And this little piggy went home
  |  First Published: May 2016

I’ve mentioned it before, but I need to say it again: I love this time of year. The significant holiday periods are over, the water is cooling and the big, black tanks (black drummer) are busting tackle along the coast. The mix of straggling warm water fish and the growing population of bream, blackfish and tailor along the rocks makes it an exciting time to fish the coastal washes. April and May is traditionally the start of the mullet run but late starters are still trickling out onto the beach, even in to June.

Bennetts Head, South One Mile, Blackhead and every other wash in the area will have a population of pigs that can be encouraged by a good trail of bread berley. The early morning arrival on the rocks could start with a spin season for tailor and as the sun rises, baits for the bream and rock blackfish.

From the amount of scales on the Tuncurry breakwall path, I can only assume the mulloway fishing has been good, but I have heard of and seen a lot of small fish caught under 60cm, which is a good thing for the future. One significant fish of 34kg was taken on live bait at the end of April, and there have been plenty of stories of being dusted up on big fish along the walls. Along with the mulloway, the breakwall is a good spot to fish yabby baits for big bream and nighttime blackfish. A no. 1 hook and a 00 ball sinker is all you need, and don’t be surprised if a small mulloway or two climb onto your bait.

The mullet are not the only fish that make a move during winter. The bream and blackfish also take the opportunity to spawn in the cooler weather and as a result the staging fish (fish gathering in the lake before making a run to sea) are in the lower part of the system.

Leases in The Paddock, around Regatta and Wallis Island all have their fair share of big bream right throughout the winter months. Some fish move out of the rivers but never make it to the sea, while early spawners come back in and hold on the lower leases before moving further into the lake. Either way, if you’re into bream to eat or for sport, the lower leases are the target areas you need to look at.

Remember the seasonal movement of fish is the majority rule, and not all fish comply with what they should do. Flathead for instance are caught frequently when luring bream through winter; by rights they should be tucked up a river somewhere buried on a muddy bend.

One species that many don’t know about is the school mulloway in the system, and May is a month they school up in deep holes in the rivers. The Wallamba River has plenty of pockets where the mulloway hang out and with a good sounder it is only a matter of scouring the river to find them. Getting them to bite is up to you.

This month is probably the last of the decent crabbing with a wane in numbers as the water cools off. The blue swimmers have been good again, and this season the muddies have offered plenty too, but you’ll have to be quick to catch them without a lot of effort and time spent.

One thing May is good for is prawning for the larger kings that grow in the rivers and lake. While the school prawns thin right out it is the big prawns that make a run for it now. Some nights, in the right location in the lake, it’s possible to scoop a bucket load of the king prawns as thick as your thumb and up to 200mm long. I know a guy that does it consistently through May and the big prawns can often be seen, drifting past, from the breakwall as you spin for mulloway.

The best thing about Forster/Tuncurry is the lake always manages to surprise me. I’ve mentioned kingfish in Breckenridge Channel before and they have hung around a little longer this year than others. Mostly they are caught on live baits, but occasionally they stray beyond the channel and I was lucky enough to hook and land one along Godwin Island, on bream gear, off the surface, and from the tree line snags. It is a great system of water, healthy, clean and often surprising; it’s also no wonder why so many people come here on holidays.

Life jackets on the rocks

I’ve been watching the debate about the possible mandatory wearing of life jackets while fishing from the rocks. The constant call of ‘nanny state’ and adversarial comment about “no one is gunna tell me what to do” astounds me. I wear an automatic lifejacket while on the rocks because I value my life, not because someone forces me to. I wear it because when you get washed over the rock and perhaps in the water, you don’t just get wet. You get torn up, broken and perhaps unconscious and no ‘plan’ to swim out and to the beach is going to help you.

The auto vests are unobtrusive and at around $100 are cheap insurance. They don’t make you weak, they don’t make you a puppet to authority, they make you responsible for your own life. I’ve even read arguments from surfers that they are in breaking waves and don’t need life jackets; you don’t surf in full wet weather gear, shoes, and a fish bag around your shoulders or wave breaking onto rocks; you surf with a floatation device and a buoyant steamer on.

The reality is, as I type this column, I’ve had a call from a concerned friend, saying there is a search going on for a person lost from the rocks at Boomerang, south of Forster. A helicopter, search parties and, no doubt, distraught and emotionally crippled loved ones just waiting. Accidents and mishaps occur on the rocks, slips, trips and waves can all contribute to a tragic end… an automatic life jacket may not save you but it’s 99% better chance than not wearing one at all. What do you think?

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