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Deep estuary jigging - When the flatties hunker down for the winter, jig ’em up!
  |  First Published: August 2012



Cold mornings leading into cold days and back into cold nights, topped off with cold water and the poor old fisho can be excused for not wanting to get out of bed.

But winter can certainly can be a very rewarding time on our estuaries and look at the positives – you won’t be getting heatstroke or sunburn!

A lot of guys like to go at it hard over the warmer months, then basically fall into hibernation over the winter but if you do brave the cold, put in the effort and give it a real go the results can be outstanding. There are some quality fish on offer in our lakes and rivers during the winter.

For a few keen fishing buddies, and me from May and August we’ll be hunting the deeper sections of our estuaries for flathead and jewfish on lures.

This time of year for us is all about deep jigging and here comes a step-by-step on how, where and when to get the most out of this style of fishing and so you can get out there and give it a go yourselves.

LEARNING CURVE

As with all styles of fishing it’s the learning period which is the hardest and if results don’t come thick and fast, this is often when a lot of fishos give the new style the flick and put it in the too-hard basket.

However, there are those who love the challenge and the success when it finally all starts to come together.

I was fortunate to have become friends with a very good local angler who has been more than generous in helping me find a fish or two over the past couple of years.

With luck this article can shorten that learning curve get you into the fish sooner so you too will have no trouble getting out of bed on the next chilly morning, because you will know what you’re in for once you’re out there jigging away.

I’m lucky to have some great fishing on my doorstep on the Central Coast but this style of fishing and the methods we use can be employed with just as much success anywhere up and down the NSW coast.

WHERE, HOW

I mainly fish Lake Macquarie. It is not overly deep and most of our jigging is done in 20-30ft of water.

The aim is not just to find that deeper water, it is to find deeper water in the right places.

Areas I look for include deeper sections off points in the lake or an area that gets good current flow and food pushing through, or deep holes.

It’s not so much the depth that is important but the location and the variation in depth that can produce a concentration of baitfish and the predatory flathead and jewfish.

Any additional structures in these areas are a bonus and well worth trying. Things such as wrecks, artificial or natural reefs are all great places and these areas should never be overlooked.

The most important aspect of this style of fishing is one that I know you will have heard before but it is critically important: Your lure must be in regular contact with the bottom, and that is the reason we opt for quite heavy jigs.

It is this constant contact and disturbance when the jigs bounce off the seabed that triggers the fish into hitting your lures.

The technique is very simple. Drop your lure until you know you are on the bottom. It is then simply a matter of working the drift to cover your chosen area.

Jig the rod up sharply, then let it rest on the bottom for 5-10 seconds before repeating the steps.

We often find that a little variety such as a sharp double twitch on your lift can sometimes entice a bite that otherwise may not have come about.

GO EASY

Generally with the tackle and techniques I’ve suggested, the fish at the larger end of the scale. We find most of our flathead are 50-70cm and quite a few are 70cm and larger.

We choose to let the big breeding girls go and there are usually a few 50cm fish to take home for a nice feed of fresh fillets.

Over the past few seasons we have seen that there are also some fantastic jewfish to be encountered when fishing this method and jewies to 20kg are not uncommon. We stumble upon more than a few 4kg-10kg jew which certainly make for an enjoyable session and one well worth getting out there for.

So no more excuses for lying around in front of the heater – load up the boat, rig up the jigs and get into a whole lot of fun jigging down deep.

Facts

TACKLE

Some people will find it hard to get their heads around some of the gear we use but we have fine-tuned our tackle selections over years of trial and error to suit what we do. I’m sure there are other types of tackle that may work but this is what we have found does it best for us.

You don’t need to spend a fortune on tackle but you are far better off to spend a little more first time around. Look for 3kg-6kg rods around 7ft long with a reasonable amount of strength in the bottom half. I like 2500-3000 size threadline reels loaded with good-quality braid.

I have two main outfits for deep estuary fishing, one with 6kg braid and the other with 10kg braid. My leaders range from 6kg-10kg, depending on the size of fish I encounter.

We primarily use two main styles of lures – metal blades from 1/2oz-1 1/2oz and soft plastics with jig heads from 5/8oz-1oz.

Facts

LURES

We primarily use two main styles of lures – soft plastics and metal vibrating blades.

We have had great success with 1/2oz-1 1/2oz. TT Switchblades. We prefer bright colours in this deeper water – green, yellow, white and pink do very well.

We favour 5”-7” soft plastics but if there is a run of smaller flathead around 50cm we often drop down to 4” plastics. Our plastics are rigged on 5/8oz-1oz TT jig heads.

The main styles that work us include paddletails, shads and grubs. When using anything larger than 4” it is really important to run a small stinger treble pinned at the rear of the plastic.

Plastics in bright colours work well in deep water although some dark colours have their day, but pick ones with glitter and good scent.

Facts

WEATHER

During these cooler months we often find some pretty ordinary conditions but don’t let that stop you because it certainly does not stop the fish. As long as your safety is not at risk then get out and have a go.

I’m still surprised at the type of weather I used to think was ideal, as opposed to what I now class as ideal fishing weather. You do not want glassed-out water with no drift but if you do get days like this then you will be thankful you bought that bow-mount electric motor to allow you to create a drift even when there is not one.

Ideally 10-15 knots of wind is great but even up to 25 knots is fine as long as your boat is suitable for the conditions. You will find the drift a little too quick in these strong winds so this is the time to drop the sea anchor over and up the tackle to that 1oz jig head.

I like a tide change early to mid-morning but because these fish are down in the deeper, darker water you will still find plenty of fish throughout the daylight hours.

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