The very unlikely pair
  |  First Published: January 2016

The south coast estuary systems still amaze me with what species are likely to turn up during the summer months. The last week in Merimbula lake has seen two species that l have never heard of entering a southern estuary let alone staying in there for a while. While these two creatures have certainly turned some heads, they aren’t a viable estuary target.

The unlikely pair – an 8ft blue shark and a dugong, that’s right a dugong made a dramatic appearance. To say they are a different visitor to the region is an under statement, perhaps these lads are lost! The dugong has been seen for around a week in the lower channels on Merimbula Lake right in front of town. By all reports it’s healthy, just a little way from home. The blue shark was probably ill as it had tried to beach itself in shallow water, but a few locals got in the drink and pushed it off the sand. It was spotted a few hours later swimming in the channel so hopefully it’s ok too. Let’s get stuck into what we all want, southern estuarine fish.

The recent rains we experienced a few weeks back really knocked the estuaries around, but they’re clearing now with the water temperature rising. The front sections of Pambula and Merimbula is definitely the place to fish with the last two hours of the flooding tide producing best. Anglers who use a mixture of bait and lures have had success in the clearer water. Species on offer include trevally, flathead, whiting, flounder, bream and blackfish. The upper reaches should fish better in a couple of weeks or so. Because of the dirty water, flathead have been slow, but expect to see some jumbo flathead start to chew soon. Anglers fishing larger live-baits like tailor and mullet should do well, but bigger vibe lures will certainly work too. Throwing these bigger imitations around gives you a chance at a big mulloway too. I haven’t heard of any caught in either system but that’s not saying they aren’t there either.

For fishos fishing the stones it’s all systems go. The pelagic action has been great for months now and the good times will keep rolling on. There’s a heap of bonito and salmon to be caught with the odd kingfish coming from the deeper ledges of Tura Head and Long Point. Those using chromed lures and ganged pilchards have fared best on the smaller fish, with live-bait the go for the bigger models. Those after a feed for the pan should be able to rustle up a few fillets from the wash with bream, blackfish and drummer on the cards. You won’t get stacks of fish with the warmer water but enough to keep you happy. The better spot to try is Short and Long Point with cabbage, fresh cooked prawns and cunjevoi the preferred baits.

Outside, sport-fishers look forward to this time of year as it all starts to happen. There’s already been a handful of yellowfin tuna caught to 35kg with stacks of albacore in the 4-10kg bracket. The water just north of us is warm and it won’t be long before the first marlin is encountered. Already striped marlin especially have come to play in the warm 20°C+ water. You will have more success trolling early in the season with the 70-fathom line outwards the place to start. If you find the bait and smaller tuna, you should be in business. Another method is switch-baiting with livies, it takes a little bit of organisation on the deck but is a highly effective method if done correctly.

On the beaches, tailor numbers are increasing with some nice fish up 1.5kg caught. The salmon are still in huge numbers and with the warmer weather both bream and whiting numbers will increase. Both these species are great fun on light lines and pretty good on the plate. Concentrate around the estuarine mouths like Pambula and Short Point (Back Lake) for best results. A few locals have been having some nice sessions there so it’s worth a look. Other beaches to try include North Tura and Tura, especially if a gummy shark or mulloway is your target. There’s been the odd gummy caught by those fishing for salmon so if you fish the right conditions and time you could be on to one. Fish the flooding tide just after dark with fresh salmon strips for your best chance at getting one.

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