Getting that cold winter bite
  |  First Published: July 2016

With the winter chill finally making its presence felt and the short days, there is no real escape from the cold. The best part about winter is there is still plenty of action around the place to make the cool starts well worthwhile. There are big bream in the estuary, snapper and trag off the coast and tasty drummer and blackfish around the rocks, so everyone should be catered for, no matter what their preference.

The beauty of winter and bream is they are accessible from the rocks and the lower estuary. The crossover of late and early spawning fish makes The Paddock racks and the bridge pylons ideal areas to start a search for the trophy blue-nosed bream. It’s often possible to locate big schools of snowy bream (covered in yellow scale spots) fresh from the coast and they will fight over your lure and bait. It’s a combination of competition and the necessity to put on condition after the torrid mating that has left their bellies empty.

The larger fish tend to be a looser group of fish that hold station pre and post spawn. Basically, all the bream returning from or leaving to the coast have to pass through the structures near the bridge and the bridge itself. Evening is generally when the majority of movement happens with the relevant tidal flow.

The passage of bream need to travel along the breakwalls and is another spot that deserves a fish. Through the day the blackfish dominate the walls, but as night falls the bream get involved.

The mulloway fishing from the walls has been mixed, though the remnant mullet schools is enough encouragement to get down and try your luck. There has been a few fish over 20kg I’ve been alerted to, so a live bait or slow rolled plastic may be just the ticket on the slack water of a run-out.

The flathead have thinned out in the lower estuary and are often caught as a result of fishing the racks for bream. For more consistent flathead fishing, I’d suggest the river mouths or the shallow bends of rivers themselves. Drifting whitebait or prawn soft plastics is the go for the flathead and the resident bream that have held up in the rivers. Yabby baits in the rivers will attract the attention of some stud whiting, but don’t be surprised if you encounter the occasional school mulloway as well.

Rock fishing at this time of year has to be my favourite activity without doubt. Apart from the early morning chill chasing tailor or bream, most of the day you can challenge the pigs to a tug-o-war and the best time is a rising tide with a trickle of bread berley and about 1kg of cooked prawns.

The pigs will bite any time of the day and often into the night if you can tolerate the cold. A leader of around 20-30lb, a 0-00 running ball sinker to a 1/0 hook and you’re in business. Pick a wash or deep channel close to the rocks and the fun begins.

For the nocturnal anglers, the options from the rocks include throwing yabbies into the washes and pothole for the travelling schools of blackfish. It isn’t a style of fishing for everyone and I’d suggest an auto lifejacket and a quality headlamp as part of your kit. The best of the night fishing is when the tides are at their biggest, so new moon periods are my pick. The bigger tides give the fish better access to areas that may have been inaccessible on smaller tides. It also makes it easier to fish with more water in and around the given rock formations.

The tailor quality from the rocks and beaches has been mixed from small choppers to fish over a 1kg. Early mornings before the sun peaks over the edge of the world would be my choice, though nights are productive too. Ganged hooks and pilchard or strip baits are easily cast and soaked in the gutters but a 65g Raider pelted beyond the breakers is a great way to keep warm and active.

There have been a few mulloway reported from the beaches, but nothing I’ve heard of was over 15kg. Still, I’m sure we’d all be happy with a silver slab that size. Bream, dart and silver trevally are all possible from the beaches and more likely the closer you fish to a headland.

Offshore there have been plenty of reds, morwong, flathead and straggling pelagics. The best advice is to fish the inshore gravel beds for a mixed bag of fish and don’t forget the plastics to bounce for the stud snapper.

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