Following the baitfish
  |  First Published: February 2016

As most anglers know, wherever you fish there will be a bite window – that special time of the day or night when fish feed in a frenzy. These bite windows can happen very regularly at this time of year along our part of the coast. As vast schools of baitfish congregate, predators follow and incredible angling action ensues.

Marlin fishing will gain intensity, and February is one of the best months to target the beaks. Water temperature has risen, and the game fish have arrived! There is easy access to them from the port of Bermagui for many excited anglers.

Find the bait and you will find the predators. This can happen very close to shore or way out wide over the Continental Shelf. In the past I have seen anglers drive past fish because they didn’t know how to read the signs. Check the water temperature on gauges, and learn to read the water. Look out for clear cobalt water with plenty of life visible. Learning to recognise signs of possible game fishing action is only achieved by spending plenty of time on the water. A safe starting point is the Twelve Mile Reef; here blacks, blues and striped marlin will be in search of delicious bait schools. The best way to find out if fish are in the area is with a spread of lures. This allows you to travel around sounding for baitfish as you go (if they are not visible up on the surface). Listen to the radio; excited anglers who have encountered a marlin may give away an area where these fish are concentrated. There are other game fish too; short-billed spearfish have been present as well as mahimahi, hammerhead sharks, mixed tuna species, and some very nice yellowfin taken on lures.

Around Montague Island kingfish are in very good numbers, however they are varied in size. Methods to capture these fish are as mixed as the size of them! Jigging is popular, and will take fish regularly, while baitfishing with either live mackerel or yellowtail will also be effective. If the fish are near the surface, trolling will catch kingies as well as some of the many small tuna that frequent the area such as bonito, striped or frigates. Be prepared – black marlin take a liking to these small tuna so towing one around may gain you a pleasant beaked surprise.

Lots of those smaller tuna have been encountered closer to shore where they can be targeted on lighter gear. Some of the better areas are the entrance to Bermagui Harbour, around the Blue Pool, and down off the Brothers rocky outcrops. There’s also the opportunity to catch some decent salmon, which will keep any seasoned angler on their toes, along with some great tailor towards dusk and dawn.

For the reef and bottom fishos things couldn’t be better. How far you want to travel is totally up to you, as most systems currently hold good stocks of fish. Many anglers have fun close to shore with plastic baits on a wide variety of species. Most target snapper but have come up with mixed bags of assorted reef species through to some nice lightweight pelagic species.

Conventional baitfishing has been successful on the wider grounds, with large tiger flathead at the top of the list. Great sandies are there too, along with gummy sharks, morwong, perch and nannygai in the deeper areas.

The salmon that have been hanging around the rocky areas will move along the beaches, and anglers can easily gain good bags. For a bit of variety, southern yellowfin bream will entertain, along with plenty of whiting. These fish are caught on beach worms or fresh pipis. Larger species like gummy sharks and mulloway, will come out to play at night, with plenty of tailor chomping in between the larger bites.

February is one of the best months to fish the estuaries around Bermagui. The amount of prawns this season is fantastic, which makes estuary fishing extremely fruitful. Fish are in excellent condition, and are feeding quite freely in the warm water. Whether you like to target estuary fish on lures or bait, you won’t find a better time than the present nor will you have a better opportunity to fish in different locations – places you may normally wouldn’t consider.

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