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High hopes for tuna
  |  First Published: May 2013



Over many years May has commonly been the month of the tuna, but in recent times they have failed to arrive in any numbers.

Yellowfin were the prize catch although albacore, bigeye, southern bluefin, mack, longtail and many of the smaller tuna all called our waters home. The record books show a host of them set in May – so what has happened and where have they gone?

One theory presented to me went like this: The juvenile tuna would follow the adults to this part of the coast, where the rich feeding grounds were. The decline of adult fish due to whatever reasons meant the small fish might not encounter enough of the larger fish coming to this area, or they are going elsewhere now. Or perhaps the numbers dropped that dramatically we may never see the days of old again. Well, they are only theories.

The good news is that over recent weeks anglers trolling lures for marlin regularly encountered yellowfin from the continental shelf to out beyond the canyons. Most were small with the odd better fish but in the past these fish featured regularly for those anglers pursuing marlin.

A local longline skipper who has worked most of the year around 80NM off Bermagui said he has consistently caught reasonable numbers of yellowfin and he feels this season may be a good one closer to shore. If the yellowfin turn up you could expect albacore, mack and striped tuna and bonito to be on the shortlist and, if the water stays warm, mahi mahi too.

Marlin are always an option at this time of year so large lures or live baits in a berley trail may produce one. Makos and blue sharks are also likely so have handy some gear to handle them.

The kingfish should be on the chew up at Montague Island; they have been consistent all season with some larger fish showing recently along with bonito, which are also partial to a live bait or lure.

Snapper are increasingly common along the coast with larger specimens out from Goalen Head through to the Twelve Mile Reef. There are the usual morwong, nannygai, perch and jackets, while over the softer bottom flathead are still in numbers. The grounds south out from Murrah or Cuttagee are producing mixed bags of sand and tiger flatties.

Throw in an occasional gummy shark and the evening banquet looks set. Those gummies are also featuring on the beaches with some small whalers.

Salmon are the main beach captures although tailor, bream, whiting and the odd jewie are providing some variety.

ESTUARY

There are estuary fish to be found providing you are willing to put in the effort and change tactics.

We all like to catch fish on lures but at this time of year it is tough going.

Bait now becomes a better option and for bream, focus on the shallow flats where they fossick for worms, pipis, small crabs, shrimp or nippers.

Whiting, luderick, mullet, flathead and flounder may also be cruising the flats and the clear water can provide exciting visual fishing. Randomly casting scattering nippers over the flats is often all that is required.

Try the Bermagui River itself just upstream from the bridge or out at Wallaga Lake either side of the bridge on a rising tide, where the warmer ocean water will encourage fish to become more active.

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