuna show in good numbers this month.
Mahi mahi have also been a total no-show for us this year, whether fishing the FAD, canyon-hopping or anywhere in between.
On a recent jaunt wide we had found a finger of warmer water south of Moruya Canyons, where the water jumped from 20.2° to 21.8° with planks of wood covered in gooseneck barnacles, a log as big as our boat and old trap floats with weedy ropes all bobbing about. All that was on offer were three lonely little leatherjackets.
Normally such real estate would be crawling with neon-coloured mahi mahi.
Marlin, however, have been reasonably common if you can locate the bait and stick with it until a billfish comes to the top.
We recently lost a little 60kg striped marlin and then released a 90kg specimen after 35 minutes of spectacular airborne antics.
Anthony on TopCat Charters scored a blue estimated around 180kg that was caught on a live slimy mackerel cast to it as it worked a bait ball. The fish was tagged in 45 minutes, which was good going considering as it was fought on 300m of 65lb braid on a Shimano Stella 20000 threadline. Lots of boat manoeuvres were required to finally get the tag into it.
Striped tuna have been big lately with fish to 6.5kg taking our lures. A stripey of that size, together with a dozen or so slimy mackerel, is more than enough to provide hours of cubing bait so they have been very welcome additions.
The inshore snapper run has also been slow to start but the fish are there. A handful of 3kg fish have been caught off the rocks and one 5kg fish, but there have been plenty of days when you won’t even get a bite from a red.
Like the tuna, this month we should see a spike in snapper numbers as the water cools right down.
The run of quality jewfish has continued with bait and lures both doing the damage. The fish have been from 5kg right up to Jason Slabbekoorn’s 25.2kg cracker and everything in between.
Most nights when the tide has been right there have been at least eight guys fishing off the bridge and as many boats anchored on the edge of the bridge lights. Live baits and squid have been producing fish.
Mark Loader caught and released his first jewfish, off the rocks. The 5kg fish ate a soft plastic in among hordes of salmon and tailor.
Big flathead have been plentiful in Lake Conjola with fish from 60cm to 95cm being released most days. The best way to get into the thick of the action is to use a canoe or kayak but failing that, you can always wade the many flats flicking plastics into the holes and drop-offs adjacent to weed beds.
Bream numbers in the estuaries are now dwindling as the fish have mostly left the system to breed. Beach corners and foamy gutters will hold good numbers of bream but go easy on them and keep only what you need for an immediate feed.
Beach hauling professionals have been seen recently at their regular haunts. Thankfully the ocean has been regularly pushing 2-3m swells, giving the migrating and spawning fish a chance to do their thing.
Drummer have not minded the warmer water as long as it’s stirred up – they have been prolific and 20-fish sessions have been standard fare.
Steven Worthy and Ray Smith each scored 60cm cobia while fishing for drummer in two sessions, so the odd mix of warm-water and cold-water fish may well continue into June.
Ray has also witnessed schools of small spangled emperor, cod and other tropical oddities on recent scuba dives around the Tollgate Islands, so expect the unexpected if the warm lingers early in the month.Reads: 1003