After months of getting up at 5am and going fishing in shorts and T-shirts, the need for jumpers, tracksuit pants and hot coffee is taking some getting used to.
Thank goodness the fishing is worth getting out of a warm bed for with some nice reds and jewies for the soft-plastic anglers. There are also some good bream and jewies in the Shoalhaven River and it’s certainly not too late to be out chasing a jewie from the beach, either. There should also be a few yellowfin out wide if last year is anything to go by.
The reds and jew on plastics will be the main focus for me this month unless those yellowfin show up in numbers. Last June we got a few days out at the Drum and JB Canyons and caught some rats by trolling small pushers and Rapalas on light tackle.
There’s no reason why those fish won’t be back again so keep your ears open for reports and get out there straight away if fish are being caught. Yellowfin cover a lot of water so sometimes it just pays to get out there and have a go when conditions are good. They may be gone in search of baitfish or better currents the next day.
If last year is anything to go by those yellowfin and even the odd late-season striped marlin will be receiving a lot of pressure from the longliners based at Ulladulla. Those guys don’t miss a trick so you can be sure if there are any yellowfin about they will be getting decimated by a fleet whose crews work day and night to rid the oceans of our valuable game fish.
Onto the reds and jewies. For a growing band of keen sport anglers, the past few seasons have seen a couple of very exciting fisheries open up. Several years ago it was jewies on soft plastics in the Shoalhaven River with fish over 20kg being taken on light threadline tackle and soft plastics.
Despite also copping a flogging from way too many commercial netters in the Shoalhaven, the odd jewie manages to dodge the nets and find time to eat a soft plastic. It’s ironic that the angler fishing with a soft plastic has probably spent thousands of dollars on a boat, tackle and fuel to catch that one memorable fish, while hundreds of its mates are likely to end up in the net of a pro who spends bugger-all on gear and takes more fish than all the recreational anglers put together.
It sickens local recreational anglers to hear of jewfish hauls measured in tonnes every year and to find out that that these went through the fish markets for very little return because the market was flooded with jewfish. The sooner the State Government grows a spine and/or pulls its head out of the sand to ban estuary netting or at least make the Shoalhaven commercial-free, the better for all concerned.
Even some of the pros are complaining about the lean pickings and of too many operators working this valuable stretch of water.
Anyway, now’s the time to be out tossing soft plastics at the local jewies. Most of the 4” and 6” fish patterns and shad-shaped tails are working well. I reckon something that puts out some underwater ‘noise’ is best for estuary jew, where the water can be a bit murky at low tide. This means something with a paddle tail and between 4” and 6” long.
Some of the locations we fish are pretty rocky and heavy heads sink too quickly and are hard to keep mid-water between three and five metres. I’ve been fishing slower-sinking Squidgy Resin Heads with 130 mm Squidgy Fish tails. These are fairly big lures but just the right size and weight for the local jewies, which run from 6kg to 20kg.
Some of the Storm Suspending WildEye Swim Shads are also worth looking at. The 4” model is a slow sinker that is perfect for jew. Fish them all nice and slow mid-water with a few twitches for best results.
In recent years down this way, reds on plastics have taken over from jew as the flavour of the month. I suggest more reds are being caught at the moment on lures than on bait, which is a huge about-face from several years ago.
Reds have always been the species chased by bottom-plonkers or by more experienced anglers fishing with floaters and berley. A lot of reds still fall to those methods each Autumn and Spring but in the past few years we have seen many local sport anglers take up soft plastics in close and the results have been astounding.
There are dozens of prime locations for reds in this area and new ones are being found each week as anglers just get out there and fish lures in water that looks right. This usually means between five and 15 metres deep with scattered reef and a supply of baitfish or squid. That covers at least a dozen locations inside Jervis Bay and many more north and south of the Bay.
Just have a look about and think of how many inshore bommies or protected headlands are out there. At this time of year they will all produce reds at some time or another. When the cuttlefish start to run next month it will even be better.
We just drift about and slowly fish plastics in any area that looks good. We fish inside Jervis Bay when it’s too rough outside but we’ve also got a heap of locations out from Greenwell Point that produce fish.
Most of the fish we’ve been getting recently have been on 4” and 6” lures with 10g or 14g heads. I’ve been fishing Nitro and Squidgy heads matched with Saltwater Assassin 4” and 6” SW Shads or 5” Berkley Gulp Jerk Shads.
Colour is a personal preference but I like the greens, naturals or red/gold. One of my favourite snapper lures at present is a pink Squidgy head with a 6” Saltwater Assassin shad tail in gold pepper. I’ve caught some nice reds on that combo over the past few months.
You should fish your lures slowly for reds. I’ve caught a few slowly working the lure with gentle twitches but most of our fish these days are being taken on the drop from mid-water to the bottom.
We are specifically targeting those fish that eat the slowly sinking plastic by using lighter heads and keeping relatively tight to the slowly sinking lure. Those hook-ups on the drop are quite spectacular, grab-it-and-run affairs with line screaming off the reel and a solid red kicking wildly down deep.
On light threadline tackle and 10lb Fireline I can’t think of anything more enjoyable than catching reds to 3kg on soft plastics. I’m hooked and planning on doing a lot more over the next few months. Roll on the cuttlefish run!Reads: 2702