It felt like just the other day we were counting down the New Year and now we are already starting to don the winter woollies. Fortunately the Tweed is a complete year-round fishery and I look forward to the challenges of the winter species just as much as the summer ones.
Last year our winter species turned up in numbers a bit later than we had hoped for, so it will be interesting to see how this season progresses.
May usually sees the start of a few sea-run bream making their way into the system, although the main schools of bigger fish keep us waiting another month or two.
A good indication of the quality of bream in the river at any time is to keep an eye on the schools that follow the boat in at the ramp. As winter progresses you will notice an increase in the size of these fish. Most of the bigger ones usually hang back but they are very visible and this gives you an idea of just how many big bream are swimming around.
It is normally a bit disheartening when you have just returned from a tough session, but, hey, that’s fishing.
The areas closer to the mouth of the Tweed are the better spots to start looking for a few bream. The rock walls of the Jack Evans Boat Harbour, the Fingal rock walls and the Barneys Point and Boyds Bay bridges are some of the popular ones.
Live or dead herring, pillie cubes or mullet fillet are good baits to try. Yabbies and worms are also fish-catchers but unfortunately the smaller fish seem to get to these baits first. I try to use tougher baits that last a bit longer on the hook to give the bigger fish a chance to get to them.
Soft plastics fished over the deep coffee rock and hopped down the rock walls will also account for their share of bream this month.
My first-choice plastics for doing this are the 3” Atomic Jerk Minnows and 3” Atomic Prong. Both of these plastics have slightly larger profiles and often tempt the larger fish.
It pays to carry a few different-sized jigheads to compensate for the strong tidal flow in all of the above areas. I like to use the TT range of jigheads because they are well-made and moulded on my favourite Gamakatsu hooks. Popular sizes range from a 1/4oz to a 1/16oz. The lesser the current being fished, the lighter the jighead.
If there is very little current then I will often use a HWS Hidden Weight jighead in 1/20oz or even 1/40oz. The lead weight is moulded on the shank of the hook and can therefore be hidden in the body of the plastic. The bream pick up plastics rigged in this manner more readily and swim away with them. It’s then just a case of tightening up on the fish and getting ready with the net.
Luderick should also be putting in an appearance this month and their numbers will also increase as we get more into winter. Once again, the areas close to the Tweed Bar produce better on the early-season fish.
It’s not hard to see when the blackfish are about as the banks are usually lined with anglers float-fishing for them. If you are not sure how to catch these sometimes finicky fish, head down to the river and watch come of the older blokes who are absolute guns at the technique. They are usually keen to divulge some of their secrets and it’s a great way to get a head start.
This is when I seriously get out the jigging gear, add a bit of oil where needed and check the leaders in preparation for a few arm-stretching sessions There is often the odd big marauding kingfish or samson on the 36-fathom reef around the traps and we always stop on this reef for a quick jig before moving out to the deeper 40- and 50-fathom lines.
Jigging 300g Chaos jigs on the wider grounds is a good way to tangle with any of the Seriola family, just make sure that your tackle is up to it and hang on.
One doesn’t always have to run out wide for a jig. The drop-offs around the Nine Mile Reef account for their fair share of fish that succumb to jigs throughout the year. Just cruise around the edge of the reef and watch the sounder for any signs of bait schools or even big arches of single fish. A few quick jigs will quickly tell you if there are any lure-munching critters down below.
If jigging is a bit too strenuous for you then start by catching a few livies at the sand pumping jetty or Kirra Reef first. Livies are very seldom refused by most of the larger reef species.
The current has usually dropped considerably out wide by May, giving the bottom-bashers and the charter clients a respite to get stuck into the pearl perch, snapper, trag and parrotfish.
The Mud Hole and reefs around Fidos will definitely be worth a look for a feed of snapper. I will be breaking out the soft plastic gear this winter to try to pin a few reds. Early starts will be the order of the day if you are after a big knobby, so don’t forget the beanie or the flask of coffee.
Winter might have a bit of a chill in the air but the fishing in the Tweed area always makes up for it.Reads: 616