With new changes to the way marine park sanctuary zones are to be managed, there are some interesting times ahead for land-based fishers.
On March 12 the Government announced an immediate amnesty allowing land-based anglers to fish with line only inside the sanctuary zones on open ocean rocks and beaches. The exception of Burrewarra Point is due to grey nurse shark issues.
The first weekend following this announcement resulted in anglers flocking to sanctuary zones that remain off limits, indicating some confusion about the new changes.
The banks of Cullendulla Creek were lined with anglers wading the flats for flathead but it is still a no-go zone, as are all estuary sanctuary zones.
Boat anglers also crossed into no-go zones. You must be land-based to fish the sanctuary zones, so be aware of the rules and not the Chinese whispers that are running rife.
The good news is that most of my favourite snapper spots are back in the picture, just as the season is about to get going. So too are a few favourite jewfish haunts that I am itching to get back to.
Another welcome change for our area has been the dredging of the Clyde River bar. The works started in March and Slurry Marine Systems from Victoria have pumped vast amounts of sand from the bar to nearby dunes.
By the time the works are complete at the end of April, the bar channel will be a consistent 1.8m deep, according to the plan, presumably at low tide. So by the time you are reading this issue the bar will be in great shape.
On the fishing front, everything should be firing, with the current still trickling southwards and warm early in the month.
Game anglers will still be likely to tangle with more than the odd marlin out wide because the bulk of the fish showed fairly late compared with recent years. Anglers chasing tuna might be wise to not downsize leaders too early this month.
There have already been a few patches of yellowfin tuna captured so everyone is hoping we get a good run this season. The last one was a shocker.
Inshore, the run of kingfish sporadically continues with plenty of 10kg fish encountered for those in the know. Live bait, trolled lures and jigs are all working.
Schools of garfish, slimy mackerel, yellowtail and sauries often have been seen coming under attack, so concentrate efforts around any bait activity where possible.
Frigate mackerel are also big kingfish magnets if you can luck onto a school. A 20g metal lure retrieved flat out usually brings them undone.
Simply pin the frigate through the top jaw with a big hook on a heavy trace and troll it slowly. Off the stones you can free-spool them 50m to 100m out, then slowly wind them right back in and repeat the process.
If you put the frigate out like a standard live bait under a balloon, it will quickly die because it can't get enough oxygen into its system when tethered off.
A dead frigate it is still a deadly bait fished under a balloon. I have experienced many mega-kingfish tussles that started by placing a dead frigate in the wash zone.
Plagues of bonito will still be on the prowl and will take all manner of lures and live bait. Thoroughly bled, skinned and the dark ‘bloodline’ meat removed, bonito makes excellent eating as long as it is not overcooked.
Longtail tuna will also be a distinct possibility this month. Reports from the north of the state sound pretty busy, with big schools trucking south.
Now is also the time to start getting serious about inshore snapper. The cuttlefish migration won't have an influence for another month or two but the reds will still begin massing inshore in preparation for the feast.
At the beginning of the run I prefer fish baits like slimy mackerel, frigate strips or mullet but once the cold water starts to dominate, I shift to squid, cuttlefish and octopus. Snapper can be gluttons at times eating anything and everything and at other times being extremely fussy on what they eat so it pays to have multiple bait options.
I am also looking forward to another Winter of walking the coastline with a light outfit to chase snapper on soft plastics. It's a great way to stay fit and a pretty effective way to target actively feeding fish.
Last season I scored a few land-based plastic reds of 3kg-4kg and I’m looking to nudge into old-fashioned double figures with a 10lb-plus fish.
In the Clyde River, stalwart bridge fisho Chuck Firth has been scoring a few nice jewfish at night soaking live baits.
Sam Hicks has been toiling away trying to nail his first jewfish and finally got some nice reward for his efforts. Using fresh squid, he plucked a neat 1.2m fish to end the drought.
As Winter begins to take hold I expect to see some significantly bigger jewfish entering the river and prowling the beaches and shallow rocky areas, particularly as the mullet and blackfish migrate from the estuary to the ocean.
Other estuary targets will still be worth a shot if the water doesn't cool too quickly.
Bream will be massing in the lower reaches as they begin to leave to the coast to breed. Time it right and you can sample some of the best bream action possible; miss the run and you will feel like you are fishing a piscatorial desert.
Flathead will be more likely in the deeper water as they prepare for colder times.
I used to believe whiting left the system for the ocean over Winter but tagging research has shown them to remain in specific areas of the river right through the cold months – something I would never have imagined.
Off the rocks, the usual Winter suspects will be starting to hit their straps – rock blackfish, trevally, groper and bream, to name a few.
Ray Smith and Ross Noakes scored a stunning pair of black cod while soaking prawns for drummer. The black cod is a protected species and the boys duly put them back after a few quick pics.
Ray is a fanatical scuba diver and has been seeing heaps of black cod so it seems this beautiful slow-growing fish is starting to make a comeback of sorts.
In the fresh bass will still be there for the willing although they won't be easy to catch in the cooling water. Night surface fishing is still one of the best ways to snare a beast but make sure to pack the beanie and other suitable attire as it can get frightfully cold.Reads: 1655