Can the fishing be any more on fire?
  |  First Published: January 2015

Okay, we’ll start from the back and work to the front. Bass! Oh my wordy, yes. The bass are well and truly on and it doesn’t matter where you’re at, it’s a bass-fest and plenty of PBs are being broken.

For the last couple of months the 1/8oz black and purple AusSpin Spinnerbait has been doing the damage and still continues to star in the back reaches of Batemans Bay. In the soft shell cicada department, the Tiemco has a great natural colour range, a surface action to tempt the bite, and have been a favourite among local anglers. Small Chubby and Minnow Divers are also running out of the shop, favoured colours being black or gold, or both, with orange bellies or tails. Presently, you could throw a half eaten sausage with a hook in it and jag one!

Downstream, the Nelligen area has been a bit on the quiet side in comparison to last year. It seems the better part of fishing in the Clyde has been from Big Island out to sea. Spring started with big flathead, tailor and whiting, and this has continued throughout summer. The bream came out to play a couple of weeks after the big rain dump, and they are still on the chew.

Bigger 4” plastics will get you a PB flattie, and the new 4” Nemesis from Berkley in Gulp and PowerBait have been flathead candy and tempting big bream as well.

Massive whiting are being caught on our beaches and 35-45cm fish are common in the catch bag. On the flats, any surface lure works, so long as you are fishing the last 2 hours of the run-out. A bit of breeze always helps, and with the barometer on your side you can’t go wrong. Outside of that technique, there is always worms or nippers to put you on the scoreboard.

The estuary has been turning on a great mulloway show for the last few months, and this is expected to continue. It all went a bit quiet for a couple of weeks during the big rain and boat traffic onslaught, but since then and up until now mulloway have been a regular capture in the estuary. John Hilyear and Josh Baddock have been going head-to-head on the biggest, but it looks as though Josh finished with one of the best mulloway caught in the Clyde for 2014, as you can see pictured hereabouts.

Inshore has been up and down, with some good catches of snapper, the odd king, big mowies, and plenty of squid. Not everyone is scoring in the snapper department though. A lot of boats are finding it hard, and as I said in the last issue, you have to move around in the summer months. You can get them in close at 40m or out beyond 60m. Look around a bit.

As you do this, you could also bump into a floor full of flathead, which is always a nice meal. If you are trolling from place to place there is the chance of a kingie, although they’re not quite holding off here. Big schools have been swimming through and blacking out the odd sounder at times though. Jervis Bay has been producing some nice fish and anglers have been enjoying surface action with them. Montague Island is on, but has its off days. It’s holding fish, although they are mostly small at this stage.

The squid around the Bay have been plentiful. They’re great bait and even better dinner if you luck out on the snapper. A little further offshore, we saw mahimahi come out to party in spring, but there is no sign of them during the early stages of summer, although I expect they’ll start showing up soon and hogging the FAD east of Burrewarra Point.

What seems to be more of a possibility at the FAD right now is black marlin. We had a nice little run of blacks last year compared to previous ones, and this summer is already looking better. A couple of boats have caught some around the FAD, and fish have been spotted swimming around boats on the snapper grounds. They’re one of the feistiest fish you could hook onto this summer.

Further offshore and just inside the shelf are striped marlin. They have come on quite well and a lot of crews looking for these majestic creatures have had hookups and landed some already.

We spoke about switch baiting last issue and how it was the most successful way to hook one and stay connected. This is because you have managed to get a circle hook pinned in the corner of the marlin’s mouth. So how do we do this? Well, first of all you need to run lures without hooks. As this can be a tricky process, I would suggest running 2 medium sized lures to keep things simple. I find 9½” Moldcrafts to be ideal. They are big, soft things, with soft heads, and marlin love chasing them down and playing with them.

There have been occasions when marlin hit a hardhead lure or a lure with hooks in it, pull some drag and swim off never to be seen again. It also happens with softhead lures, but I have seen it more with hardheads and hooks, and I can’t but think maybe it is un-natural enough to scare the marlin off. Consequently, I use softhead Moldcrafts, and even if I’m wrong I’m fishing with confidence and sometimes that’s what it takes to get fish.

Added to the mix is a teaser. Just two good-sized Moldcrafts and the boat is sometimes enough to raise a fish, but again, I’m more confident having additional commotion out the back and I think it can get more attention from nearby fish. I like to run a strip of plastic squids with a bird and/or glitter teaser floats. There’s quite a few different options, but as long as there is a party out the back to raise fish, it doesn’t matter too much.

The next thing is to have skip baits ready to go. These are large sized slimy mackerel, small striped tuna, bonito, salmon — some people have even skipped Maori wrasse! One of the biggest blue marlin caught out of Bermagui was on a Maori wrasse skip bait.

To rig up a skip bait it’s best to see it done, so go and find it on YouTube and choose the technique that suits you. Now, once you raise a fish, the first thing to do is have the crew on the same page and working together on the boat with allocated tasks so people aren’t running around head-butting each other when a fish is up. One member brings the teaser in, and then another is on the lures ready to wind them up.

Once the teaser is aboard, bring the lure close to the boat and have it ready to be put back out if the fish needs some more teasing. The ideal situation is to have the fish interested in one of the lures, and a crewmember already dropping back a skip bait on tackle that is going to cope with a 60-120kg fish.

Once the skip bait is near the lure the marlin is chasing, start to pull it in and put that bait on the nose of the fish. Once it eats the bait, let it swallow it. When you think the marlin has downed it, then put the reel’s drag into action and let the circle hook come up, around, and lodge into the corner of the mouth for a definitive hook-set. Then hang on!

This sounds relatively simple, but a lot can go wrong and marlin can be up and gone and back and looking around the back of the boat in no time, so there is a lot of feel to it as well. It’s your job to keep the fish up and try and keep its focus directed at the lure and then the skip bait.

Then there is the timing to set the hook. Practice will make it better and experience is paramount. It’s a case of trying the technique and then fine-tuning it. You’ll get better, smoother and gradually increase the catch rates. You won’t catch every fish you raise, but you’ll catch a whole lot more than trolling hooked lures, no risk.

Once you are confident with switching, you can switch with live bait as well.

So basically that’s it. Keep it simple, everybody on-board has to be aware of their tasks, and then stick with it and hone that teamwork. Then you will probably develop your own way or what suits your boat.

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