If you asked a group of people to put up their hands if they love winter, you’d only get a few hands up. We have a love-hate relationship with winter. Yes, it may be cold. Usually that’s the only reason why hands are down.
Winter means blues, as in bluefin, and yellow as in yellowfin tuna. Winter also means albacore, swordfish, snapper, salmon, tailor, mulloway, drummer, and best of all on this beautiful stretch of coast: you will have it all to yourself. We are blessed with no crowds and clear beautiful days and nights here on the south coast. It is truly wonderful to live here and winter really isn’t that bad. It’s quite mild and the fishing is still a great sport through these months.
What we can expect this month offshore is a run of yellowfin tuna. Out in this neck of the woods they can be as big as 60kg, which is a very good fish by today’s standards. There’s nothing more exciting than being connected to a big yellowfin and your back will soon know all about it.
Yellowfin have a reputation as being one of the toughest fights in the ocean and will put all their weight and more into the fight until they’re completely exhausted, so a good gimbel and harness is definitely a back saver. Any fisho who has spent time chasing these big long sickled barrels will have a bad luck story about a big yellowfin lost after a long fight and worse still – right at the boat.
The two most popular ways of catching yellowfin are by trolling lures or cubing with bait. Cubing in the right conditions in accordance to wind and current can be a very fun and effective technique. However, trolling lures covers more ground. If you find a decent patch of fish you can stop and cube.
When trolling for yellowfin run divers and deep diver hardbodied lures such as Halco Laser Pros, Rapalas and Live Target’s mackerel imitations in the short and long corner of the boat. This winter we will be testing the new Rapala X-Rap 40, which dives to 40ft! From the outriggers you run skirted lures that are 4-9” long. There are a multitude of colours and lure makers these days and honestly most of them work.
You’ll find the average skirt length for tuna is around 6-9” and the favourite colours would have to be lumo, black and purple, pink, white, evil angel and natural looking colours like blue and silver. Once you have the corners of the boat covered with divers and skirts out in the outriggers then there is the shotgun, the lure you run right out the back. It can be as far back as you like, so long as you have the line capacity to bring the fish back. The shotgun can be any lure you like that swims.
If you have spent many hours trolling with no success, but there seems to be some life in the way of birds, blue bottles, plankton, blue sparkles in the water or all these things plus temperature breaks on a current line, and bait on the sounder, it might be a good time to stop and cube. If it was as obvious as that, that would be great.
The secret to a good cube trail is to keep a steady trail of pilchard cubes at around the same size. You don’t want to feed the fish down the trail all day, so keep the cubes well spaced so the tuna come up the trail. The rule of thumb is to toss a cube in as the previous disappears out of sight.
I have two outfits: a spin and overhead that drops a pilly down the trail with a circle hook in the pilchard. I feed the hook through the mouth and out the gills then pass it in the belly of the pilly and curve it in and out so the point and barb is sticking out and the shank is inside and running along the pilchard. It sits nice and looks natural when feeding it down the cube trail.
I alternate between the two outfits for some time once I have dropped a hooked bait down the trail. Then I click over the bail arm or put it in gear, slowly retrieve it and get ready to free spool it again in a controlled matter. You don’t want a bird nest, in case you get a bite on the way up. While retrieving we drop the hooked pilly on the other outfit so then you are working simultaneously to reduce tangles and always having a hooked bait in the water.
You can reduce tangles with strong light swivels and increases the chance of a bite with as light a leader as you can use. Start with 80lb and drop down if there are fish there and not biting. If you have livies it is also good to have one out swimming under a biodegradable balloon run out of the outrigger so it’s out of the way. You increase your chances even more when you have a live bait in the water. Often a shark will come along and take this fella.
If you are fishing on the inshore reefs this winter, there has been a good run of snapper over autumn and that is expected to continue. Inshore pelagics have been outstanding from autumn into winter. With a good presence of bait and a plague of squid there is no wonder why we have had such a great run of kingies between 50-70cm with bigger models out there and plenty of bonito, mack tuna, frigate, salmon and tailor in great numbers and good sizes.
Trolling past headlands with divers and skirts and casting from headlands and rock shelfs with 40g metals has been very effective. Fishing from the boats in close on the kings has been a lot of fun for guys picking them up on the troll or on the sounder and then stopping for a jig or dropping a plastic or swimbait down. What also helps and keeps them at the boat is deploying some berley.
Fishing from the stones has been on fire lately for anglers spinning for the inshore pelagics. Squid have been as good as they get. I think the town has been eating calamari rings for the whole of autumn! This should still be on the menu into June and we can expect the run of salmon and snapper off the stones to continue. Then of course it’s that time of the year for the drummer.
The beaches still have whiting, salmon and tailor. In case it hasn’t sunk in yet there are plenty of big salmon and tailor getting around. I don’t think you can go wrong chasing these guys this June.
The estuaries have been alive with big autumn bream and these big fellas will start to move out the front and spawn over the next couple of months. Of a night the mulloway madness makes the headlines throughout autumn and will continue into June and on the beaches as well.
We will start to see the estuary slow down as it gets colder. Try using thinner leaders and fishing the holes with blades to get a bite. There’s no point in complaining about the cold because there is plenty of good to focus on and there are many reasons to love winter. Come in and buy a jacket! Happy fishing.Reads: 644