Marvellous Merimbula
  |  First Published: August 2006

Snowy Mountains trout guide Steve Williamson spills the beans on his favourite coastal bolt-hole.





For those who wonder what a full-time trout guide does for a holiday – well I go fishing, of course!

Mostly I like to get a little salt back into my blood and head down the coast. Most of my youth was spent fishing around Pittwater and the Hawkesbury River and in later years around the Georges River and Botany Bay, with the occasional trip to The Entrance, near Gosford.

Saltwater fishing has always been in my blood and there is nothing better than to dabble in a little estuary fishing whenever I get a chance. In my youth, I spent some time travelling and fishing across the southern part of Australia, from Sydney to Perth, but I never really started freshwater fishing seriously until my early 20s.

Although I had every chance to get into game fishing when I was in Pittwater, serious seasickness kept me away from anything more than a ripple. In fact I even got seasick when working on the Palm Beach-Pittwater ferry service in my early days.

Whenever I can these days I head down the coast, with my favoured destination Merimbula, only just over a couple of hours away from Jindabyne.

I have been fishing the area for over 10 years and will probably retire down there one day. The South Coast has so much fishing to offer with some of the best lakes and estuaries in Australia.

While there is a heap of accommodation available in the area, my favoured location is at Fishpen Peninsula, at Merimbula, so called because the prolific salmon were netted and released into pens there until the now defunct Eden cannery could accommodate them. From Fishpen you can look across the lake to the town and on the other side of the peninsula you have the surf. At the end of the peninsula you have the inlet to the lake and there’s excellent fishing year round.

The main boat ramp is only a kilometre down the road, just near the Merimbula airport. If you need any supplies and you’re feeling fit, it’s a level 10-minute walk across the road bridge and into town for the shops, a cold beer and a good feed.

The town has just about everything – good supermarket, clubs, a great tackle shop called Bluewater Sports and a great pub with excellent steaks.

If you are into offshore fishing there are plenty of charter boats. Outfits such as K9 Charters that operates out of Blue Water Sports and Bruce Libbis with Rathlin 2 are a couple that spring to mind to help out with a bit or reef or game fishing. For estuary charters, Micah Adams’ Fish on Fly will put you onto fish on Merimbula and Pambula lakes and the Bega River.


Over the years I have spent time land-based and boat-based around the lakes and rivers and considering the area gets a hiding from tourists during the holiday periods, I still never have a problem getting a fish, some days on fly or lure and other days on bait. Just keep you wits about you and you will not miss out on getting something.

I try also to stay away from the crowds, so that means you will not find me near the jetties and piers.

One of my favourite spots is the inlet area near Bar Beach. Only a short drive away, it’s always good for a bit of lure spinning for tailor and trevally and the odd flattie or two. Good bream around the rocks are best on the higher tides.

At the right time of year and with the right tide there are also some excellent whiting on blood worms.

It is just a short walk to the end of Fishpen to the inlet and if you have a heavy lure on, and it’s low tide, you can just about cast across to Bar Beach. The channel runs very close to the end of the peninsula so you will have the charter boats within casting distance as they head out to sea each day, but that deep water will produce just about any variety of fish you wish to target.

The were some great whiting taken on worms at the slack tide when I was there in February and I spun up quite a few trevally on soft plastics and had a variety of plastics destroyed by chopper tailer on many occasions.

One of the best flathead plastics for me of late has been the from the Eco Products range from Shipton Trading but the new Storm Twitching Nipper has also caught some great fish.

Last trip I went through heaps of plastics because of the tailor, which liked them just a little too much. It can cost you a lot of money to have a lot of fun so when the tailor are on I suggest you use some metal lures like Raiders.

The trevally were also on last time I fished there and although they weren’t as savage with the plastics, it’s hard to go past a bit of hard shiny metal when these fish are really on the chew.

In the Back Lake I try a few different spots but the best flatties I have caught have come from the hole where the inlet runs into the Back Lake.

You can also catch some excellent lizards down at the back of the lake near Back Lake Boat Hire and in Winter there is excellent tailor fishing when trolling or casting. Expect some big fish in this system with tailor occasionally over 3kg.

Plenty of blackfish are about in Winter as well and I have caught these on lure and fly so you won’t have to stick with the traditional long float and weed.


In the nearby Pambula River and lake system I have caught some very big flatties near the Shark Hole, just at the bend on the Pambula River as it heads from the lake to the sea.

If you like oysters, the best in Australia come from this estuary system and you had better call into the co-op and purchase a feed.

North of Merimbula is another of my favourite flathead grounds, on the Bega River just north of Tathra. You don’t have to go far to catch a feed from this system and some of the best fish I have caught have been from just in front of the boat ramp.

There are also some excellent bream and estuary perch in this system and bass can be caught further up the river. If you’re after bass exclusively, the fishery at nearby Brogo Dam is well worth experiencing.

The famous Tathra wharf is another place that is worth a fish – so many places, so little time!

Over the past 12 months I have been exploring the many waterways further north so in a future article I will let you in on a few secrets that I have found in some of these estuaries.


For more information:

• Sapphire Coast Tourism – 1800 150 457

• Accommodation: Holiday Hub Beachside Resort, Pambula 1800 677 808, www.holidayhub.com.au

• Offshore charters: Bruce Libbis, Rathlin II, 02 6495 3795

• Tathra Wharf and Museum 02 64944062

• For info on the latest Pambula fishing and the best oysters in Australia: Andy Baker, Pambula Rock Oysters, 02 6495 6957, next to the Pambula River Boat ramp

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