This time of year we really see the cold weather set in and with the good movement of water out wide off the shelf, we should have yellowfin and southern bluefin tuna turning up in big numbers. This means lots of miles travelled and big hours put in to find these beasts of the bluewater, but if you do find them the rewards are big!
It really pays to listen to your radio and be communicating with your fellow fishermen whilst chasing tuna, because numbers of boats in the same area and bait in the water is the key to keeping these fish feeding around the boat. The fish will stay up longer and everyone can then get a chance to hook and maybe land that trophy fish. I like to find a break in the water temperature and start my cube trail there, where others troll a mix of skirted and deep diving lures until they get a bite, then pull up and start cubing. Both work well.
Also at this time of year the inside reefs fire up, with plenty of snapper and kingfish, with drift bait and/or casting plastics working well. My favourite setup for the snapper is 12-20lb leader, 3/8-1oz jig head in the Stealth range from Berkley, and 5-7” Gulp Jerk Shads in Nuclear Chicken or Camo colours. Have a look on your GPS to find pinnacles, then use your sounder to identify schooling fish. Place a mark on that spot and set up a drift to come back over them. If you don't have a GPS with contour maps, download the Navionics app on your phone or check out their maps on their website at http://www.navionics.com.au/index.php/en/web-app .
If you start catching reef species such as rock cod or sergeant bakers, then you should be in the right area. If the snapper are there, it will only be a matter of time before you hook 1. I find the best time to target these guys is when the sky is golden/red, so sunrise and sunset, but in saying that they will also be more active around the change of the tide, with a lowering tide being the better option.
The kings are not as prolific or big at this time of year, but if you have a chat to your local tackle shop they should be able to point you in the right direction. If your boat is capable, a good place to head is The Block (34.58.200S 150.58.380E), located about 10nm from the Shoalhaven River entrance. At this time of year, a fun way of targeting these hard fighting fish is with the use of knife jigs. You will need to select the right weight depending on depth and current, but a good start is the smaller 200g models on a semi light setup in the 20-30lb range.
Reports have been a little quieter in the estuaries, but as I’ve spoken about before, Facebook is a fisherman’s best friend! Photos of regular catches of mulloway in the Shoalhaven are starting to pop up a little more frequently, and anywhere from the mouth of the river to the canal is your best bet. Make sure you’re aware of the tides and get ready to follow the slack water up and down-river. Try ¼-1/2oz jigheads with 5”-7” soft plastics, or try the increasingly popular soft paddle tail vibes and you should be onto a winner. If bait is more your thing, then try a small whole squid with a running ball sinker.
In St Georges Basin, the bream have been out deep, so start throwing around some Gulp minnows on 1/12-1/6th oz jigheads. Have a try in the south eastern corner, and look for schooling fish on the sounder. There has also been reports of some big flathead, with a 92cm fish popping up on Facebook not that long ago. Try south of the reefs at around the 9m mark.Reads: 534