Hitting top gear
  |  First Published: December 2013

Welcome to summer, friends! We’re in top gear on the piscatorial calendar, with everything on the chew from the bluewater to the backwater.

While it's fair to say one of the best ways to put a feed on the table is to soak a bait on the briny, from a sportfishing perspective most species are look skywards to chew off the top. Make no mistake, if you haven't lured a fish off the surface, you're missing out.

January sees most of the offshore focus directed towards the inshore run of kingfish and baby black marlin, with live baits accounting for the majority of captures. Whilst squid is perceived to be the gun live bait for kings in this part of the world, a slow trolled bridle-rigged slimy mackerel would be my preferred choice. With your bait in the water, you can then maximise your chances with a few strategically placed casts with a decent popper, stickbait or big soft plastic.

If you haven’t fished for kings in this way, I can tell you it’s well worth trying. The use of a very erratically worked lure cast slightly ahead of the boat whilst slow trolling is a very effective way to draw in fish from either side of the boat to the vicinity of the live bait. Poppers such as the Williamson Jet Popper and the 90mm Rapala X-Rap Walk mimic a wounded baitfish, and that’s something that hungry pelagics find irritable.

Put into the mix a white 9" soft plastic shad (I use Silstar Slapstix) on a 1oz jighead with a solid 8/0 hook, and this will give you the ability to cover the whole water column as the fish home in on all the activity. The minimum starting point for tackle is 30-50lb braided line with 80lb leader. This should hold fish to 10kg, which is the most common size class for this time of year.

Coming off the back of a warm spring, the flats have now warmed to around 24 degrees. The whiting are fighting to eat fresh nippers and a range of smaller walk-the-dog style stickbaits on finesse estuary tackle.

The key catching to whiting on lures is a constant retrieve. Expect bream as bycatch and the odd big longtom, which really play up if you can get the hooks to stick in their fine mouths.

Whiting don't seem to mind excessive boat traffic at this time of year, but if history is anything to go by the edges will slow as the fish move to deeper water to avoid the skiers and tubers till the end of the month.

For a more serene option, Tallowa Dam will be devoid of any boats, and a canoe or kayak session will produce bass in the timber around the edges.

The best advice I can give to the holiday boaters is to be prepared for long queues at the ramp and be patient at this time of year. Make sure your boat is serviced and well prepared, and check the weather regularly – particularly for Jervis Bay, which can turn from idyllic to your worst nightmare in minutes.

Speaking of Jervis Bay, give the iconic tubes a wide berth in the boat. The hard-core land-based crews could very well be hooked to a black marlin off the rocks, with over 500m of line off the spool a common occurrence.

Failing that, let’s hope the Banks north of Currarong fires up for the annual run of inshore beaks later in the month.

See you on the water.

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