Recent early morning trips offshore or up-river have proved colder than I can remember. Lately I have been rugged up with three jumpers and a snow jacket over the top, gloves and the standard beanie has been replaced by a balaclava pulled right down when the boat is under way.
Thankfully there have been some top fish kicking around this Winter to make braving the chill a worthwhile exercise. A couple of decent downpours have sparked a little life into the Clyde River with some quality flathead over 60cm, school jewfish to 7kg and even a few nice bream to 35cm.
Big schools of tailor have been busting into whitebait and the fish haven’t been the normal Clyde run of runt choppers. Many have been over a kilo and some look to closer to 3kg by the amount of water they have been sending skywards. The pelicans, seagulls and other sea birds will quickly give their location away if the fish are on the surface but you will need to be quick and have a little luck on your side to get a few casts at them.
Outside the confines of the estuary there have been some staggeringly big schools of salmon stationed wide of Snapper Island, inside Yellow Rock and inside the Tollgate Islands. Again, the birds immediately reveal their location with up to four schools decimating small baitfish schools at once. The same scene has been occurring around Malua Bay with more schools working Pretty Point, Middle Island and Malua Point.
Anglers spinning lures or casting pilchards off the beaches have been finding some success but the big numbers of salmon seem to be out of reach, hindering shore-based anglers due to swell and unsatisfactory tides. If the seas behave and coincide with an afternoon high tide, the bulk of the schools should move right into the breakers.
Nocturnal beach fishing at this time of year is definitely for the brave and suitably dressed. Despite only 15° water there have been a few sharks, big tailor and the odd jewfish in the beach gutters. Dave Norman recently caught a near-12kg jewie on a fillet of drummer, of all things, after failing to catch some bait for the night. The fish also cleaned up the berley of chopped drummer frame and pilchard pieces before snaffling the fillet – hungry indeed! It was also interesting to note a well-healed scar across the fish’s shoulder that looked to be from a speargun encounter.
Nick Thorne has also been doing some hard yards on beach jewfish this season and finally scored a nice 9kg fish on fresh squid after almost 50 trips. It’s great to see people getting the rewards for their hard work.
Snapper fishing from the rocks and offshore has been a bit disappointing so far, which I blame on the water temperature. Leading up to Winter we experienced water of 21° or more, then virtually overnight the temp dropped to less than 16°. That ideal 18° to 19° water simply did not eventuate. Even the cuttlefish run has been meagre as a result of the temps with only the odd floater showing so far and none of them has had feeding snapper in attendance. But I certainly wouldn’t write off the season because it can all change in one quarter of the moon.
For the angler willing to work hard for a snapper there have still been a few nice ones. The best I have seen or heard of was Mal Eaton’s estimated 6kg fish caught on soft plastic in only 3m of water. It was a classic bumpy fish with a thick, fleshy nose and was released, with Mal’s son, Wade, capturing the whole thing on video.
On the rocks the snapper have been even more scarce with very few noteworthy fish even for the keenest angler. Drummer fishing, however, has been as good as it gets this season with many anglers encountering plenty of demoralising shreddings.
A number of oversized silver drummer have also been catching rock anglers off-guard. These fish have an oddly sharp but timid bite but once they feel the hook they turn on the fireworks like few other fish. Their speed and stamina is up there with the best fish that can be encountered in the wash zone. Unlike the tasty black version, silvers are virtually useless as food fish so do the right thing, enjoy them for their sport and let them all go.
Some nice school jewfish have been biting plastics in the rivers lately, such as this 7kg fish caught on a 5" Jerk Shad and released.Reads: 1215