Well the silliest of the seasons is over and it’s that time of year when locals start to stick their heads out again and can venture back down to the boat ramps without any of the stress of holiday traffic. The screaming, yelling, boats sinking without bungs, and flying boat winch handles have ceased, at least until Easter holidays.
This is a local’s favourite time of the year. The fishing is still red hot, but minus the traffic. Don’t get me wrong, the town needs the business, it’s just that it coincides with some of the best fishing of the year. Such is the cycle of life in tourist locations; you can’t have 1 without the other. So now’s the time locals, and where will you go? Well, there are plenty of options.
We’ll start offshore, and it’s been a cracker marlin run to date. More people are getting into the offshore scene, and towing lures is still popular amongst the beginners. Just getting your confidence sorted about being out so far and concentrating on safety equipment, electronics and what the boat can handle and what seas you are comfortable in is more important at this stage. Think safety first and make sure all your safety equipment is in good working order and that you have all that’s needed to make your trip a safe one.
We have had a few beginners this season and with such a good run of marlin we have had a few first timers landing their first marlin in their first to second trip out. So well done Anthony and his crew. Well done also to the Magic duo Brian Morris and Rabia Hussain who have caught 3 marlin in 4 trips out for their first time marlin fishing this season. And the season isn't over!
Last issue we talked about switch baiting and that method has definitely been proving its reliability over the last few weeks. We had the Batemans Bay Tollgates Classic back in January and the competitors tagged 104 marlin and weighed in 2. The smallest boat in the fleet, the aptly named Fearless, captained by ‘Mad Mick’ Fields, caught the heaviest marlin of the comp, with Peter McMaster weighing a blue marlin of 162.4kg.
Some good-sized mahimahi from 10-20kg were boated, and Zoe O’Connor on Opportunatee caught a spearfish. Competitions with such a large number of boats gives you a good indication of what’s out there. The competition results indicate plenty of striped marlin, some blue and some black marlin, with large mahimahi and the odd surprise. One surprise caught just up the coast was a large northern barracuda. As the water increases in temperature to 25 degrees during March, don’t be surprised to even see the odd Spanish mackerel and wahoo down here, as they will venture down with the current.
But the main target species would be marlin and mahimahi. The mahis don’t seem to be around the FAD off Burri at this stage, and in smaller numbers than last year, but are bigger in size. Best catches have been off the fish trap buoys at the back of Montague Island and while trolling wide looking for marlin. Any object you see floating is definitely worth investigating, with lures being trolled past or sneaking up and putting down a livie yielding results. So offshore is all systems go and even closer to shore there have been a few little black marlin chasing bait.
Looking at the inshore reefs, and the fishing it is as to be expected at this time of year. You’ve got to move around to find snapper though. Some fishos are finding them in 15m by anchoring and berleying. Others are drifting in 40m and 1 guy I know found a good school in 100m.
Kingfish are around in small to medium schools, with the odd nice fish, and patches are moving around our points, bommies and islands. They are not holding off The Bay in 1 spot as they do off Moruya. Montague Island and Jervis Bay are still the most consistent.
If you have a kayak and want some fun, then try trolling the new Rapala XXX-Rap XXXR-10 with 6 x strong hooks. It’s the perfect size, and the colour range is proving irresistible to the fish. They swim at 5’ and are getting smashed by small kings around Wasp Island, and there’s always the chance of landing a bigger 1 too.
Kayaks have done well in this area and I have been pushing deeper diving hardbodies onto them with great success on snapper and kings over the last 3 years. As soon as I got hold of these new lures, I thought of the boys in that area and knew this was the lure for that terrain. Obviously they work well in all other places like out the front of Pretty or Snapper Point, but we have done a lot of testing here and the kayaks seem to do better than the powered boats.
The stealth of the kayak has its advantages. If you want to get your lure down deeper, trolling the Rapala Fat Minnow 9 is a good bait imitation and swims down to 8-10’. Then, getting even deeper is the Classic Lures’ Dr Evil that swims down to 20’ and has caught snapper and kings time and time again.
If kayaks are catching inshore snapper and kings, then this also means rock fishermen are in with a chance. Layton Brant and Jem Abbot, the area’s rock gurus, proved that with some recent catches of snapper from our stones. Salmon, tailor, drummer and sharks have been in the mix of late, with the odd king off Pretty and Snapper points. Steve Moy had some luck on small kings on lures off Snapper Point, and it was a nice size shark that took off with his livie on his last visit.
On the beaches, the whiting continue to run and are of a good size. This species has been a great standout during the warmer months, and a fisherman is welcomed home with lots of love by his family, not because of his husband/father qualities, but because he is bringing home whiting! Beach fishos have certainly been feeling the love this past summer.
Salmon and tailor continue to be found in large numbers on any given beach up and down the coast. Tailor have been massive in our estuaries, as have the trevally. If you are chasing bream or flathead and your lure gets picked up and goes flying, the chances are one of these species has hit it and could be initially confused with a mulloway.
Speaking of mulloway they have been as common as catching bream in the Clyde. There hasn’t been a massive army attacking them during the day with lures, but of a night they have been a regular catch. The Clyde produced fish every night for 2 weeks running during January, and they continue to be a popular target. Anything seemed to be working, which shows the potential numbers in the estuary. Fresh strip baits, butterflied yakkas, Lund frozen squid, to livies of any kind have all been successful. Keep in mind the rules and regulations with live bait though. Squid have been in abundance and are great bait as well as a top feed.
Upstream, Nelligen has been struggling to produce productive water, with further rain every time it looks like cleaning up. There has been a few prawns getting up there and the fishing is slowly improving, with bream around structures Right up the back, the bass have been a pretty reliable target, but get right up there and beyond Shallow Crossing.
The prawns have been very patchy and there isn’t really one standout area, so you can go almost anywhere and have a reasonable to average catch on a good night. Autumn is coming, but the fishing is still hot.
Peter McMaster’s winning blue marlin from the Batemans Bay 2015 Tollgates Classic.
Jem Abbott with a nice pinky, showing that warm water snapper are still available on plastics.Reads: 607