Estuaries firing up
  |  First Published: December 2013

It's a busy time of year around the Merimbula region with the holiday crowd, but some exceptional fishing will still be on offer, especially offshore.

The last few weeks has been excellent for those anglers targeting reef fish. Most species have played the game, with snapper, morwong, sand and tiger flathead and kingfish all having a chew at times.

The snapper fishing is awesome, with most switched-on crews getting a dozen-plus fish every trip. The reds are averaging 1.5-2kg, with the odd better model pushing 5kg. They are widespread, with most reefs holding fish, though Lennards Island and Long Reef have been the pick of late.

The snapper are responding well to a number of techniques. Bait fishos are doing well on fresh squid, pilchards and mackerel fillets, but the eye-opener is how many snapper are falling to soft plastics fished hard on the bottom. A few locals have got this wired and their results are truly amazing. It seems that these rubbery lures can catch just about everything. Using plastics is definitely a cleaner proposition, and the results speak for themselves.

With the water temperature rising with each passing day, kingfish numbers have increased. Fish to 6kg are common. Both jigs and livebait have been working, and fresh squid fished with a flasher rig are also getting results. There have also been reports of kings on the surface smacking bait, so a unweighed livie or popper should produce a fish or two.

A little further offshore, good albacore are readily available from the 70-fathom line and further east. I expect some decent yellowfin tuna to turn up too, and it won't be long before the first marlin is captured. There have been a few already captured north of us so it won't be long before the game season really kicks in. Trolling skirted pushers is the go-to method early in the season, especially with the majority of marlin being stripes. You get to cover a lot of ground which you need to do early in the season. Look for temperature breaks, tide lines and bait activity, especially bait down deep. A decent sounder is paramount for this.


In the estuaries the fishing is firing up nicely. Both Merimbula and Pambula have been good, but Pambula has been the real stand-out. You can expect flathead, bream, blackfish, whiting, trevally and monster salmon. I had a guide there the other day who produced 8 different legal species with around 40 fish caught for the morning session. That’s solid fishing for one guy.

This type of fishing will continue right through Summer, with bait and lure throwers getting amongst them. At the moment the fish are pretty concentrated, with the water a coolish 16 degrees, but they will spread out as the water warms further. I'd be looking around the main basin, concentrating in water 3-5m along the ribbon weed edges.

There will be a few monster flatties getting active too, so please do the right thing and let these breeders go. They are too valuable to catch only once.


The beaches have been consistent but not red hot. The best way to boost your catch rates is to fish the tides around the peak low-light periods. Some solid bream and whiting are succumbing to pipis, live beach worms and tuna cubes. You do have to fish light for them, and using a little berley helps as well.

The better beaches have been North Tura and the entrance to Pambula Lake. If you’re after salmon and tailor, the usual paternoster rig is the go. Most local beaches are holding both species, with Tura maintaining a deep gutter to the northern end.

Those casting chrome slices off the stones are in for some fun; this month is a gun time. There have been kingfish, big salmon, striped tuna and a few frigate mackerel getting around. Early morning is definitely the peak time, and if you can coincide that with a falling or low tide, so much the better.

A few local lads are kicking butt on the smaller tuna, catching them on tackle you’d associate with bream rather than tuna. These guys have been blown away a few times but they’re having a stack of fun in the process.

If a decent-sized king is for you, a livebait fished under a balloon may do the trick. I'd be looking at Tura Head or Long Point for best results.

I hope you all have a safe and Merry Christmas, and tight lines for 2014.

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