Time for a change
  |  First Published: September 2014

It is hard to believe that spring is with us already. The mild winter, warm, and clear water all combined to cause a change to the traditional fishing, especially from the rocks.

Offshore, the leatherjackets turned up, though not in the numbers that have plagued the area in past years. The trag and snapper fishing has been less than consistent, though some good fish over the 5kg mark have been finding their way to the cleaning tables. Squid seems to be the preferred bait, which makes sense as we have just passed the cuttlefish spawning period. The calm seas and clear water made it incredibly easy for boaters to gather a few live squid from Haydens Reef and the reef area around Bennetts Head, and I dare say there will still be some around this month. The water has been so clear and flat at times that squidding from the shoreline was also possible, with Bennetts and Blackhead headlands being ideal locations.

I’m hoping that this month goes off with a bang because the rock fishing over the last two months has been subdued. There have been good fish caught, it is just that it has been very ordinary in comparison to previous years. Anecdotally I’d suggest that the lack of rain and subsequent run-off to the sea is to blame for the coastal fish drought, but I’m sure it is a combination of factors. The fish are there and they have to eat, but they are wary.

Pig fishing last week saw us draw a blank until the sun dropped and darkness set in. Then, from a little rocky beach, they turned on and consecutive bites produced the type of fish you generally pull during the day. So have a think – if the water is too clear and the fish aren’t cooperating try hitting the same spot in the low light periods. There will be a better chance of bream, luderick, pigs, and tailor, mixed with salmon. I promise the results will come, provided you mix up the traditional fishing scenario.

The beaches have been one saving grace along the coast with plenty of tailor and a few salmon along the sandy strip. Seven Miles at Janies Corner has been fishing well, as it does, and rocky ends of other beaches are producing too. There have been reports of some good bream and the odd school jew from the surf, so an early morning fish from the sand would be a good choice.

School jew have entertained the wall anglers, with fish around the 750-900mm mark being the average for baiters and lure fishos. The odd big run and bust-off could be a kingfish, as they travel in and out of the lake with several fish being seen in Breckenridge Channel menacing the bait schools in front of the Lakes and Oceans pub.

The kings will also raid Forster Harbour and get stuck into the baitfish under the main wharf. One guy I spoke to had his bait jig demolished as he gathered yellowtail from the wharf, but he did tell me there were some hefty bream working his berley offerings too. The wharf may well be a good spot to take the kids for a fish over the school holidays.

Bream and big blackfish are scattered along the break walls from the co-op to ends of the walls and with a bit of rough weather the points are worth a fish for pigs.

For those chasing big bream, the leases around the Paddocks and Wallamba mouth are the place to start. Even if you are not fishing with lures, a lightly weighted bait cast along the lease poles and edges is great practice in fighting and controlling big fish around structure. The bream and blackfish will continue to return to the estuary from the coast so now is the best time to take advantage of the concentration of fish in the areas near the bridge and lease structures.

At this time of year I find the flathead can be spread from the rivers to the shallow bay of the lake where the sun warms the water and the baitfish gather and feed. Prawn and fish pattern lures or live yabbies and prawn baits will be key to taking home a bag of flatties in the 40-50cm range.

The whiting too will be moving by the end of this month, and the lower lake and entrance sand flats will produce plenty of sand whiting in the sand hollows and the channel weed edges. Beach worms and yabbies on light leaders rigged on a running ball sinker is all that’s needed. The whiting on poppers style of fishing won’t get to its peak until early November but there may be a few early starters by the end of this month.

The bass season has triggered a few locals to get back to the freshwater, and with the lack of rain the post-spawn fish won’t have travelled too far back up the rivers. Concentrate your efforts in the lower, larger pools of the freshwater (even the upper brackish) and you should still find fish schooled up at the bottom of rapids and step-ups like Killawarra. Don’t be afraid to throw surface lures early in the season because the fish will be looking to put on condition for the coming summer and they will have a go.

Here’s to looking forward to a better spring. I have no doubt the fishing may be tough, especially if we don’t get some rain soon, just to recharge the lake and revitalise the coastal fringe.

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