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Steer clear of the crowds
  |  First Published: December 2016



The season that many of us have been waiting for is here. December is like a double-edged with pros and cons. Some of our very best angling action occurs at this time of year, from estuary lure casting, to bluewater game fishing. The weather is warm and it’ll be great to enjoy some time away from work and on the water instead. On the flip side, strong northeasterly winds can hamper our efforts and there are a lot more people on the water, so some places will be crowded.

Places like the ramps at Norah Head and Terrigal, as well as the Entrance are the most noticeable when it comes to holiday crowds this month and into early January. It’s particularly important to be at the boat ramps as early as possible, which basically means well before sunrise. Leave it a bit later and you’ll encounter waiting times while others launch, potential parking problems and perhaps miss out on some good fishing during that peak early morning period.

For popular places like the Entrance, my best advice is to try your luck further away from the crowds. While it’s common to see anglers fishing shoulder to shoulder down towards the run-out at the sea and around the bridge area, let’s not forget that plenty of fish can also be caught further back inside on the western or lake side of the bridge, and towards the Toukley side of the north channel. As long as you don’t cast right into the thick weed, there’s always a chance of picking up a feed or having some fun at this time of year.

Bream, whiting and flathead are by far the main players at the Entrance and other estuary or lake spots this month. Lure casters should try to concentrate on the shallowest spots, with a sandy bottom adjacent to some weed, rock or other structure. By shallow, I mean right up into the skinny water in 10-15cm deep. Whiting in particular love these areas, but bream and flathead also get right up into this ankle deep water where they can be caught on surface lures early in the morning or late afternoon.

Fishing late at night with baits in slightly deeper water is another good option. Bream is the target species. The bridges and adjacent shore-based areas at Woy Woy, the Rip, St Huberts Island, the Entrance, Toukley and Budgewoi all house good bream through the dark hours. Aside from good quality bait like fresh local prawns, bloodworms, pink nippers or fish strips, a key to remember is to use little or no sinker weight at all when fishing the Tuggerah Lake spots, while the Brisbane Water spots may require a heavier sinker to hold station in the current flow.

Flathead are another common species that can be caught around the same bridges, as well as any other spots like boat ramps or jetties that are illuminated by overhead lighting at night. White or pale coloured soft plastics are highly effective on flathead that gather around illuminated places through the night. They’ll also take a variety of other lures and baits. When seeking these nocturnal flathead, cast lures or baits into the shallower, brighter looking areas, rather than further out in deeper or darker water.

Beach fishing has been kicking along nicely in recent weeks. We’ve still got a few straggler salmon in the surf zone and some of the sambos encountered at this time of year are bigger models. Small tailor and whiting have increased in numbers with the occasional better-sized specimen showing up. Bream, flathead and mulloway are also very possible at the beach this month and all three have been caught by beach anglers over the past few weeks.

Rock fishing can be quite mixed up in December, as we may encounter fingers of colder water one day and warmer currents pushing in the next. As a rough guideline, when strong northeasterlies blow for a few days the inshore water turns cold, but after a southerly pushes through it warms up again. This is more noticeable in close along the rocks and beaches than it is further out to sea, where the east coast current is more dominant.

If the water temperature and quality is good, there’s a very high chance of bonito and kingfish in casting range around Avoca, Terrigal, Norah Head and Munmorah. If it’s colder, the best strategy is to stick with baits for bream, tailor and salmon, or fish closer under the washes for drummer or luderick. It’s a great idea to bring two different outfits to the rocks – one for lure casting and the other for bait soaking.

Offshore fishing should be a major improvement on previous months, as the better water moves down the coast. Inshore around the headlands, bommies and shallow reef kings and bonito are highly likely, with a few tailor and salmon amongst them. Live baits can be good to pin a bigger king at this time of year, as the majority of kingfish around now are only small and some are undersize.

Of course, the bluewater brigade will be all fired up and constantly checking reports and sea surface temperature charts, waiting for marlin to move down the coast. As with other pelagic fish this month, things can be a touch patchy and it’s not uncommon for action to come in short bursts, followed by a week or two of unfavourable currents or weather.

If you’re a small boat owner and feeling keen, perhaps the best bet is a quick trip up to the mid north coast before the holidays begin. Places like South West Rocks or Port Macquarie often have a good, but short run of small beakies and mahimahi during the second half of December.

1

Bonito should move closer to shore over the coming weeks, so get the high speed spinning gear ready!

2

Flathead are one of our most reliable summer species and soft plastics work brilliantly on them. This one snatched a 5” Gulp, which is a good size to cast for bigger fish.

3

The odd salmon may still show up along the beaches or around the rocks this month. The author has enjoyed using the little Daiwa Aird X rod and reel on these hard fighting fish.

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