The doldrums are behind us
  |  First Published: October 2013

Thankfully the Winter slumber is finally over and while we still have some cool mornings, the days are warming up and so is estuary side of things in particular.

I'm really glad to see the back of the early Spring slumber that St Georges Basin went through.

It's not that often that you can say the Shoalhaven River is fishing better than the old ‘pond’ but that is usually the case for a few weeks in late Winter.

With closed season on the bass and EPs now behind us, these feisty little sport fish will be pushing upstream and ready to chew, now that their spawning duties are done.

Late afternoon on those warm Spring days with the first insect hatch of the season will produce the first surface lure sessions of the season.

Check your tide charts for those tide changes on sunset and you might just surprise yourself with more than the odd flathead, jewie and bream hanging around a school of bass and EPs.

Best lures will be wrigglers and 2" prawn imitations fished light on 1/8oz jig heads. Make sure you use a heavy-duty hook; the finer gauge hooks straighten on the bigger fish.

The Basin should fire at times for most species this month but for those of us who love to chase big flatties, October can be a truly great time.

I reckon the Basin ranks amongs Australia's premier ‘big girl’ flattie destinations and they will become aggressive as the urge to spawn and feed kicks in.

Last year the season started very late, with the big 90cm fish not really coming on the chew until early December, so it will be interesting to see what happens after a relatively mild Winter with a big flood.

Humans are a funny species and need to be reminded time and time again so as to understand the importance of releasing the big breeding females back into the system.

It’s to ensure the health of the stock and to make more of those delicious flattie tails which we all enjoy eating.

The science says that the majority of dusky flathead over 57cm are breeding females, but if you want some more info then simply Google ‘Dr Charles Gray biology of dusky flathead’ for a research paper on the subject.


The Bay had a good flush of blue water to 19° in early August before the cold water filled back in and things should stay that way until the East Coast Current kicks back some time in December.

Early Spring is a good time for bait fishos drifting floaters down a berley trail for reds around the deeper reefs in the Bay or out in front of the cliffs.

Plantation Point will produce the odd quality snapper for the local lure casters who know the reef like the backs of their hands.

While casting lures doesn't produce the numbers of reds, the quality of fish in terms of size tends to be better.

The 140mm Squidgy Wriggler in the princess colour has definitely accounted for a more than a few great fish on our boat recently and is a must for your tackle box. Use 6lb-10lb braid with 8lb-14lb leader on a 1/4oz 2/0 jig head.

Fishing a berley trail inside the Bay at this time of year can be hard work because of the spawning aggregations of Port Jackson sharks and banjo rays. They’re fine if you want to guarantee to put a bend in a rod for the kids, who really don't care what they catch.

Calamari will be a more viable option around the weed edges, with some monsters available in the cooler water.

For my money it's pretty hard to beat a feed of flatties caught drifting in 40m-50m out the front of JB, then finish off with an hour’s squidding at Longbeach or Murrays on the way home.

Best colours we find that work on a regular basis are orange and pink and green.


It's also easy to overlook the fact that the beaches and rocky headlands inside the Bay can be quite productive at times, particularly now the afternoons are warming up.

With a high tide on sunset, pick a rocky outcrop at the end of a beach with a little bit of wash and go for bream, salmon and tailor.

Fish with a very light sinker and either pilchard or salted slimy mackerel on ganged hooks for best results.

The humble tailor, cooked crispy skinned with a bit of butter and salt and pepper can be a kitchen masterpiece. Eaten the same day as caught, the trick is to fry it skin down until you get a bit of colour, then turn it over, fry for 20 seconds and then turn the heat off and let it sit for five minutes.

The flesh should melt in your mouth, as opposed to being dry and chewy.

If you have the heavy tackle and the required crabs, you can go for groper, too. Go easy on the big blue groper and consider taking a small brown for a feed if you have to.


In late Winter we saw an area of inshore water warm up to around 20° in close, which fired up the kings in close for a week or two.

We may see an early Spring bite beyond the Sir John Young Banks in this department as the water warms again and the kings start to stack up back inshore next month.

There haven’t been many recent reports from out wide, mainly because the westerlies have been too strong. Those crews who took the mid-week opportunities were rewarded with the odd yellowfin and albacore from a good temp break south of The Kink which is now long gone.

Be prepared to study your temp charts and go when the weather dictates a flat spell .

For anyone considering doing a charter down this way over the next few months, my advice is get in quick because most good operators I have spoken to recently already have most weekends booked from now until December.

Johnny Verano with a nice Squidgy Wriggler red from The Banks. There should be more around this month.

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