Hereabouts the fish don’t see as much angling pressure all year so it takes a few tricks to keep scratching up a feed in holiday season.
While the majority of quality fish are mostly pretty safe from many holiday anglers, there are a few plans you can put in place to have a nice feed of fillets sizzling in the pan at day’s end.
Probably the key element is to fit in your holiday activities around the fish, rather than the fish having to fit in with your schedule. It might be the height of holiday relaxation to sleep in until 11am, have a leisurely spot of brunch and then launch the boat or take the kids onto the beach or jetty for a spot of fishing – but don’t be surprised if you don’t catch much.
Far better to be on the water at first light with a plan in mind to catch the fish that are most active and least wary in the half-light. On mid-Summer days when the light is brilliant for 12 or more hours, these half-light periods are welcome feeding times for most species.
If you’re chasing Christmas chopper tailor from the beach at, say, South Golden Beach, Seven Mile Beach or Patchs Beach, the hottest bite will occur in the hour either side of sunrise. There’s no point casting that chrome lure or soaking that ganged pilchard if all the fish have moved out into deeper, dimmer water hours ago.
Bream, whether in the estuaries or along the beaches and headlands, feed in the same type of light. Choose your fishing day to coincide with a tide change an hour or so either side of sunrise or sunset and be out there when the strongest run is just starting to go off the tide. That applies whether you’re fishing the washes at Skennars Head, casting flesh or prawn baits in the middle to upper reaches of Emigrant Creek at Ballina or flicking soft plastics among the snags of the upper Evans or Brunswick.
Berley is also an important component of fishing for bream – and snapper. Choose yourself a quiet corner that’s still in the tidal or current flow and lay out an alluring trail of fish pieces, prawn shells, crushed crab shells, chicken pellets, bread, last night’s pasta leftovers – whatever you can. Make sure that you put in the water only a few small pieces at a time and do it regularly so you don’t break the trail.
Aim for the trail to waft over rocky reefs and outcrops and along gutters, channels and other fish-holding haunts. And don’t make the berley pieces too big – we’re trying to create a fishy version of an aromatic walk downwind of McDonald’s, not have someone chucking hamburgers at us!
Many casual anglers also make the mistake of not looking after their bait. It should be good enough for you to eat, so keep frozen or fresh bait in an esky until it is needed. Try to let frozen bait that naturally, rather than dunk it in water to separate the pieces. Then look after it.
Live bait, the best bait of all, also needs plenty of attention to keep it in top condition. Whether we’re taking poddies, herring, yabbies or worms, they should be kept somewhere cool when you’re out fishing and between trips. A foam esky is a good start. And take only what you’ll need in the next 24 hours – there’s nothing worse than the stench of a bucket of yabbies left in the sun and the tragic waste of valuable marine life that goes with it.
Tubby Grissell, of Evans Head, shows what you can do along Airforce Beach if you fish the half-light and the change of tides. This jewie went 22kg.Reads: 550