Sand, stone and stream
  |  First Published: July 2014

Pull on the beanie, pull up the head sock and put on that warm jacket! It’s cold weather fishing time. These might be the negatives but there are some serious positives. Fish are on offer off the beaches, rocks at sea and in the estuaries.

Beach and rock fishing will see the wetsuits also getting a run, as there is nothing worse than getting sprayed with water in the middle of winter while fishing the stone or beach. Along with a life jacket, it’s one of you best insurances of staying alive if you take the unlikely event of a swim off the rocks.

This month will be a prime time to chase tailor off the beach and stones. The cheap option is some metal slugs, but as those who chase tailor know, they can be finicky fish and sometimes only a well-presented bait will fool them. And pilchards have got to be their favourite in our parts. A simple three or four gang hook setup with a small ball sinker is enough to get you going. Off the beach a bigger sinker will provide better casting and off the rocks a lighter one will reduce the distance, however it will provide a more natural bait presentation. Finding the depth they are feeding can be a challenge.

It’s good to start on the top with a quick retrieve and then slowly work closer to the bottom. Sometimes they’ll be schooled on the bottom but then start moving higher as they feed. Finding the pattern is key. Best locations on the beach this month will be North Beach, Lighthouse Beach at the Lake Cathie end and Dunbogan Beach.

Also off the rocks this month will be drummer. The best bait by far is cunjevoi with as light a sinker as possible and some serious drag power on your reel of choice. A good bread berley will entice the bite, breadcrumbs thrown out in the cunjevoi casings are also a good way of deploying the trail. Diamond Head, Grants Head and Minners Beach are top locations to target these pulling machines in July.

Those venturing offshore have enjoyed some unseasonal warm currents, which have provided some excellent opportunities for good catches of mahi mahi and Spanish mackerel. It will be interesting to see if this remains the same this month. I’d bet my favourite lure that this month things will change. Attentions for many will turn to chasing snapper.

With some quality fish already being caught, top baits this month will be squid for sure. However, a good octa or lucanis jig, along with soft plastics, will also prove successful.

Top places to start will be on the inshore reefs off the golf course, and the reefs off Bonny Hills. Already quality fish are coming from both locations. Using your sounder will be the key to locating fish and making the most of your time, whether your using bait or lures.

For anglers pushing wider out to sea, pearl perch and teralgin will be good options with Petersons Reef a good starting point. Cut baits will prove the most successful, only hindrance could be the current you encounter. Be prepared for some strong currents, and don’t discount coming in closer and fishing off Nobbys or Lighthouse.

Estuary action this month is kicking into gear for the prime winter species with winter flathead moving into the shallows. At times they can be challenging to find legal size fish, however when you do they are often schooled and are a good feed of 40-45cm.

Top spots will be Big Bay, the flats in Limeburners Creek and the flats on the Southern Bank from Fernbank Creek to Dennis Bridge. Soft plastics ripped and paused, or hopped and paused are a top technique to get their interest and entice a bite. Just remember to take what you need and not your limit. The limit for common dusky flathead in NSW is 10 fish. This is the most common species on the Hastings and Camden Haven rivers, although we do encounter the blue spotted and tiger flathead.

Garfish are an awesome winter fish. Clear water pushes in from the sea and, with the predictions of a dry winter, they will be a top target species this month. With some bread, pealed prawns and a quill float you can have some top fun with this tasty fish.

Garfish are a great way to get kids hooked on fishing too. If you get the fish schooled up with bread crumbs, then get the kids to drift out small chunks of peeled prawns on tiny hooks – it’s great to watch the garfish take them and priceless the expression on the kid’s faces.

Top locations for chasing garfish this month will be in Limeburners Creek and on the flats at the mouth of the Maria River. Calm mornings and evenings are the best times and make for some top fun and a great outing.

Bream this month get ready to head to sea and will start schooling with mullet along the rock walls and in deeper water. Bait fishing will be best suited for those who like to chase fish after dark. Land-based angling is a good option for this with some key locations proving to hold some quality bream.

McInherny Park is a top spot with rocks and small sandy beaches giving access to deep water with some current flow. I like to use fresh yabbies, however fresh salted prawns can prove very deadly. Lure anglers will be focusing on structure with deep water. The rock walls are the place to start, then jetties and pontoons along Hibbard Drive and then the canal systems.

For the lure anglers, blade fishing is becoming more and more popular with a plethora of models on the market these days. It’s a preference thing and once you have the technique dialled in, all are worth trying at different depths and current flow. It still amazes me how a bream will pick a piece if metal up off the bottom!

Soft plastics still work really well in our parts with curl tail grubs making a come back. Recently I had an outing and vowed that’s all I’d use. My mate Wayne and I would have probably gone head-to-head with him using prawn styles and me the good old curl tail. The common things we did were fish fluorocarbon all the way through and to scent our lures.

So rug up pull on the warm beanie and hit the water this month for some fun piscatorial winter pursuits. Just remember to take what you need not your limit and enjoy your time on the water.

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