Santa’s going fishing
  |  First Published: December 2016

It’s that time of the year already where Santa gets to have a fish. School holidays are on soon. Where has this year gone? Looking back at the year of fishing, it started with an amazing run of marlin biting their heads off. It was the second season in a row where marlin showed up in big numbers. We’re hoping for the trend to continue this summer. If we can keep overseas super trawlers out of our waters then it can be a trend for many years to come.

But if the bait stocks keep getting decimated by these floating factories, we’ll eventually experience adverse effects on our region as a whole. We rely on tourism and recreation. We have a beautiful place with an abundance of fish and nature. Let’s keep it that way and sustain an area that keeps giving, because we give back.

While the crazy marlin run was continuing into autumn, another run was about to happen. We called it ‘Mulloway Madness’ – the Batemans Bay Bridge area absolutely loaded up with bait and it was teaming with millions of yakkas. By nightfall and on tide changes, every man and his live bait were getting in on a piece of mulloway madness!

Cherries were broken and there were multiple catches each night. This went on for about two months with the most outstanding catch going to John Hilyear, no surprises here, with a fish weighing 38kg. Josh Baddoch got a couple, but the apprentice still can’t beat the master. Most amazing achievement on the mulloway and possibly achievement of the year would have to would have to be Ray Smith’s 13 mulloway in one session on lures off the stones.

Perhaps one of the biggest codes in fishing got cracked on the South Coast this year – daytime swords. It’s been done in America and the anglers in Tassie seem to have it wired. This year was the South Coast’s turn and with the likes of Richard Abella, Lee Rayner and George Lirantzis at the helm, bringing their experience and setting their sights on the squid rich canyons off Mallacoota, I don’t think there was ever any doubt.

We know there are swordfish off our coastline and we know they’re in very good numbers. Commercial fishers have lived with their presence for decades and recreational fishers usually have a crack at them overnight in suitable currents, looking for temperature breaks during winter and spring. In the daytime, end of summer into autumn are prime. The rig is the same at night, except you get your whole squid bait deeper by using a breakaway weight method. Here at Compleat Angler Batemans Bay, we have all you need to catch a swordfish, so come in and see me.

Not long after the sword commotion, one of our local lakes was in the spotlight for bream fishing. Every autumn, Tuross can be known for its horse bream – Daiwa Presso Brown Suji Shrimp and the Atomic Crank muddy prawn became famous among anglers. If you wanted to pay that bit extra, Nories Laydown Minnow Chigyo was well worth the extra dollars. Craig Coughlan and Liam McNeilly were local standouts and caught fish knocking on 50cm.

By winter, the long anticipated bluefin bite was approaching. Like the previous 3-4 years, it didn’t disappoint, and like previous years, they’re coming up the coast out wide. You can put a date on it, but it’s like reading the weather – hard to be exact. This year, as soon as the water changed and a finger of water ran up along the coast, the bluefin stopped right out the front of Batemans Bay and it was on!

It was crazy catching big bluefin just over the shelf at the second drop off. Unfortunately, a lot of wind kept boats in for days. The duration of the winter had a fairly consistent tuna bite with yellowfin and albacore of all sizes. Bluefin would keep showing up off Batemans Bay from time to time. The most impressive bluefin off the bay was Dave Scott’s 95kg model. No 100kg+ fish were caught by recreational anglers this year, but they’ve been out there.

The deep sea fishing was also a highlight throughout the year also having good catches of trevella and hapuka as more and more anglers equip themselves with electric reels. Shimano have introduced their new electric reel after the successful Plays 9000. This is the more upgraded Forcemaster and we expect to sell quite a few of these guys with the new Shimano Revolution Deep Drop rod with swivel tip.

To end an amazing year of fishing, we’re entering the summer months, and at this stage it’s looking very positive for 2017. We’re just coming off a pretty reasonable snapper bite, which wasn’t amazing through winter, but the spring always makes up for it when you can catch them in most depths – absolutely everybody got amongst the action. You have those odd days where the snapper are just feeding and it doesn’t matter where you are, you’ll catch fish. Snapper fishing will get tougher through December and into January.

If you’re keen and persistent, you can find them – they’ll just be very patchy.

Kingfish have been swimming down in their schools throughout spring and it’s worth a troll past headlands or live baiting at FADS and buoys this December. Hopefully these guys hold off Moruya or even Durras this summer, as they were a bit thin in previous years.

Outside, we should see the start of our marlin season. The last two Decembers were good, particularly towards the end of the month. Again, who knows what real impact this super trawler is going to have for the next season. Let’s just hope our food chain can hold up against bait decimation of the ocean, until the super trawler is removed.

Summer is all about estuaries, lakes and beaches here. Our population goes from 15,000 to 150,000 and for good reason. We have the most spectacular beaches and nature. With our roads improving and more building going ahead, we’re becoming the place to be. This year, a large number will be coming to fish our estuaries, beaches and lake systems for bream, flathead and whiting. The bream have been taking lures off the surface since spring and we expect a very good year on these guys. OSP bent minnows will be a very popular surface lure again this summer.

Flathead legend Daniel Dowley is also predicting a good summer on the flathead. With the way it’s fishing lately, he could be right. Clyde River and Durras Lake have had some 80-90cm beasts already measured and released. Andrew Turner withhad the most impressive 90cm flathead so far, and with a healthy estuary comes great fishing and great predators. We’re expecting more mulloway madness this summer. Bait has pushed right up passed Nelligen and it’s looking to be fishing great this summer, after a quiet spell over the few years.

Further upstream should be a massive season on the bass with a great start and healthy numbers caught by Ray ‘the man’ Smith and Tim Stewart cracking 40-50cm already. There are plenty of insects in the air and it won’t be long until the cicadas start to wake.

Anglers have been coming in to buy mud and blue swimmer traps, as they’ve been around since spring. It should be a good summer for crabs and after last summer’s massive prawn run, claiming to be the biggest in 20 years, we’re expecting plenty of prawns this year. It should be a very busy summer on all fronts, so get out there. Play hard and play safe. Merry Christmas from Anthony at Compleat Angler Batemans Bay.


Nathan Forrest and his boys are on the snapper bite.


John Hilyear caught this 6kg snapper up the Clyde River chasing mulloway.


A cracking catch – this young angler sure looks proud!

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