The summer fishing, even with its wet patches, has been on fire. I was fortunate enough to get dragged away from my hectic schedule by some mates from Sydney and out into a crazy marlin bite. We got out there, and to our surprise we discovered acres of bait with marlin swimming all over the place.
We found the best approach to hook up regularly was to drop a live bait or two down on top of their heads as soon as we sounded them, or soon as we sounded a bait ball with hard-walled edges or a packed peak of bait being pushed up, then we’d stop and drop live baits on top of those areas.
At first our game was a little thrown as we had our first marlin of the day up on a teaser and we switched him in textbook fashion. Our mate James Thackeray who put us onto the area had teased and switched marlin all day the day before, so we thought this was going to be a successful approach. It wasn’t. It was frustrating sounding a lot of bait and seeing fish under the boat not coming up like our first catch.
Then local legend George Lirantzis, fishing gurus Richard Abela and Tony Evans, and a much-needed nurse (more on that later) came flying into the area knowing it was the place to be. I’m a firm believer of not wasting time and driving straight to the hotspot; it’s a big ocean and there’s a lot of water to cover. If the day before was amazing, chances are it’s going to fire again.
As soon as our other party joined us they were straight into catching livies, and then spent their time with livies hooked and rigged below the boat as they continued filling the live bait tank. They put the boat into gear and tried skip baiting the area to scope the place out, then they’d stop again to put livies down. It wasn’t long before they had a double hook-up; they got on the radio and told us to come over as they had a stack of marlin under the boat.
We skip baited our way over to the area and kept a good look-out. The whole time we had masses of bait on the sounder with the odd marlin. We were waiting and waiting for one to come up into our spread again.
George and the boys soon tagged and released two marlin. They then proceeded to skip bait until they found another good area and dropped livies down again. It wasn’t long before they had another double hook-up!
We thought, ‘stuff these skip baits, let’s get livies on top of these stick faces!’ We attached snapper leads with rubber bands to our swivels and dropped them down at three separate depths whenever we found fish on the sounder, or bait being pushed together or up closer to the surface. This change paid off – we were soon into a two-hour fight on a striped marlin. An hour and a half later he was still putting on surface shows as if he was just hooked. This fella had us driving nearly out to NZ until we got him boat-side.
While we were so far out we had a mass of tuna busting the surface with some yellowfin cutting through it, so I wasn’t surprised to come home and see that Leigh Bradbury and the boys had caught two nice yellowfin while marlin fishing off the bay. It’s good to see a few good summer yellowfin.
Anyway, after releasing our marlin we motored back to the area to find George and the boys onto marlin number seven. They told us that marlin number five had nearly cut their trip short after it injured George. George had been out on the transom with tag pole ready and the marlin coming boat-side to receive his tag. All of a sudden the fish had a burst of energy and jumped up to pierce George in the thigh and throw him and the tag pole into the water. To add insult to injury, the marlin then came down on top of him, trying to ride him.
George got back on board to find a hole in his leg. Fortunately, there was a nurse on board who quickly disinfected and bandaged up the wound. The bite was so good that George wanted to stay out, so the nurse reluctantly gave him the green light to fish on. Once on dry land, he went straight to the hospital to get stitched up.
The experience is a reminder that these fish are big and powerful, and that we should never underestimate them and what they can do. We need to stay on the lookout and learn to do things with 100% focus and precision.
We dropped a few more livies down while the sun was setting and then called it a day – and what an amazing day it was! I’m now buzzing in anticipation of my next day out, which will be at The Banks. This location has been fishing very well, with a lot of good blacks being caught up to and over 200kg. We should still see a very good marlin bite in early autumn, with tighter packed bait balls and marlin from the south travelling back up.
The kingfish and mahimahi have been good this season, with the kingies being a bit fatter than last year. Mahimahi have been great by-catch while fishing for marlin. I don’t think there is a buoy or fish trap out there that isn’t holding these fish. The only problem is they might be a bit undersize, but they need to be small before they can be big and there was no shortage of big ones if you fished hard enough for them.
It’s the same with the kingies – there are plenty of small ones to get through before you got a bigger one. In early autumn hopefully we will be seeing a good run of larger models.
We have been having a great run of snapper this summer into autumn also. There have been good schools of 4-6kg models swimming in depths of 20-40m, and off the rocks some crackers have been caught that resemble our winter month sizes. Jem Abbot, Layton Brant and The Wards have been cracking some good ones, with Jem’s biggest going 5kg.
The beaches and particularly Moruya wall have started firing up, with schools of salmon and some tailor thrown in. The beaches have also had their expected summer run of whiting (albeit a bit patchy at times), and going into autumn we are seeing some horse whiting being caught. Worms and nippers are still the only bait for whiting. Poppers in the lakes and estuaries are still the most fun way to catch them, and are the go in these areas.
Prawns in the lakes are still on fire and have not really grown above school size as they have been on the target list by everyone for the last two months. It’s hard not to get out there for a go when it’s been the best run in decades. It looks as though they’ll be on the menu throughout autumn.
The estuaries, although still quite muddy and brown from the rain we have been getting, are still fishing well. A bit of berley is the helping hand sometimes if you want that bite to happen. One fish that doesn’t mind the dirty water is the elusive mulloway, which hasn’t been so elusive of a night with many anglers being very successful on them. Live bait, fresh squid or Lund squid from Compleat Angler Batemans Bay have all yielded results.
Well there you have it – autumn is looking like it’s not going to disappoint. Fish on!
• For up-to-the-minute info on what’s biting where, drop into Compleat Angler Batemans Bay and have a chat to Anthony or one of the other friendly staff. They’re located at 65A Orient St, Batemans Bay (02 4472 2559).Reads: 590