Winter has well and truly set in and with that some reliable and fun fishing. As a starter I’d like to give you a rundown on two of my favourite local rock fishing species to plan a trip around. They are great eating and are fairly easy to catch this time of year.
First up is the black drummer. They’re affectionately known as ‘pigs’ for their omnivorous diet, willingness to take a wide range of baits and their greedy response to berley. Drummer can be easily caught off the rocks, and apart from losing a few hooks and sinkers it’s a relatively inexpensive process.
We often target the headlands between Flatrock and Lennox Point, and this involves cutting some cunjevoi for bait on the low tide and then fishing an appropriate wash on the rising tide. Drummer readily respond to berley and no trip is complete without a bucket filled with a mixture of stale bread and water. We throw a handful into the water every 10 minutes or so until the fish arrive and start to bite aggressively. Yesterday’s stale bread loaves for berley can often be bought very cheaply from a bakery or even given to you for free.
Drummer can be caught on a wide variety of tackle, and a 12ft beach rod coupled with an Alvey reel and 6kg monofilament line is a popular combination. With this setup you can cast a very light rig, normally involving a pea size sinker and 1/0 baitholder hook. This rig allows the bait to drift around naturally in the wash and prevents snagging up on the bottom, allowing more fish to take the natural looking bait and saving your valuable supply of hooks!
If you can’t manage to gather some cunjevoi for bait, don’t despair – drummer respond readily to many other baits such as prawns, crabs and squid. In fact, the imported Vietnamese aquaculture prawns that can be purchased from Coles and Woolworths when peeled make an excellent and cheap bait for drummer.
And don’t expect to catch just drummer using this technique off the rocks. Big snowy bream, groper and even small mulloway regularly make an appearance. The key factors are lots of berley, a rising tide and the fresh bait.
The second species I love catching off the rocks is the humble luderick. This is one fish species which, unlike many others, doesn’t seem to be declining in numbers. In fact, under the right circumstances it’s very easy to catch a dozen or more in a session. The probable reason for this is that the luderick’s main diet is weed, which isn’t always an easy bait to obtain. Unless weed is cleaned and processed quickly it doesn’t sell well commercially, so the professional fishermen don’t bother with it.
This is good news for you and me as these little scrappers make excellent eating when prepared properly (scrub out the black gut with a stiff bristled brush). Very similar to catching drummer, when fishing for luderick I like to arrive at my chosen rock platform on the low tide to allow sufficient time to gather enough green weed for bait and then fish the rising tide.
For a session you don’t need much more than a handful for bait, plus another handful chopped very finely (as small as possible) and mixed with wet sand in a bucket. Like drummer fishing, berley is essential when rock fishing for luderick as it attracts and holds the fish in your chosen fishing location.
While some finesse is need when rock fishing for luderick, they tend to feed a lot less cautiously than they do in an estuary environment. The general rig consists of stopper knot (able to be adjusted for depth) through to a small fluoro egg-shaped bobby cork or stemmed float running down to small ball sinker, small swivel and then 30cm of 6lb fluorocarbon trace to a size 6-8 hook such as the Mustard needle Sneck pattern. Split shot are added to weight the float correctly so it sits just above the water’s surface, where it can easily be pulled under by an unsuspecting luderick. A handy trick to make sure your float is weighed correctly is to use a bucket at home before you go fishing. This will save you some valuable fishing time.
Once again, I prefer an Alvey reel on a light 12ft rod for this type of fishing though many anglers prefer a threadline reel filled with light braid as the floating nature of the braid makes for easy hook setting over long drifts.
In regards to what’s been biting apart from drummer and luderick on the rocks, the mainstay of fishing lately in the Richmond River has been the humble bream. Good captures have been taken by anglers fishing the lower reaches around town on baits and lures, with the bigger fish falling to baits of crab and mullet flesh at night.
Estuary perch also become a fairly common bycatch at this time of year for anglers throwing hardbodies for bream around the rock walls. Please return all these great sportfish to the water as the season is officially closed.
If you’re fishing with live mullet for mulloway, and you find that bream keep eating the eyes out of your precious live baits, don’t despair. Just turn the tables around and use that same dead mullet to snare some quality bream.
Speaking of mulloway, the lack of rain in the river has made these wary fish even harder to catch in the super clear water. To overcome this problem, try downsizing your hooks and leader. Lately we have been rigging our live mullet on a rig of twin 5/0s instead of the standard 8/0s, with a long trace of 30lb fluorocarbon. This definitely makes a difference to hook-up rates. Just remember to check your leader for any nicks and abrasions after landing a fish.
It seems like the mackerel have finally disappeared off the local shallow reefs. They have been replaced by some high quality snapper gathering for their annual spawn over winter.
The snapper are certainly flighty at times, and to ensure you get consistent results you need to be on the water at first light (preferably on a tide change) and fish with maximum stealth. This means using the freshest possible baits presented as naturally as possible. I prefer lightly weighted squid or fresh slimy mackerel in a pilchard berley trail presented on a 3/0 suicide with a long trace of 12lb fluorocarbon. This technique also allows me to have a live bait sitting in the berley trail in case a big cobia or jew shows up.
For the soft plastic snapper brigade it is also important to use stealth when approaching all fishing sites or positioning for a drift. This means driving wide of your intended drift line, using a low motor speed or even using an electric motor to position the boat. Many anglers underrate stealth when fishing but it is very important when fishing in shallow water for reef species.
If you like sleeping in late, driving as fast as possible to your fishing spots and pulling big lumps of lead up from 80m+, there is hope for you yet. The wide grounds of the 42 and 48 fathom reef have been producing some good catches of pearl perch and squire plus the occasional kingfish or amberjack for the jiggers.
Until next time, I hope to see you on the water.Reads: 832