Estuarine predators on the prowl
  |  First Published: July 2016

Some rain has arrived and farmers will rejoice, but as anglers we wait nervously to see if this will put a stop to the fantastic fishing of late.

I don’t think it will, because it seems the parched land has soaked up nearly all of it. When the clean salt water that as usual penetrates into places like Lake Wellington during autumn, it’s the season we probably enjoy the best fishing of the entire calendar year. The rivers run clean and the fish bite well. The last month has gone exactly to script and we have all been busy. I’m tipping the next two months will be even better.

Big dusky flathead

As I predicted May, June and July are the peak months to land cricket scores of flathead and once again, they have not disappointed. The numbers are probably a little down on previous years but the sizes have been way up.

The hotspots as usual have been Duck and Newlands arms, the lower Tambo and Mitchell rivers, Point Turner, Wattle Point, McLennans Strait, Raymond Island and Metung.

A lot of duskies have turned up between 40-60cm, so make sure you know the bag regulations and the slot limit sizes for legal keepers. You have to return flathead that are bigger than 55cm.

On a recent outing in search of mulloway, I tied on much bigger lures than what I usually employ for bream and flatties. I expected my catch rate to drop dramatically because I was targeting a much bigger species. The exact opposite happened and my flathead catch went through the roof! In just 4 hours I landed 19 big flathead and even pulled in 5 bream to 38cm. This shocked me, and proved just how stuck in my ways I have become and ignorant to trying different lures.

So my message to you is try going bigger! Alas, there were no mulloway there between Point Turner and Wattle Point, but for the record, those bream and flatties took a 3” ZMan soft plastic MinnowZ (colour didn’t seem to matter) and a Hurricane Sting 37 blade in colours red devil and cracked black. Other anglers have landed up to 30 flathead a session using 100mm Squidgy Fish plastics on a 1/2oz jighead and the flathead have been up to 65cm. It seems the bigger the plastic, the larger the flathead.

Bream news

There’s been some great sport with bream recently and as usual the Straits at either Hollands or Seacombe have been a constant hotspot with Metung, lower Tambo or the Mitchell rivers not far behind. Even the canals at Paynesville have been firing for bream to 35cm and the shallows of Newlands Arm are holding some very large but cranky suckers.

Joel Petzke and Cam Cleal have pulled in nice hauls of large bream to 44cm and they both tell me the Hurricane Sting 37 lure is once again doing all the damage.

Mick Caulfield from Melbourne spent three days at the Straits and said the bream fishing was as good as ever and he can’t wait to return. He used blades and plastics for most of his catch but said Toms Creek was dead and he landed just one big carp out in Lake Wellington on a soft plastic.

Comp anglers Mario Vukic and Peter Nord spent some time there as well, but on that occasion the bream were totally shut down for most of the day. Both anglers reported huge schools of bream in deep water, but they were refusing to eat lures. Even bait anglers went home hungry that day.

As we all know that is typical of the hit and miss nature of almost any fish we target. If only we knew what turns that switch from off to on. Sometimes the water rips through that area and the flow makes it almost impossible to hook fish.

I was lucky just three days prior to Peter and Mario and had probably my best session in months, netting just over 40 bream. Interestingly, the flow was almost at a standstill during my six-hour session. For the first time in almost a year, I pulled big bream to 43cm from the snaggy edges on heavy pink 60mm hardbodies that have a fairly quick sink rate.

Owen Pierce sent me photos of him holding cracker bream to 42cm that he pulled from the snags around the edges of Lake Wellington and said he found clean water while enjoying champagne hardbody lure fishing.

More mulloway magic

The Gippy Lakes mulloway puzzle has been further unravelled thanks to the efforts of Mark Ramsay. He has continued his tireless search at Metung, the Tambo River and in the Straits. Rambo did a quick three-hour afternoon session and hooked two big mulloway on large soft plastics but sadly both fish escaped after a short fight.

The next trip saw Rambo pull in a 71cm mulloway on a soft plastic lure and I can assure you, I was nearly as excited as he was. Remarkably, he sounded up about 20 mulloway that day and this is what really excites all lure anglers. It appears we have had big numbers of these prize predators living right under our noses, amongst the bream, perch, mullet, tailor and flathead we catch all year round. This much I can guarantee; my future reports will have a lot more about mulloway caught in these parts.
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