Here we are deep into the true Winter phase of the fishing season and many of the expected cold-water targets are on fire.
Typically by July the inshore cuttlefish run will be in full swing. Even if the floating carcasses prove difficult to locate, try seeking out the areas dolphins are occupying. Rest assured, big snapper will be close by.
Many anglers have already been experiencing some first-class snapper action on fish up to 5.5kg. A recent trip for Phil Petridis and I yielded 10 fish to 5kg on soft plastics. We had to work hard to find the fish with hundreds of casts in various depths but repeated drifts over successful areas increased the catch.
The typical westerly flat and clear conditions have made the land-based pursuit of snapper less consistent but a few good ones have been taken. Murray Cooper recently scored a well-conditioned 5.5kg red off a favourite beach in among hordes of bait stealing tailor. The couple of 1.2m bronze whalers he also caught had the beach swimmers running from the surf, vowing to never return again.
We have also been experiencing some big concentrations of calamari squid grabbing our softies while chasing snapper so it pays to have a few rigged squid jigs at the ready. At times five or six squid could be seen at the back of the boat fighting over the one jig.
Be sure to give the landing net a good shake so the squid expels all of its ink or you may end up with a faceful, like Phil did! I have experienced a faceful of ink, too, and while it is highly amusing for onlookers, it certainly isn’t pleasant for the one in the mollusc’s sights.
I have made sure all offshore snapper trips have included a live squid positioned deep under a balloon but as yet no big kingfish have taken an interest. However, our soft plastics have often been ambushed by packs of rat kingfish. Most of the kings have been in the undersized 40cm to 50cm bracket though. At least it is a good sign for the future of our kingfish stocks.
However, some nice kingfish to a metre have recently been encountered by the more dedicated anglers willing to actively chase them, so I shall continue to persevere.
Beach anglers continue to fare well on bream, salmon and big tailor. Bronze whalers continue to be after-dark pests, indicating there is still some lingering warm water.
Further proof to some warmer patches of water was evident when a huge school of frigate mackerel chased a ball of whitebait right into the waves when I was recently surfing my local breakwall. It was a unique experience to be right in the middle of it all.
James Gale found a pair of jewfish to 10kg around the new moon on fresh squid. Amazingly, he called both of the hooks-ups one minute before they occurred, when a whiff of fresh jewfish could be smelt on the breeze. I can distinctly recall having a similar experience about five seasons ago when I hadn’t had a bite on a flat moonlit night. The unmistakable smell of jewfish suddenly filled the air and moments later my rod wrenched down hard, lifting me right off the bucket I was sitting on. Unfortunately I pulled the hook on that fish and it was the only bite I got all night.
The Clyde River will now be shifting into its dormant phase with not too much variety on offer.
Estuary perch will still be a viable option with some quality fish to 45cm still being caught and released. Despite the cool Winter conditions I find that estuary perch still susceptible to surface presentations over the shallow weed flats. For me, explosive surface strikes are what EP fishing is all about.
School jewfish are always a possibility but the hard work and repetitive casting does not appeal to many anglers, particularly with much fewer flathead by-catch in the cooler months.
I expect the whole bream scene to be over in the Clyde with not enough black bream in the system these days to bother with. Regardless of your views on marine parks, the local one will go along way to restoring the Clyde’s black bream numbers in years to come.
Black bream in the Tuross system are another matter entirely with healthy numbers of big fish inhabiting this estuary. A good indication of how well this system fishes throughout the Winter is how heavily Captain Kev Gleed’s Wilderness Fishing Tours is booked. If you are thinking of doing a charter with Kev, make sure you ring well in advance.
With the Tuross entrance being but a dribble, I expect some decent-sized tailor, whiting and even legal snapper to remain in the system right through Winter. School jewfish and estuary perch will be equally viable but, as in the Clyde, be prepared to work your arms off to get the results.
Flat seas, westerly winds and a screaming reel yielding to a quality fish – it’s snapper time!
Phil Petridis with 5kg of serious line-stripping snapper, well-earned rewards for countless casts.
Macauley Cooper poses with Dad Steve’s ripper 5.5kg snapper captured off a local beach.Reads: 785