Early morning treats
  |  First Published: December 2016

This time every year I look back and think, “Where has the year gone?” We are back into the summertime crowds and the waterway can get congested with all manner of watercraft. Jetskis buzzing around like blowflies at a BBQ, paddleboarders struggling to stay upright amidst the wash and a flotilla of anglers drifting through the channels and tormenting the fish – such is life on the best part of the NSW Coast.

While not everyone loves the crowds that choke the waterways it’s fair to say there is plenty of relaxed and unhindered fishing to be had. To make the most of it, you will have to do some early mornings, but who doesn’t like being on the water as the sun appears over the coast?

The lower section of the lake around The Paddock is best fished during the morning when the whiting are still on the job and smashing surface lures. The sand whiting at this time of the year are in spawning mode and become aggressive. Drifting live yabbies or worms along the channel edges or casting from the numerous shallow sand banks is the perfect way to spend a few hours with the kids during the day.

Of an evening, good catches of whiting, bream and flathead can be pulled from under the bridge, especially drifting baits or plastics from the lit side on the run-out tide.

On the dark of the moon, Breckenridge Channel will be lit like fairy light as the punters jostle for the best prawning spots. While it isn’t the only spot to prawn, it is one of the most popular and the popularity depends on the time of night or morning the tide turns. Remember, you’ll have 2.5-3 hours difference to the published beach tides.

The blue swimmers in the lake have had a slower start than last year, but I’m encouraged by the size of the males turning up in the pots. While it isn’t required to return females to the water, unless they are in berry (have eggs) I find it is good sustainable practice to just keep legal males. Males can be distinguished by the narrow tail flap on the underside of their shell, while the females have a broader tail and don’t generally have the vibrant colours of the males.

Mud crabs, too, are starting to become more common with reports of big crabs coming from the Pipers area and leases behind Bandicoot Island. If you don’t want the illegal ‘share farming’ of your pots, I suggest you do a late set and early morning pick up, or, set them in the open where they can be seen by everyone. The cowards are too scared of being seen tampering with pots in the open. How do you know if you have been robbed of crab? Generally, the top of the pot is left open. I have marks on the outer ring of my traps where I hook them shut, if the wire hook is outside these marks or nowhere near them… I know.

The bream are well up the tributaries, with good fish turning up along the Coolongolook and Wallamba Rivers. Surface, hardbodies and bait, whatever your preference, will all be worth a shot. The rivers may be a spot to hit if you don’t like crowds. Rack fishing for bream will produce heaps of small fish, with just enough bigger models to keep you on your toes. The schools of legal male bream create the competition that can trigger feeding in the larger fish, but the smaller fish can be frustratingly common.

What I have been waiting for is the flathead to fire up, and there has been plenty of models around 50cm about. Between 40-55cm are the ideal table-size fish and with the big females littering the flats, it is easy to find the males that tag along with them. Hit some of the flooded bay edges at high tide and I think you’ll be surprised at how many flathead sneak up there chasing the developing prawns.

One spot that does hold the interest of flathead is the channel near Red Spot boat shed in Breckenridge Channel, especially during the run-out tide around the dark moon period.

The beaches should have a few more fish over the sand, with whiting filtering out of the estuaries to take up their summer gutter haunts. Surprisingly enough, live or preserved nippers are one of the best baits for the foraging fish on the beach. Dart, bream and the odd flathead are all partial to the orange-bellied nippers and when rigged on a light running ball sinker and a metre of leader, you’re in business!

Early morning and afternoons on the beaches will produce chopper tailor and maybe the odd mulloway, but it is at least pleasant being out there for a fish anyway.

From the rocks, the usual suspects are around and the odd pig is still sniffing around the trough. Even though rock blackfish can, and are, caught year round, their ‘season’ is done for the year. Still, I caught some the other day and they were a real treat on the table.

Spinning choppers and bonito is fun, but it’s what chases the bonito that really appeals to me, and kingfish of varying sizes can turn up at anytime.

Stay safe over the Christmas break and make the most of it!

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