Rewards from the reefs
  |  First Published: December 2007

The reefs around Merimbula have been fishing great guns and I expect the action to continue this month.

Most reefs have produced on most days but moving around and locating the fish on the sounder has certainly improved catch rates for switched-on anglers. Snapper numbers have been good with the average fish around a kilo – not huge fish but plenty of them.

A lot of these schooling fish have been on the edge of the reef where the hard ground meets the gravel. You can usually pick the difference on the sounder pretty easily, then drift over the area or anchor on the reef and fish lightly weighted baits down a berley trail.

Better baits to use are fresh squid, whole pilchards or striped tuna with soft plastics also getting fish. Having a few live baits in the well can pay dividends because kingfish and bonito are real possibilities at this time of year.

Hot spots to try are Long Reef, Turingal Reef, Horseshoe Reef and Lennards Island south of Pambula. Other species like morwong, pigfish, flathead and gummy sharks can be expected, especially if you are drifting.

Out wider, the pelagic action will be in full swing. A number of good yellowfin to 40kg have been captured already this season along with occasional albacore. The water is hovering around 20° with striped tuna numbers on the increase.

This all looks promising for an early showing of striped marlin. Trolling skirted lures from the 70-fathom line eastwards is the go early in the season. Look for water temperature changes, tide lines, bait schools and birds and concentrate your efforts around these.


The estuaries are also firing. In Merimbula and Pambula lakes all the regular estuarine species are available.

Flathead will be the main targets with fish to 5kg on the cards. A variety of methods will catch fish but the soft plastics brigade should do well this month.

The flatties will be more active as the water warms, whacking lures fished slowly over weed-fringed flats – great fun on light tackle that anyone can do.

In the channels bream, blackfish and trevally are the main species with fresh or live prawns, bass yabbies and striped tuna cubes the gun baits.

If you’re fishing from land, the sand flats just west of the Fisheries office near the bridge on Merimbula Lake are a great place to stalk whiting when wading using lightly weighted baits like nippers or squirt worms on a rising tide.

The local beaches have been a little quiet but with the warmer water bream and whiting will be chewing. Most beaches with a gutter close to shore should produce a fish or two, especially on an incoming tide.

Pipis, beach worms or fresh prawns would be the preferred baits, fished on a running sinker rig with just enough weight to get the bait to the bottom.

A lot of anglers fish too heavy when targeting these bread-and-butter species. Long casts are generally not needed and the fish are usually just past the shore dump. A little berley will also help, crushed pipi shells are a favourite. Better beaches to try include Haycock, Tura and North Tura.

This month there should be some great action from the stones for surface speedsters like salmon, tailor, small kingfish, striped tuna, bonito and frigate mackerel. Chromed lures retrieved on high-ratio geared reels will account for a lot of the fish, especially the tuna.

Lures from as small as 15g will work but a lot will depend on what bait species the pelagics are after.

It’s a good idea to take the time after catching a fish to look at its stomach contents. You can then identify the size of baitfish and adjust your lure size accordingly. I know it’s a bit time-consuming but it could just be the difference between a nice session and a memorable one.

Places like Tura Head, Long Head and the main wharf inside Merimbula Bay are all worth a look.

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