One thing you can guarantee in our wonderful world of fishing is the element of surprise.
Just when you think you have learnt all you can about fish and their behaviour or where they live, another bolt from the blue turns up. An incredible recapture of a large Australian bass recently in the Gippsland Lakes has tongues wagging and all of guessing about its history. I also have plenty of good news on flathead, bream and mullet.
They're back. All it takes is a slight rise in water temperature and the good old duskies are back on the chew. You will find them anywhere from Paynesville through to Kalimna and as usual the North Arm which is also a very reliable summer flatty haunt. I've yet to hear of any stud fish over 80cm turning up but these big breeders will be lurking close to the areas just mentioned. Bait anglers have told me about modest sized flatties between 35-45cm dominating their dusky catch with the odd 50cm fish turning up.
Soft plastics and blades are also proving their worth and live poddy mullet baits will again this year turn up a few thumpers. Just a reminder, if you are serious about your flatty fishing then get on the water early. In my opinion duskies bite the best between first light and 9am at this time of year and can feed in very shallow water of just 20-30cm in depth.
Boy, have the yellow eye mullet turned up in force! They are showing up around the lower reaches of the Mitchell and I found big schools of large mullet at Metung recently that were happy to chew on my blades meant for flathead and bream. I suspect if you set up a berley trail then you could expect to attract any number of mullet and have a very busy day hooking.
They often swim over shallow sand flats down to a metre in depth and by far your best bait will be sandworm. Another deadly offering is small pieces of fresh chicken meat on a size 6 hook with a very light sinker. If you have yet to try fresh mullet fillets deep fried in batter then you are missing out on a very tasty feed of fish that I rate in my top five species for the plate. The best thing about these mullet at the moment is their size, often to 40cm and not many are under 30cm.
At last the bream are now over their cranky spawning mode and becoming a little more focused on eating lures and baits. About time because most of us found them very frustrating towards the end of spring when any number of fish could be sounded up but they all had lock jaw. Well, more to the point they had other things on their mind apart from feeding and this year will again prove a bumper spawning season due to the excellent fresh water inflows over the last two years.
I met up with astute tournament anglers Mark Cribbes and Dean Gamble recently and we fished a windy afternoon down at Paynesville. Between us we released a modest amount of bream for a two hour session but the fish were very fat and heavy for their length. Dean pulled a massive model from under a moored boat and called it for a big flatty at first because of its heavy weight and stubborn fight. We all got a pleasant surprise as an obese bream eventually found the net and for 38cm it was such a portly sucker at just under 1.4kg.
I found another pig sitting at the base of a jetty pylon and it went 41cm and probably just over 1.5kg if I had my scales handy. We found the Austackle Shinku lures deadly on the day and these sinking stick minnow hardbodied lures sink right down into the strike zone and you can cast them a mile. I also found two flathead and a luderick for the session and those three fish ended up in bread crumbs! For the bait anglers your first choice should be for live shrimp but sandworm will be nearly as good and get you plenty of mullet by-catch too.
Fisheries officer from Traralgon, Errol Parmigiani rang me with exciting news of a tagged bass that was recaptured recently in Jones Bay. Errol was checking the catch of a pro netter and in amongst a bunch of estuary perch he quickly spied on a huge bass that measured a whopping 50cm. What a surprise to see this freshwater fish in very salty water and keeping company with its close cousins the EP. Even more exciting was the discovery of a Mafri tag in the fish but I was unable to source further details of when and where the bass was originally caught and released. So stay tuned and by next month's issue I should have all the details of this very intriguing recapture.Reads: 859