Wait for the southerly stir
  |  First Published: July 2014

I’m not complaining, but the start to winter has been too perfect. I’m waiting for a good southerly to take the heat and crystal out of the crystal clear water that has been hugging the coast. It has meant the mahi mahi have hung around longer and the bluefin (longtail) have taken advantage of the bait schools but it has also meant a staggered start to the pig season.

Teraglin, pearl perch and snapper have been encouraging in numbers and reefs around Blackhead and Snapper Rock. The trag I have seen at the tables have all looked the size of good jew, and one pearl perch was well over 3kg.

The typical mixed bag of winter species can be expected with snapper, morwong, baker, sand flathead and leatherjackets. The leatherjackets won’t get frustratingly thick for another month or two, but you should be prepared anyway. Rig with extra strength hooks and as few knots and terminals like swivels as possible. Basically you want to minimise the number of targets for the jackets to grab and bite you off.

A week of rain would be good at the moment and not just for the grass, but to stir the water up and put a bit of colour in the lake and rivers. The freshwater sections of the rivers around here have been so clear that you can see to the bottom and every catfish nest in the river. The clear water spills into the upper tidal reaches and can make fishing difficult during the day. It doesn’t help that the lake and fluctuating tides are just as clear and the fish, very spooky.

So, without reasonable rainfall between now and printing, it will be a matter of searching out some water colour between the fresh and lower lake. Bandicoot and Regatta islands are always worth a look for bream while the northern shore of Regatta Island is an ideal spot to cast a bait or lure for flathead. Large fan-belly leatherjackets are always around to cause havoc with the plastic anglers but in the clear water they are easily spotted around the leases, and can be targeted with a small long shank hook and squid or fish bait. They are surprisingly good eating.

In recent weeks the lower lake (especially The Paddocks) has still had a lot of mullet schooled up and waiting to be flushed out into the ocean. Mixed with them were bream that had come back in and some that were still roed up but yet to spawn. The bridge too was full of bream, using the pylons as the last milling station before the break walls. Lightly weighted prawn, yabby and flesh baits drifted along the wall, at the change or first of the run-out tides, will pick up the bream and blackfish of an evening. During the day the blackfish revert to eating weed and can be targeted at the turn of the tides.

Winter is renowned for big bream in the racks and I can tell you there are plenty of bream about. Whether you are using bait or lures the same rule applies: tight drags and pull hard. Most of the fish are around the 500-700g mark with the occasional 1kg fish thrown in for some white knuckle fun.

The rock scene is a bit hit-and-miss with the water clarity being a major issue for the bread-and-butter anglers through the day. Those chasing pigs and bream will be frustrated by the number of butterfish, and berley only seems to exacerbate their numbers.

One advantage of the clear water is that the pelagic fish are easy to spot from the tops of headlands, so anglers hunting tuna can spot and cast fish. Where the seas are a bit lumpy you will find fish under the wash along the rocks, and as the water temperature drops away, closer to 17ºC, it will only get better.

For the beaches all I can suggest is an early morning or late afternoon/evening fish with pilchards for the tailor and salmon that are around, or a load of beach worms for a mulloway or bream. Through the middle of the day when the fishing is slow, it’s not a bad idea to gather your fresh bait ready for the afternoon session. Both pumping yabbies and beach worming will work on the beaches and rocky ends of the beaches.

Enjoy the crisp, early mornings because they won’t last too long before we are complaining about the heat again! It’s time to take advantage of what’s on offer and hit the water.

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