Hopefully we have seen the last of the cooler weather, and those nagging southeast winds will swing more to the east and northeast and bring schools of bait in close to the shore.
September is usually the first real opportunity for fine boating weather, with light winds early in the morning and blowing up around lunchtime before dying off near dark. These conditions spell a small mackerel bonanza for the small boat angler, and the shore-based fishos will also score well off the harbour break wall. School, spotted and the odd grey mackerel will be chasing the bait in close, and on the good days the harbour break wall bristles with rods, and pandemonium often reigns supreme. This is the time of year that sees anglers going for a ‘patrol’ out to the harbour to check out the scene.
Ganged hook rigs of pilchards, live and fresh herring, and strips of ribbonfish will all attract the small macks. With light weight these rigs can be fished down in the water column as more fish will be caught there than right at the surface. Small garfish are also a top bait but they can be hard to come by, and are not easy to get in a cast net.
For the lure angler, there is an infinite variety of suitable lures available, from traditional spoons trolled on venetian cord right through to the latest high tech ‘must-have’ lures. For trolling I generally set a spread with both barra type minnows and metal vibes and ‘shinies’. Getting them to run at varying depths will cover more ground and hopefully more fish. The same lures can be used casting to sighted fish or known areas where they concentrate. The shinies and vibes are best worked with spin gear, as the extra casting distance can often come in very handy, as does the faster retrieve rates of these reels.
Plastics, including those incredible fish catchers the soft vibes, will also work well on macks, but the attrition rate is pretty savage. When you’re using soft vibes you should definitely stick to the cheaper brands rather than the $30 ones. These lures can be worked vertically, slow and fast or cast and retrieved flat stick. Colours should either match the bait (e.g. herring-like colours) or you can use the almost clear ones which also appeal to longtail and mac tuna. They are very versatile lures.
Apart from the break walls, the small macks school up around Slade Island, Slade Rock and Danger Reef, all of which are in easy reach of the harbour. If baitfishing, try drifting the bait back downcurrent with a little berley. Lure casting is best done casting well upcurrent and retrieving downcurrent as well, although often when fish are busting up bait balls, it is a case of just getting the lure in there! It’s great fun and on 4kg gear these small pelagics sure put up a good fight.
Further to the south, Flat and Round Top islands fish well, as do Taroba Rock and Reichlemans Reef, but schools can be found anywhere down to Hay Point. The birds are your best friend when bait is at or near the surface, and bait schools deeper in the water show up well on even very basic sounders, so keep an eye on it at all times. As always, bait equals fish.
The guys working in the local tackle shops know when the macks are running and the best/most likely spots, and will happily put anglers on the right track.
We don’t just enjoy the small macks though as there is usually plenty of tuna, trevally and the odd cobia and Spanish mackerel to be found under the surface working fish. There are some huge queenfish around at the moment as well, and they will hang about when ever there is plenty of bait.
Early September should still see a few snapper about but they will taper right off during the month, to be replaced with grunter, golden snapper and nannygai. At times all of these species will be found under the feeding macks as they scoop up the leftovers from the feeding frenzy above them.
Further offshore, the reef fishing can be expected to pick up as the weather drops out into typical spring conditions. The calm weather allows relatively light gear fishing up in the shallows for trout using bait or lures. Blueys will also be found feeding right up in the shallows, but like the trout they are super spooky. Long casts and quiet electric power are the order of the day for any success. Hurling the anchor over, having the chain rattle against the boat or dropping things inside the boat will all send fish scurrying away in shallow water, so keep it quiet!
Warming weather in September also kicks off the barra season well, and these fish will be a popular target along with king threadfin over the next couple of months. Those stinking hot, still days are also good conditions to chase jacks, and persistence will pay off.
Murray, Constant and Reliance creeks will all fish well for barra, as will the creeks to the south like Bakers, Sandy and Rocky Dam creeks. Most of our creeks have a ramp of sorts, but the best launch times are around half tide. Coincidentally, best lure fishing for these species I find is from half tide down to half tide in, and then right up on the flats at the top of the tide.
The NFZ centred on Seaforth is continuing to fish better, with plenty of grunter around. These will increase in size during spring, when they no longer have to try to dodge the nets. It will be interesting to see whether the fishing for barra and other species also improves, although this may take a season or two.
Trolling with an electric is a good way to suss out the areas. Once you have found the fish, go looking for similar places as fish tend to be creatures of habit. Other species you’re likely to encounter on the troll include cod, trevally, small queenies, steelbacks and flathead. Not a bad B team! Once again, talk to the local tackle staff for the latest news.
Dam barra fishing will really take off again with the change for warmer weather. All of the dams are in good shape, with plenty of capacity, and the tournament anglers will be out in force preparing for the ABT series and other comps.
Kinchant is great to fish on calm days, but unfortunately that same calm weather is what the jet ski and ski boat crowds look for as well. For anglers, it’s almost impossible to enjoy a quiet session unless it’s dark. Daylight usually sees a couple of hours before the ski boats start up, and this is also a prime time to be fishing. Poppers, stickbaits, frogs and the like are great fun just as the sun comes up, and the explosive surface strikes are really something else.
Teemburra will fish well around the points, especially those with established weed beds. Fish the windward shores and use a selection of plastics and hardbodies. Squidgies remain the most popular plastics, and black/gold is a firm favourite colour. Some anglers like to rig a small treble stinger near the tail, connected to the main hook via a short length of 20kg leader.
So that’s the lowdown on what to expect, with the change in season bringing plenty of options in both salt and freshwater. Come and join us in paradise. See you at the ramp!Reads: 632