There is little doubt in my mind that over-fishing by commercial interests has, by far, a more significant impact on fish stocks than any pressure applied by recreational anglers.
This is no better illustrated than by the seasonal increases in the schools of Australian salmon that invade the beaches and coastal backwaters each Autumn and Winter.
Since the commercial harvest of salmon drastically reduced their numbers have increased each year, to the point that they often blacken the water as they move up the coast. You have probably seen on TV the juvenile white pointers feasting on the schools along Stockton Beach and the salmon’s range seems to increase each year, too.
While they aren’t a great species on the table they more than make up for it in the fighting stakes. Their aerial leaps and penchant for lures, especially surface poppers, saves them from being a total nuisance species.
This month the salmon invasion ramps up and they will be available from the beaches and rocky foreshores right through to September or later. Casting heavy chrome lures like Raiders from the rocks or surface poppers (my favourite) is a fantastic way to spend a morning or afternoon. If you aren’t into lures, gar or pilchards rigged on ganged hooks will do the trick, as will mullet strips.
Also hunting the rocky fringes are the rock blackfish (drummer) and the bream travelling along the coast on spawning migration.
If you are looking for areas where blackfish are present, or likely to turn up after dark, take note of the weed growth just below high water mark. If the weed is reasonably long with good cabbage and red weed growth, it’s my guess the blackfish haven’t made an impact and I’d be looking farther afield. Where the weed is grazed short it is more than likely that as the tide rises and darkness takes over, the blackfish will move into the area. The traditional green weed isn’t my bait of choice. Yabbies pumped from the sand flats during the low tide earlier in the day are the best baits, rigged on a No 1 or 1/0 Mustad bronze 540. A small running ball sinker finishes the rig on 12kg string or 8lb to 10lb Fireline with a 6kg leader.
Peeled green or cooked prawns are also worth a go and will also produce the odd rock blackfish (pig). Groper in Autumn are a good target and often a saviour when the westerly winds flatten out the swell and turn other fish off the bite.
Crabs are the obvious baits for the groper but do the right thing and gather only a few until you know whether the fish are co-operating. There’s no point catching and killing 10 crabs and finding out nothing wants them. And be aware of marine park zonings where bait-gathering and fishing are permitted.
The game boats should have some season left in them and the more settled weather should help them explore wider areas and the continental shelf.
The game season has been ordinary in spite of a promising start and I suspect it may be due to the fact the bonito didn’t show up in any real numbers. A smattering here and there was all the bonnies could muster this year, which was very disappointing to the commercial anglers.
With the mullet run in full swing, the bream in the lake should be a bit more relaxed with all the other finned activity. The clear water can spook the bream through the day so if you are chasing them on lures, fish the dirtier water around Regatta Island and similar places.
Flathead in any numbers can be caught at the mouths of the rivers and further back into the lake. There are still a few fish down around the Paddocks but the best of them are upstream.
There are still some big whiting on the move with the last of the fish still on the beaches. The mandatory tailor schools have been cruising the beach line and some good catches of 30cm to 35cm fish have been keeping anglers happy in the cooler hours of the day.
So there is little reason not to get out and have a fish before we are plunged into the depths of Winter and the limits that it imposes.Reads: 731