Three-card trick
  |  First Published: February 2003

Fishing over the past three months has been good, bad and ordinary. The unsettled weather patterns have upset rainfall, wind strength and the general seasonal regularity.

The drought is the worst in living memory, so some say, and while it has had a devastating impact on rural Australia that is this country’s lot. Like Antarctic is cold, Oz is a dry, unpredictable continent that always will be subject to extremes.

Social engineers call for a minimum population of 50 million people, I say send the social engineers out to live on a property in periods like this and see how they cope. Tank water, sharing bath water every other day and breathing dust while your livelihood starves to death.

The dry weather has certainly taken its toll but this month is traditionally wet, or at least wetter than the past few. Any rain that colours the water will help to better predict fish movement and encourage normal seasonal routines.


The beach gutters should produce some good fishing this month with whiting, bream, swallowtail dart and flathead hunting the surf zone. Depending on the gutter formation, generally the last of the run in and first of the run out are the best time and provide water levels encourage the fish to feed vigorously.

Early morning and late afternoon are good times to fish but don’t despair if you can only make daylight sessions because whiting and flathead are always on the prowl for worms and pipis.

Remember that hook size is important but smaller is better. Hooks that are too big will miss opportunities where a hook that may be a little smaller than required will do the job. No 4 and No 6 hooks in long shank will hold enough worms and pipi to tempt the fish and are of a size that will hook legal whiting and the small mouths of the dart.

Beach worms can be gathered along Seven Mile and Nine Mile or you can check the local tackle shops and boat sheds. They are worth the effort and money.

This time of year the lake comes alive with fish, prawns, crabs and mozzies. Plenty of big garfish, whiting, flatties, bream and blue swimmers are available throughout Wallis Lake. Blue swimmers have been having a good run in Smiths Lake, along with some flathead and whiting.

Big bully (sea) mullet frequent the lower section of the lake and where you find a school of them rolling in the current, it will pay to cast a lure among them for a bream.

The bream hang out under the schools and if you are lucky a mullet will take a fancy to your offering, as happened not long back. Casting soft plastic shads for bream and flathead, I was surprised to see my mate knock off a 750g sea mullet over a patchy weed section of shallows. The hook was well down, so there was no mistake about the fish’s intention.

Try the pockets of sand between the weed and oyster leases for flathead during February. It is surprising how many fish up to 2kg sit in less than one-metre-square sand patches. Targeting the fish on weighted DOA Shrimps or double tail Mister Twisters is perhaps the easiest way to cover the acres of available water.

Sand whiting will be more than willing to take a yabby or beach worm around the drop-offs and deeper channel trenches. Drifting, lightly-weighted baits will be set upon and the best times will be in the slower water movement either side of the change in tide.

Gars and mullet will be immediately obvious with a few bread crusts cast on the surface. One of the best baits is fresh bread doughed up or shrimp that can be collected around the ribbon weed.

Weed for blackfish can be found in the pool between the Forster breakwall and the beach dunes. It is often fine and soft but it is better than nothing if better quality weed is unavailable.

It is a good time to fish the estuary and tributaries. Bream, big whiting and black-coloured flathead all contribute to the mixed bag catches. The Wallamba River above Shalimar Caravan Park is worth a go for fizzing bream, bait for bream and flathead.


The time to throw out an early live bait is here. Rat kings are a chance as well as mack tuna and early cobia. I dare say the rocks will cop a few lure-chuckers over the next few months and a variety of soft plastics will be elevated to the top of the casting order. The potential is huge for soft plastics. Like other, earlier, methods of spinning that have now become routine, softies are set to take their place as an integral and productive fishing method off the rocks.

The washes in the early morning should have some average tailor lurking around, chasing the whitebait. Bream will be lining up under the berley trail. Gars, yellowtail and, hopefully soon, slimies will be berley targets and temporary inflatable pool residents. Here’s hoping.

Trag, pinkies and mixed reef fish have been coming in from the reefs and marks off Blackhead and Kings from the Pin on drifted livebaits and lures.

Some big silver trevally were being cleaned at the Tuncurry ramp a while back and, on inquiring, I was told that the fish came from north side of Latitude Rock.

Some striped tuna action is available but the surface action has been patchy to date. A few attempts to raise a marlin have resulted in disappointment but it is a game of persistence.



The following passage is not to be read while operating heavy machinery or any motorised conveyance. Spelling mistakes are not meant to offend or have meaning contrary to those intended. No children or animals were harmed as a result of the following passage and it is believed the text has no effect on unborn children in the State of California.

“And, Your Honour, it is our intention to prove that the defendants did not properly describe, nor express, the inherent danger of the area where my client’s husband was swept to his untimely and tragic death.” The silk continues his introduction with his hands perched, holding the bib of his judicial robes.

“We contend that the publisher, editor and writer were fragrantly irresponsible and therefore negligent in providing the ‘location guide’ of the area in question and were totally responsible for leading the deceased into a false sense of security and, ultimately, to his death. We have here, Your Honour, a clear case of a breach by the defendants of their duty of care which, I am sure, the facts will highlight.”

The barrister sits back in his seat, adjusts his wig and looks at his client with a smug, almost too confident smirk.

Hopefully the above passage is a fictitious account of events, but in this day and age, who knows? Statistically, I have been lead to believe, NSW is the second-highest per-capita place for litigation on earth, exceeded only by California. Current events, lawsuits, and insurance cover crises makes you wonder if anyone is safe from seemingly ridiculous litigation.

Personal responsibility seems to have been over-shadowed by slick TV advertising lawyers providing encouragement to potential litigants.

Sadly, judgments are made in the sanitary environment of the honourable chambers by people who have never experienced the trauma – a bit like having a young, childless Government employee tell a parent of five kids how to raise them.

What would you do if you caught a joker breaking into your house or garage to knock of your fishing gear, or worse ? I bet he would be in a world of hurt, right? Unfortunately, commonsense is rarely a controlling element in the law and its determination of appropriate punishments and compensation.

As anglers, we often put ourselves at grave risk and fish some pretty hostile territory. We do our own risk assessment of the locations we fish and take responsibility for our actions, but do we have to? I’m sure there would be a lawyer out there that would make a case for your family and blame is often just a matter of opinion.

We have gone from a my-fault to a no-fault and, finally, a your-fault society. While a lawsuit against the magazine, editor and writer is a little tongue-in-cheek, your efforts to protect your property from those who would use the law to ruin you has never been so desperate.

Be bloody careful.

Photo Caps:


Plenty of beakies are sifting the surface around the lake. Lightly weighted floats and dough or shrimp baits are the best method to take them. They are good bait and sweet tucker and overlooked by most anglers.


Fishing the Wallamba River and putting the canoe in at Nabiac is a good way to escape the crowds and catch a few lizards and bream on lures.


Bully for you. The list of species to fall to soft plastics, in very short period, is just getting longer and longer. This sea mullet took a 50mm XPS Lazer Eye Shad in amber.


The freshwater bullies can be taken on soft plastics, even if this one was jagged in the fin. They are top fighters in the fresh or salt and it is a pity they aren’t a more regular catch on lures.

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