A welcome reprieve from the heat
  |  First Published: March 2017

Over the coming weeks we’ll be noticing a sharp decline in daylight hours, with mornings just starting to become a bit cooler. While this reminds us that autumn has arrived, it also signals a month of great fishing ahead.

I wouldn’t be alone in saying autumn is my favourite season. Firstly, that rotten humidity is on the way out, so spending some time outdoors becomes more comfortable. Persistent summer northeasterlies are also on the decline at this time of year, making way for those crisp southwesterly morning breezes. This means it’s a lot better for offshore fishing, especially when launching at Norah Head and Terrigal. Without getting hammered by northeasterlies, small boats can also stay out longer and get stuck into the good fishing that’s on offer.

During March, we’ve normally got a consistent run of inshore pelagic species, dominated by bonito and kingfish. As we move further into the season, the average size of kingfish is likely to step up a notch, with more models between 5-10kg likely. While there’s always a chance of pinning these hard-fighting fish with lures, by far the best approach is slow trolling a live squid adjacent to bommies, major headlands and obvious places like Bird Island for example.

If squid are hard to come by, the next best thing is a big garfish, followed by others like pike or yakkas. If all else fails, don’t neglect fish that we normally wouldn’t consider as bait, like mado, sweep or even a legal bream. Kings will definitely scoff down such offerings, if they’re alive and in front of their face.

Aside from larger beasties like marlin out wide, March is also a time when the occasional beaky turns up right in close, so if you’re chasing kings or bonito on light tackle, it’s not a bad idea to have a heavier lever drag outfit rigged up and ready. Cobia are another fish that has a habit of taking local anglers by surprise around this time of year.

Beach fishing has generally been good in recent weeks, although at times a tad hit and miss due to some poor beach formations, wind and a few patches of bad weather. This time last year, we had a good run of tailor along some beaches and I enjoyed some of the best tailor fishing I’ve seen in many years. Fingers crossed this will also be the case in the coming weeks.

Bronze whalers also showed up in force last March and they’ve already been pestering anglers this year. If you’re prepared for them, with a wire trace, they do put up a great fight and aren’t bad to eat when promptly bled, skinned and cut into smaller chunks. Many anglers will probably be keen to pin a mulloway though, and the good news is a few have been around lately.

Bream numbers normally start to increase along our beaches from now on and they’ll become more common as ocean water temperatures begin to fall next month. At the moment though, bream are certainly worth targeting in the gutters close to shore. Whiting, tarwhine and flathead also like to cruise just behind the shore dump, looking for dislodged food items like pipis, crabs and worms. A pipi or worm bait will interest any of these fish, but when using fish flesh baits like pillies or strips of tailor or mullet, bream and flathead are more likely to be hooked. If you enjoy this lighter style of beach fishing, this is about the best month of the year to do it.

Rock fishing has a lot to offer right now, with pretty much all species available and willing to take a bait or lure. My old favourites the bonito should hopefully be in good numbers around South Avoca, Terrigal, Wybung Head and Snapper Point, with the main platform under Norah Head lighthouse also being good at times.

Overall, if the weather and winds are favourable, casting metal lures or whole pillies for bonnies should be good. The main thing that can get in the way are big seas, and at this time of year it’s not uncommon for an east coast low or ex tropical cyclone to push big swell along our stretch of coastline. Keep a close eye on weather and sea forecasts before planning a rock fishing trip this month.

Brisbane Waters and Tuggerah Lakes have been fishing reasonably well in recent weeks and unless it floods, the good times will continue. It’s largely about bream and flathead, with lots of bream being around in the lakes right now. Unfortunately, I haven’t encountered as many larger bream over the past few months as I have during the previous few summer and autumn periods. Having said that, bigger bream do tend to show up more through autumn and even the average or smaller models become fatter as they feed up in preparation for their annual spawning activities.

All in all, there’s a lot of great fishing to be had this month. If one species isn’t cooperating, it’s a simple matter of changing tactics and trying your luck for something else.

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