It’s great when the daytime temperatures drop from the point where you feel like you’re melting, down to where it’s a pleasure to be on the water or walking the banks. Species that were much less active in summer are now making up the majority of inshore lure casters’ and baitfishers’ bags.
The humble flathead has a massive following in the north, and these fish provide plenty of fun and a good feed when you break out the light gear. River and drain mouths are the prime spots to start the search for these aggressive feeders, and bumping a lure into the sand and mud in the shallows is great way to find a few. While softies have been the choice of lure casters for a decade or so now, the good old hardbody is still very effective when twitched slowly on the retrieve. The average size of the flathead this year is definitely a bit bigger than the last couple of seasons, and 70cm is fairly common. Just keep in mind that those large fish are females and need to be released unharmed.
Bream and whiting have also shown up in many of the more sandy inlets and creek mouths. Lightly weighted peeled prawns and pre-packed worm baits have been very effective. Some of the whiting have been over 40cm.
The popping craze for whiting has been massive down south. Even though it’s a very specific pursuit, a novice can master it pretty quickly if you decide to have a go. Small, translucent poppers in 35-50mm sizes are the go, and the tiny little Roosta Poppers in the 35mm size work very well. If you chase sooty grunter and jungle perch there’s a fair chance you’ll already have some suitable lures to have a go at this exciting pastime.
A couple of important aspects of popping for whiting is to keep the momentum going once a fish shows interest in your offering. If you stop the retrieve they’ll wise up. You can use as light a line as you wish but some lures need a little heavier leader to make the action suitable. Most poppers need the leader to be tied directly to the connection with a standard hook type knot such as a locked blood knot or uni-knot to avoid it skipping out of the water and tumbling, and to keep it straight during the retrieve.
On the other hand, if you use the little walking type stickbaits – which are often even more effective than poppers – it is still important to use a loop knot.
Cracking whiting on plastics has been a tough one. I’m looking forward to trying the new Paddle Prawns from Madeye, as I reckon one of these little fellas rigged on a tiny jighead and hopped around on about a 6lb leader could produce the goods. I’ll let you know how I go!
The jack fishing has been a real talking point for the river anglers, with numbers and the average size being great. Many fishers new to the skipping trend have been amazed at how effective this technique is. Double figures of jacks in a session is pretty common now for those who have perfected it.
The principle of the skipping cast is quite basic. Just like a kid skipping a stone across the water, it’s the low trajectory launch that is important to get the desired effect. Throw a stone from off the shoulder and it will bite in and sink, but get down low and throw it off the hip and voila!
Lure choice here is important. I find that soft plastics rigged on mid-body weighted weedless hooks work the best, as the weight placement and concealment of the hook point helps the compact presentation. You often lose sight of your lure as it skips under the otherwise impenetrable shadows of the overhanging branches. This is another reason why weedless hooks are good as any jack or barra that’s poised and ready for an unassuming prawn to skip across the surface will generally slam it the second it stops its momentum, so be ready for some spectacular strikes!
Frogs and stickbaits can be skipped, as well as some poppers, but my favourite lures to skip are prawn imitations and paddle-tails. Atomic Prongs in particular are known to be a favourite of the skipping brigade. As a general rule, paddle-tails are a better choice for the barra hunters, while prawns are a good all-rounder. There is absolutely no doubt that dipping the tails in Quick Coat Dip to highlight contrast in the moving parts of a plastic helps get the bite. Just be a bit careful of some of the more rubber-based materials that you use this stuff on, as it is acetone based and can melt some lures. Also, don’t leave it in there too long in the hopes your plastic will absorb heaps of the stuff. All that’s needed is a quick dip to get the intense colour change.
Offshore fishing has been an absolute dream for many anglers when the weather has allowed boaties to head for the horizon. On some days there have been schools of mackerel, tuna, cobia and other pelagics smashing bait as far as the eye can see. Underneath the mayhem there have been some incredibly thick schools of golden snapper, and a plastic dropped to the bottom has been well accepted. Lures that have been working have been the Bassman Mumblers, Atomic stickbaits, the Madeye Paddle Prawn with the skirt added in front of the main body, and the Gulp Squidvicious and jerkbaits. Lots of snip-offs are happening as the schools of macks come through, and a tiny piece of wire can sometimes be the secret to success. It will no doubt drop your strike rate, but those mackerel that do have a go can’t bite you off.
The bottom bouncers have been experiencing some great fishing as well, and some massive trout have come over the gunwales. Anglers are also getting red-throat, and the nannies are playing nicely. They have been more common in the shallower reefs, which is not unusual for this time of year.
As far as the sharks go, well… they seem to be getting thicker and thicker all the time. I don’t think it will be long before there has to be some sort of commercially viable industry to bring the numbers back to a manageable level. After sharks were protected from the despicable finning trade, where sharks’ fins were cut off while they were still alive before being dumped to slowly die, their numbers have definitely increased. In my opinion it’s one species that could handle a strictly controlled commercial industry. I don’t know how a mobile processing plant such as the Geelong Star can be allowed to decimate our southern small pelagic fishery, while killing plenty of protected species such as dolphins and turtles at the same time can be allowed. I believe it to be hypocritical of the government to say their decisions are based on conservative considerations. Oops, sorry about that, I got a bit political for a second!
I hope the cooler transition of species floats your boat and bends your rod. Cheers and good luck.Reads: 338