Global warming? El Nino? Call it what you will, last Winter was very mild in terms of ocean temperatures.
Nightly TV weather reports regularly spoke of 19° and 20° ocean temps and although the water off Batemans Bay plunged to just below 15°, it didn’t stay that way for long and averaged out around 17°.
This indicates to me we can expect a big Summer of pelagic fish cruising the wash zone off the rocks, along the inshore reefs and out beyond the continental shelf. If you haven’t given those neglected game reels their annual service then you’d better soon because it looks like an early season.
Stacks of slimy mackerel, pike and smaller baitfish schools have been densely packed on the inshore grounds with even bigger schools of salmon clearly visible from shore almost daily. The big predators like kingfish, tuna, sharks and marlin surely can’t be too far away.
I reckon we might see a few more tropical oddballs the season like cobia, small samson fish and possibly a spotted mackerel in a few months. Then again, I could be dreaming but only time will tell.
Bream numbers should be swelling nicely in the Clyde River now with oyster racks one of the best places to find them this month. Surface lures, shallow divers and lightly-weighted plastics all get the nod for this type of work but usually one method will dominate on any given day.
The fun, or more accurately the frustrating, part is working out what those cagey critters want to eat and how they want the presentation to trigger a strike. Their selectiveness and cunning is probably one of the main reasons the humble bream has become such an iconic lure target.
The remaining contingent of estuary species, like dusky flathead, whiting, school jewfish and luderick, should also be all worth pursuing now. Estuary perch will also be active in the mid to upper reaches, particularly if you can find concentrations of prawns flicking on the surface.
Bass, too, should be on fire on the warm days and again the Bay has scored quality regular rain at the right time to enable the bass to fulfil their migratory movements.
I reckon the best bass concentrations will be well upstream from Shallow Crossing, deep in the gorge country. It is hard, physical work fishing the more remote sections of the fresh but the rewards are usually worth the effort and the upshot is you’ll experience some of the most stunning wilderness this coast has to offer.
Back in the salt, snapper still seem to be keeping boaters happy with fish to 3.5kg reasonably common. Wade Eaton recently scored a nice tally of 16 reds on softies and Michael Williams also found some nice fish to 4.5kg, not to mention the two snapper he hooked that never looked like stopping.
Expect the snapper numbers to remain but unfortunately little tackers of less than a kilo will tend to dominate catches and the bigger fish will be much less common.
Beach fishing will start to improve now with rising water temps, with the ubiquitous salmon occupying many beach gutters.
And just because the estuaries are filling up with good numbers of bream doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of chrome-sided specimens bream working the beach corners and washy gutters. Many a good bream will still fall foul of a ganged pilchard as they pick up the scraps that the salmon and tailor leave behind.
Downsizing to a smaller bait and a single hook will increase your strike rate on bream. A size 1 to 1/0 suicide would be a good pattern and will still handle all of the salmon you’d be likely to encounter.
Of course, if the tailor are present then bite-offs will be common, forcing you to go back to the gang hooks.
News from beach jewfish anglers has been scarce but November does see one or two usually come to the scales. They will be more likely to be of the smaller school variety but double-figure fish aren’t out of the question so be sure to be appropriately geared up.
I wouldn’t discount the possibility of hooking a rouge snapper off the smaller beaches, either, because I did hook one at this time of year some years ago. That fish flattened the rod out in the holder in a split second and ripped off about 80m of line, then stopped with a series of trademark head shakes and subsequently pulled the hook.
Terrible memories like that never seem to be erased from my mind when it comes time to putting together a particular monthly report. Oh well, that might have to be the motivational spark for me to get back to that little beach and try to even the score.
Ben Roberts with a Tuross bream taken on a Sugoi surface lure.
It looks like an early pelagic season. There have been a few bonito around so the signs are looking good.
Rat kingfish will soon invade the inshore grounds, keeping rockhoppers and boaties all smiles,Reads: 512