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Hungry pelagics abound
  |  First Published: December 2004



Now that the Christmas cheer, excess eating and drinking is behind us, it’s time to get out, get a bit of exercise and shed a little holiday flab.

This is the time to get serious about fishing. The water is warm and the pelagics will be hungry.

Kingfish have steadily bounced back from their bleak past but those almost-legal 58cm models seem to be replaced each season with more sub-legal rats.

For a fish that has a fast growth rate I cannot for the life of me see why we don’t get swarms of metre-plus fish invading the rocks and inshore reefs. Traps have been abolished for some time now but the better class of fish are still elusive.

Everything I seem to hook is either small or huge and unstoppable. More than anything I would like to see a good showing of ‘manageable’ 8kg to 12kg fish this season.

Later this month we may see a few frigate mackerel zooming through the washes, providing the ultimate big king tempter. Soft plastics work great on frigates if they are in a fussy mood and stud slimies slam them as well.

Marlin will be once again a focus for the big boats and this month will be a good starting point. The Tollgate Classic, held late in the month, often produces a big blue or black as well as the usual run of smaller striped marlin.

Will Rodney Stockman from Harry’s Bait and Tackle shake his no-marlin hoodoo this season? From South West Rocks to Bermagui, big Rod just can’t seem to keep the hooks in one long enough to claim victory. Will 2005 be his year?

Looking back at the year just gone, staring out my shop window during quiet times I noticed a big increase in whale numbers. Whale-watching tourism is now big business. It was a pretty simple solution – stop killing whales and, lo and behold, their numbers bounced back.

Why on earth we cannot adopt the same philosophy to the pitiful fraction of a once thriving yellowfin tuna fishery is beyond me. The lost tourist dollar from ’fin fever in small fishing communities like Bermagui must be sorely missed.

It’s a shame the vocal green groups don’t see a tuna in the same light as a dolphin or seal because the Government seems to listen to them. Each time I see a whale I automatically think of a tuna and how easy it would be to correct the imbalance.

Still, the odd capture of yellowfin defies the sea of longline hooks and anglers continue to be optimistic by popping a tag in a fish’s shoulder and send it on its way.

Good numbers of striped tuna are also cruising the blue highway, ambushing spreads of small lures aimed at yellowfin and albacore. Stripies are a vital link in the offshore chain, usually having a direct effect on big-fish availability.

FRESH ESTUARIES

Small freshes‚ have continued to fuel a good run of all the usual estuary species. It has been great to see bait-filled, tannin-coloured rivers instead of that super-clear, drought-affected rubbish that we have endured.

Mulloway continue to show great promise in the lower reaches with local James Gale’s superb 21kg pylon-dweller a recent standout. The fish took a full fillet of mullet after eating two whole mullet frames, including the heads, which were tossed in as berley.

Good numbers of estuary perch have been eating 3” stickbaits around the trees and deep rocky drop-offs. These fish are catch-and-release only in my opinion, especially 40cm-plus fish. May bad fishy karma fall upon you and may your plastics catch only toads if you keep one for a feed!

If you must fill an esky, give the vast schools of luderick some attention. Our estuaries are crammed with them, especially the net-free ones like Tuross and Tomakin. Whiting, too, are fairly abundant and take some beating in the pan.

Unfortunately the ‘fishing for food brigade’ have been giving the flathead an absolute caning lately. While it is perfectly legal to bag out on big flatties day after day, it is morally wrong when we all know that the big shovel-heads are the breeders.

The sooner this State adopts the Queensland model of slot limits to protect the big females, the better.

To finish off I urge all anglers to take their rubbish home with them. Holidays and litter go hand in hand so don’t be too proud to pick up someone else’s crap off our rocks, beaches and estuaries.

I pick up others’ trash almost daily and think nothing of it because I don’t want to see it there next time.

James Gale dragged this 21kg jew kicking and screaming from Clyde River bridge pylons on a fillet of mullet.

This 62cm flathead fell for a 4” Storm shad and was released. Fish of this size are on the verge of being really efficient breeders and deserve to fight, and procreate, another day. Fish smart: Fish for the future.

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