Beating the holiday blues
  |  First Published: December 2014

Everyone loves the summer holidays, but if you’re a keen angler, this can be a rather trying time of year! Starlo offers some very timely tips to help beat the crowds and catch a few fish.

“Summer time and the livin’ is easy, fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high.” So goes the delightful old Ella Fitzgerald jazz number. And it’s true. Summer is a wonderful time of year, and we all look forward with eager enthusiasm to our annual holidays. Somewhere between Christmas Eve and Australia Day, most Aussies will take a chunk of time off work to spend with their families, kick back and — in many instances — wet a line in the hope of catching some of those jumpin’ fish Ella sung so lyrically about!

Unfortunately, the reality of this situation also means that our more popular waterways will be placed under immense people-pressure as hordes of holiday-makers escape the summer heat for some welcome aquatic relief. Laughing kids, splashing dogs, noisy ski boats and a flotilla of other craft from tiny kayaks to floating gin palaces will all fill our estuaries, bays, lakes and rivers over the coming weeks, transforming even normally placid and largely deserted backwaters into busy, bustling hives of frantic activity. Long queues will form at launching ramps and tempers may fray as those once-a-year boaties struggle with the basics of fitting bungs, undoing tie-downs and coaxing neglected outboards into spluttering, coughing life. It can be a trying time…

Not surprisingly, fish often tend to hunker down or make themselves scarce when this annual migration run of excited humanity hits the coastline and inland waterways. Catching a feed can become nigh on impossible at the height of the summer time insanity… They don’t call it this the silly season for nothing!

Fortunately, there are some tricks for avoiding the worst excesses of the ‘human hatch’ and still being able to hook the odd good fish. Here are my five favourites:

1. Avoid the busiest hours of the day. Try to do the bulk of your January fishing very early in the morning (also a good way to beat those incessant summer sea breezes), late in the evening, or even at night. Remember, the days are extra long right now, so save the middle parts of them for family activities or watching the cricket, and do your fishing before or after.

2. Consider giving the lures a rest. Instead use the best and freshest bait you can lay your hands on. Typically, this means catching or gathering it yourself. Beach, blood, sand and squirt worms, pink nippers (Bass yabbies), pipis and cunjevoi (sea squirt) flesh are all good, but my absolute favourite offering at this time of year is a live prawn lightly skewered by the tail on a small, sharp hook… Deadly!

3. Go the extra kilometre. Travel upstream a few more bends, or walk another couple of hundred metres along the beach or around the headland to get away from the worst of the holiday crowds. People tend to be rather lazy these days, and making a small extra investment of effort and time can really pay off handsomely.

4. Use even more finesse in your fishing than usual. More than at any other time of the year, the use of minimal sinker weight (or no sinker at all) and the lightest, finest lines and leaders you can possibly get away with will pay huge dividends in terms of extra bites and more fish hooked… Fish smarter, not harder!

5. Finally, be extra cautious around the water. There are lots of very occasional boaters out there now and accidents will happen. Make sure they don’t impact on you! It should also go without saying that this is the most critical time of year when it comes to avoiding skin damage from our harsh sun. Make sure you slip, slop and slap!

Until next time, I wish you all safe, productive summer fishing and a happy, healthy New Year. Tight Lines!

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