Hard yakka pulls in big mulloway
  |  First Published: June 2016

As we get into the swing of winter, start downsizing your leader in the estuary as the water cools and becomes clearer and clearer. You can also start to venture out to the coastal rock platforms where the bream are moving out and the snapper are flocking to.

The drummer become a reliable catch at this stage of the year, and big mulloway swim the beaches at night. The game fishers rug up and head beyond the shelf for a chance at tuna and the currents slow down for the chance to deep drop. This year we have seen the broadbill swordfish become a popular target with some great captures already on the board. This winter I am pumped for the bluefin tuna run!

We leave autumn with a bang – the mulloway madness in the Clyde River is insane. This time last year we had schooling mulloway around the bridge and this year seems bigger and better. There must be hundreds of mulloway schooling and feeding through the nights as millions of yakkas are packed around the bridge area and are on the menu. Anglers have caught between 2-4 per night and some going out consecutive nights and successfully capturing fish around the 80-140cm range. John Hilyears had a standout capture – a 148cm beast that weighed 38.5kg.

The bigger fish will start moving out of the estuary and more freely along the open beaches at this time of the year, and this is where anglers will be waiting for them with 12ft rods and fresh squid. Gummy sharks are a welcome by-catch.

Bream begin to move out to the coastal bays and beaches and already there have been great catches along the beaches. My friend Aaron Knox, who can’t fish to save his life, is doing quite well on the bream at night – if he can do it, anyone can. More than likely, his girlfriend Sarah is actually getting the job done and he is taking the credit. Aaron has been collecting crabs and Sarah uses them as a great bream bait. She puts half a small crab on once through a nice sharp little octopus hook and feeds it out off the shoreline. They fish the holes, gutters and ends of the beaches at night to catch some nice healthy yellowfin bream. They reckon light 7ft rods have been enough, as they catch the bream right on the shore. The bream have been in massive numbers along the beaches already and you can expect to catch them from here through the rocky bays as well.

The rocky beach bays and platforms have produced some great snapper as well, which should continue into the coming months. As much as plastics and lure fishing has taken off, I have noticed anglers using bait a lot more with greater success as they are fishing smarter and using fresher baits or live baits that match the area. Rather than chucking a frozen prawn into the water, use a crab, cunjevoi or octopus leg caught from the area you fish. Angler skills are improving along with lure fishing techniques.

Staying on the rocks, the drummer are already off to a great start this winter, and many customers have come in to show me pictures of their pigs. Back on the beach, don’t rule out whiting as we have seen continual captures of massive whiting into winter as well.

I didn’t get many reports on bass in for the last article, so either very few have been caught or the bass brigade have kept a tight lip, but boy there have been some show stoppers caught at the end of autumn going into winter. There have been some good numbers and lately they couldn’t help getting their phones out to show me how big and healthy they have been, with plenty of fish in the early 40s with the odd 50cm monster. These fish are thick as well. It seems the good weather has extended the bass season.

Out to sea in the boats you should start seeing more consistency with snapper numbers. The sizes may vary a lot but there should be plenty around. Flathead have been in good numbers and are always the last option if you have nothing for the table. Autumn winter kings have been on and off, but if you want more consistency with them you should head out to Montague Island.

If you like offshore fishing, you will be happy to know the big yellowfin tuna that our south coast is famous for should soon be knocking on our doors. We have already seen some nice ones getting around in the 40-50kg range and we are hoping the 60kg ones are still to come. The last couple of years saw about one or two known tuna caught each weekend. This doesn’t seem like many considering the number of boats and hours spent chasing them. But there are more caught that are not so publicised and quite a few smaller ones about. We always hope a few albacore get about that can make up for the trip if you miss a yellowfin. Marlin can also still be a surprise catch coming into winter.

Last year coming into the end of June saw the best part of our bluefin run. Luckily I jumped at the opportunity last year and headed out exactly where they were in reasonable numbers to have what ended up being the best day of the year for me. I thought the action would strike in July, as in previous years. However, it didn’t quite happen in July, so I was glad I struck while the iron was hot! This is a good bit of advice for this year – the day you hear there are reasonable numbers within your reach, is the day you phone work with a terrible illness that only tuna fishing can cure.

A lot of you would have already heard of the broadbill swordfish action starting to occur that has been pulled off with reasonable consistency in places like Tassie. It would have to be the pinnacle of game species and more anglers are ticking this species off their bucket list. With more research and time spent chasing them, we have found some interesting results. They aren’t just a winter species you target at night – you can find bigger ones during the day and they may be better targeted at different times of the day and night dependent on the time of year. Here is a species that is producing new and different information. Next issue we will talk about rigs, depths and time of the year.

Winter is here, get out of the estuary and onto the beaches or rock platforms. Take the boat out for a snapper or chase tuna all day long. The main thing is there are still fish in the sea!
• For more up-to-the-minute information 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).
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