With the countdown to Christmas well and truly on and the cicadas singing, the smell of Summer is in the air and things are looking up – to eat, that is!
Depending on the temps in close this month November generally heralds the start of the Summer surface lure season in the estuaries so it’s time to sharpen your pencils – that’s those pencils that walk the dog.
For anglers new to the game, walking the dog is a description of the action of a stickbait or pencil style of surface lure that pivots from side to side by the rod action imparted by the angler.
The angler twitches and lifts a 1kg-3kg or 2kg-4kg rod to alternatively create and remove slack in the line to make the lure erratically ‘walk’ across the surface.
If you’re not using a pencil then there’s the old faithful popper, whose popularity has waned slightly over the past few seasons as anglers tune in to the fact that the pencil is more productive in the right hands.
Different estuary species require different retrieves to achieve a result but one thing remains the same: the buzz of telling a lie to a fish with a piece of plastic or timber and watching your target rise to eat your presentation. It just doesn’t get better.
St Georges Basin has been fairly consistent, with a steady stream of all the usual species.
But at this time of year the vast majority of sport fishers are thinking of big lizards. The XOS flathead the Basin is now famous for have actually been ticking over since late Winter but in November they generally come into their own.
With so much pressure on these fish these days, anglers targeting them have the responsibility to be prepared to handle the fish properly prior to release.
A quick checklist of the right handling equipment should include a big barra-style net.
On our boat we no longer lift the fish straight out of the water on capture; we prefer to let the fish sit in the water and recover for at least five minutes, which makes for a better release.
While this is going on it gives you time to roll out the brag mat on the deck, wet it down and fire up the camera.
When lifting a big flathead for the camera always, and I mean always, support the belly. There’s no point putting back a fish with a broken neck because it’s been hung up by the lower jaw.
And finally, ditch the lip grips and use a glove.
Lip grips are great for fish destined for the table but they have a very high probability of piercing the lower lip of the fish while it’s being restrained and this may impede its ability to feed upon release.
Lastly, if you can, put the fish back in the same place.
All of this can take less than 10 minutes and will go a long way to helping preserve the health of the ‘big girls’ that are great to catch and provide us in the long term with all those yummy flathead tails that we take from their smaller offspring a few years down the track.
Expect Jervis Bay to be slightly cooler than the estuary this month.
In early Spring there were kings to 30kg trickling in from under the cliffs but in November we should start to see the regular 6kg-10kg fish stacking up in close around the prominent headlands.
Slowly trolling live slimy mackerel or squid on the downrigger will tend to be the gun technique, but a large snapper lead cable-tied to the eye of the swivel closest to the main line will do the job as well.
Using cable ties as opposed to elastic bands stops the sinker tangling in the line and at the end of the day reduces the number of lead sinkers being left in the ocean.
Kings are also suckers for a bit of flash in the water. Try casting big plastics, such as a white Squidgy Flick Bait or a 9”Silstar Slapstix on a 1oz head with an 8/0 hook slightly forward of the boat to draw fish into the mix.
There will also be the odd striped tuna and bonito and large schools of salmon but some days these will require very small metals or flies smaller than your little finger to achieve a result.
With Winter and Spring fishing better this year than previous seasons, we may be in for a bumper Summer on the pelagics if conditions stay dry. Fingers crossed.