Hopefully the weather and ocean currents are a little kinder to us this month than they were through most of Summer. Autumn is generally the most settled season, so the winds should back off and oceanic currents should stabilize at around 23°C.
In early February the inshore waters were all over the place and far too often the water temps dropped as low as 15°C. That has made for some very frustrating times for those who are into rock, beach or inshore reef fishing. Kingfish have continued to bite through late summer, although sometimes the kings have been a bit on the small side. Like last year, bigger predators such as cobia and marlin have been sporadic, although if the currents do end up settling in, there’s every chance that we’ll see some good cobes caught, just like last year. The good thing about cobia is that they can show up virtually anywhere at any time. They’ll venture into Brisbane Waters and Lake Macquarie as well as terrorizing beach fishos chasing tailor or jewies.
If all goes well, bream should be prolific along the rocks and beaches this month. It’s the time of year when they gather for their annual spawning run and some big fish can be amongst them too. Potholes and gutters that cut into the surrounding rock platform, broken boulder country and beach corners are very reliable bream hotspots through the Autumn months. Some excellent bream spots can be found at the southern end of Avoca Rocks, Pelican Point and Catherine Hill Bay, but really there’s no need to travel far from home. Any combination of sand, rock and foam covered water is worth investigating.
Top bream baits are fresh or salted tailor, bonito and mullet, pipis, beach worms and the good old blue pilchard. When buying a block of pillies the first thing I like to do is crack the block in half before it starts to thaw out and stick one half straight back in the freezer. The other half cops a liberal sprinkling of salt, so that as the pillies slowly thaw out the salt starts to toughen them up a bit. This way the pillies will stay on the hook for longer.
An average sized pilchard can be cut into three reasonable bream baits, while bonito, mullet or tailor flesh should be cut into strips about 4cm by 2cm, leaving the skin on. Light 4kg mono, small sinkers and sharp size 2 to 1/0 hooks are right on the money for local rock and beach bream. I also reckon longer rods make it easier to set the hook on bream in the whitewater. So a light, whippy rod of at least three metres or more is suitable for the task.
Tailor, jewfish, salmon and whiting are other species that will be cruising the surf this month, with a chance of trevally, sharks and maybe a small snapper or good cobia here and there. Off the rocks, we should see some bonito, tailor, rat kings, frigate mackerel, drummer and blackfish. Even if you only really want to catch bream, it’s always a good idea to carry a couple of metal lures at this time of year, as frigate mackerel, bonito or tailor often show up when you’re not expecting them and they all make first class bream baits.
Brisbane Waters and Tuggerah Lakes should produce the goods this month, although we really could do with that all important rain to put a bit of colour into these waterways. I’ve often found Brisbane Waters to be quite reliable for school jewfish in March, especially around the new and full moon periods. Jewies can be found throughout the system at this time of year, but don’t overlook Erina and Narara creeks, as even fish of a reasonable size will make their way up into some shallow sections of the creeks in pursuit of mullet, herring and chopper tailor. Consequently, livebaits tend to do well on these jewies.
There shouldn’t be a shortage of bream and flathead in both estuaries through March. Once again, both species will be encountered almost anywhere. In Tuggerah Lakes, pay particular attention to the shallow water around the edges of the extensive weedbeds. Sandy pockets between the weeds are a favourite of local bream and this is where surface lures work well. One of my favourites is the 5cm SureCatch popper, but anything that floats up on top and is less than 80mm in length will be of some interest to the bream.
The other alternative is to head up one of the creeks and fish soft plastics around the snags. The good thing about this is the chance of running into some estuary perch. Right now, most perch should be around the middle reaches of the creeks, but once the weather starts to cool, the perch will slowly move out into the lakes and head over towards The Entrance or a few other “secret” spots around the lakes.Reads: 792