River fish mobile and hungry
  |  First Published: November 2007

It’s time to hit the estuaries in earnest. The sun warms the shallows, resulting in water generally several degrees warmer than the ocean, so the river fish populace will be highly mobile and hungry.

Bream returning from the sea will be in vast numbers, eager to feed and put on some lost bulk through breeding during Winter. Look to the lower reaches early in the month with oyster racks, rock walls and weed flats all hot spots to prospect.

Surface lures are dynamite on big bream at this time of year if you stick to the shallow areas. Bream can savagely attack surface offerings at times, more akin to a pelagic fish, and at other times they can be extremely coy, slowly stalking the lure and subtly nipping at it.

Willing them to commit to eating your lure with varying retrieves to enact a strike from these moody fish is a very challenging and satisfying way to fish.

Targeting bream in the deeper sections will require a change to weighted soft plastics fished in a slow series of hops to get the bites.

For anglers just starting out with soft plastics, expect most bites to occur when the lure is sinking between hops and be ready to quickly strike at anything that feels like a bite.

Don’t fall into the trap of choosing a jig head too heavy for the task. Just enough weight to slowly reach the bottom is what is required to fool bream – subtlety is the name of the game.

If soft plastics don’t interest you, pumping some squirt worms and targeting blackfish could be more your style. Right now many of the tree snags are loaded with oversized luderick and, from many accounts, scoring a full bag limit of them is not a hard task. Shallow fried crumbed blackfish fillets sure take some beating.

Just remember the new size limit is 27cm.


Flathead require a different approach and there have certainly been some stud specimens captured and released lately. Bigger plastics matched to heavier jig heads are generally the go and the retrieve is more pronounced.

You want the offering to be regularly hitting the bottom, creating some commotion in the sand and mud. But again, be on high alert for that bite on the sink between lifts of the rod because that is when most bites will occur.

You never know, you might just get lucky and pin a nice school jewfish in the process when targeting flathead.

On a recent outing west of Nelligen I managed to pull the hook on what felt like a really good jewfish when my 7” stickbait got crunched in no uncertain terms. A scream of the reel, a savage headshake and it was all over bar the cursing and swearing.


That same kind of single-minded dedication needed for estuary jewfish is also required to capture jewfish off the rocks on softies, as James Gale recently proved. We set out to capture a land-based jewie on film for Volume 2 of Neil Miles’ Fishing Chronicles DVD. Volume 1 should be available before Christmas and has some amazing soft plastic snapper and jewfish action above and below the water. Keep an eye out for it.

To make this DVD a success, we spent the best part of six hours in four different locations meticulously working plastics around any likely-looking water.

I had pretty much given up when James finally got the bite. It was by then the middle of the day with a full sun beating down on us and forgetting my hat was really beginning to take its toll.

The jewfish of almost 10kg created havoc amongst some nasty bommies on light tackle but James kept a cool head and beached the fish. The footage turned out great and it was quite satisfying to have succeeded in just one attempt. Typically, though, the next five outings have been fishless!

Off the beaches there has been some awesome salmon action with fish averaging 2.5kg.

Tailor numbers are starting to build nicely and they aren’t all just small choppers. At times the schools of salmon and tailor have been pretty thick, drawing the attention of packs of small bronze whaler sharks. A recent solo surf south of Moruya surrounded by fish and the odd small bronzie was enough for me to retire to the beach early that day!

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