Top lake turns it on
  |  First Published: February 2014

Despite the increased boat traffic that both the Merimbula and Pambula Lakes have copped over the last few weeks, it amazes me how both these systems still produce the goods. Some cracking fish have been caught this year.

Flathead are still abundant, with some solid models up to 90cm being caught. Anglers using soft plastics up to 100mm and live poddy mullet have fared best, though the odd fish has succumbed to blades, especially in Merimbula Lake. Fishing the shallower margins early in the morning has been the go, with lighter leaders a must for consistent results. You do lose the odd fish, but you will definitely get more bites on light leader than using heavier gear.

It’s not unusual to get bag limits inside a session, but thankfully these days more anglers are keeping only what they can eat and releasing the rest.

Bream and whiting have been abundant, with the channels fishing well on a rising tide. Using live nippers and squirtworms has been dynamite but with these softer baits you may need patience and persistence to get through the pickers. If re-baiting all the time isn’t for you, use fresh striped tuna cubes in conjunction with berley for good results on bream. Bream find it pretty hard to resist fresh stripy, particularly during low light periods.

If lure fishing is more your thing, surface walkers and poppers have been the go-to lures, especially in Pambula. You can expect bream, whiting and the occasional flathead when surface fishing, with a few of the whiting upwards of 44cm – solid fish in anyone’s books. The better areas to concentrate on are spots that have a mixture of sand bottom with intermediate patches of weed covering it. These types of spots hold plenty of prawns, which in turn attract whiting and bream.

The top lake at Merimbula is fishing extremely well despite its size. Tailor numbers have been on the improve with the odd mulloway being caught as well. I know of several quality fish caught up there recently, with the best a cracking 16kg. This fish fell to a visiting angler fishing mid-range soft plastics aimed at flathead. After a 30-minute fight he got a surprise when a gleaming jewie came up the side of the boat. This angler would be well and truly hooked now, as a mulloway of that size in any estuary is a great effort.

There have been a few bruiser bream around the racks but they have been a little gun-shy of late with all the boat traffic. That should now improve as we head further into February, with fewer boats on the water. Use smaller hardbodies and poppers on a rising tide. The last 2 hours are the best.


On the beaches it's all systems go with bream, whiting, salmon, tailor and mulloway all chewing at times. With the warmer water the whiting action is full on. Fish to 45cm have been caught, with bag limits reached inside a few hours. Live beachworms and fresh pipi have been the better baits, and a little berley used sparsely helps things along.

Some decent yellowfin bream are mixed in with the whiting, with fish to 1.2kg falling victim to the softer baits. It can be hard getting your own bait but the end reward will make it worth it. Most beaches are holding fish but the better ones to try include Haycock, Merimbula main and North Tura.


Offshore the marlin action is hot to trot, with multiple captures occurring daily. Both blacks and stripes have been caught, mainly by boat crews trolling lure spreads of pushers. The beaks are wide though; the 70-fathom line and further east has seen most of the action. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few fish get caught in closer over the coming weeks. The water is 23 degrees in close, loaded with bait and the current is pushing south – all the ingredients needed for marlin fishing. There were a few marlin last season caught only a stone’s throw from shore, so let's hope this season is the same.

Those anglers after a feed of bottom fish won't have any trouble. Snapper, morwong and kingfish are plentiful on the reefs, with sand and tiger flathead in good numbers on the sand. Fish in 30m straight off the Pambula River mouth for the sandies, and the gravel edges along the reefs in deeper water for the tigers.


The rocks are still firing well for the pelagic species like salmon, tailor, striped tuna and kingfish. Short Point and Tura Head have seen most of the action, with anglers using live bait faring best on kings. I know some big fish around the 15kg mark have come from Tura Head of late, and a lot of luck needs to be on your side to land a fish like that. Casting smaller chromies up to 50g should also work, especially on the smaller pelagics.

The rock fishing will only get better as the weeks pass. February to May is prime time so if a decent fish off the stones is for you I'd be heading down there for a look.

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