Spin to win on the rocks
  |  First Published: December 2016

With a bit of luck, Santa delivered some shiny new fishing tackle to test out this month. If that’s the case, it’s a good time to get out there and give it a good work out. If not, perhaps some goals for the New Year have been set and it’s time to work on bringing those dreams to fruition. A new species or a personal best size fish is always good, but other goals could be to learn a new technique like flyfishing, jigging or simply to go fishing more!

A bunch of options are available along the coast this month, but as an old school rock hopper, I’ll start with a traditional form of rock fishing that I’ve always enjoyed during the first few months of the year – high speed spinning.

Several decades have passed since I first ventured onto the big platform at South Avoca, armed with a Mitchell 499 and heavy beach rod, as well as an ABU 7000c and more user-friendly 3m rod. Although cumbersome by today’s standards, those two outfits gave me an introduction to the world of rock spinning and species like bonito, kingfish, frigate mackerel and mac tuna. In fact, I still remember the very first fish I caught, which was a mac tuna around 4kg. That fish stamped high speed spinning into my mind forever.

Thankfully, the gear available to us these days is much lighter, smoother and more efficient. Last year I received a very early Christmas present, in the form of a Daiwa Sensor Sandstorm rod and BG4000 reel. Although it’s not expensive tackle, to me this is nothing short of brilliant and a pure joy to use when casting lures or baits from the rocks, as well as the beach. Armed with a mix of old school metal lures, soft plastics, surface poppers and stickbaits, gear like this means you’re well prepared for all those fast, aggressive predatory species.

Exactly what shows up within casting range this month largely depends on the prevailing weather and ocean currents. Historically, I’ve found January to be a bit mixed up, with fingers of warmer water moving in for a few days, followed by a week of colder water. The pattern is that strong northeasterly winds turn the inshore water cold, then a southerly change makes it warm back up again. However, ocean currents are giant whirlpools and each year is different, so it’s not always easy to predict.

Tailor are perhaps the best bet just before sunrise and they respond well to a surface popper around 100-120mm. By casting a popper around, you’ll be in with a good chance of catching tailor. Bonito or kings will also zoom in and possibly take a swipe if they’re present. After the sun clears the horizon, it could be a better idea to swap over to a chrome metal, soft plastic or sinking stickbait lure. If it looks like the bonnies or kings are out in force, keep retrieves fast and radical. If tailor seem to be more likely, a slower retrieve under foamy water closer to the rocks is a winner.

If I had to lay a bet, I would say tailor and the odd salmon are more likely right now. As this month progresses, more bonito and kingfish will show up. Of course, things don’t always go to plan and that’s why I often recommend bringing along a lighter outfit to flick baits around the washes for bream, drummer and so on. That way there’s a greater chance of hooking into something and perhaps bringing home a feed.

Beach fishing tends to be a bit more stable at this time of year, although it can be a bit windy of an afternoon. In other words, it’s worth keeping an eye on weather forecasts, scouting around for spots, which may offer some protection or simply planning an early morning venture when things are more inclined to be calm.

A lot of locals and visitors are keen on pinning a mulloway at this time of year. Mulloway are around, but I rate autumn, early winter and late spring as a fraction more reliable for them. Aside from that, we’ve got other species like whiting, tailor and flathead swimming in the surf this month. Keep an eye out for blue bottles, especially if it’s an outing with the kids, as a sting from one of those can seriously spoil the fun.

Offshore fishing should be productive if surface pelagics are the chosen target. I’d strongly recommend getting out there early in the morning, rather than leaving it for later in the day when those northeasterlies can make things very uncomfortable, if not impossible.

Inside calmer waters, bream, whiting and flathead are all going very well at the moment, with surface lures being particularly productive early in the morning. Good quality baits such as local prawns do the damage at night.

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