Locals rule again
  |  First Published: February 2004

THE hordes of visitors who descended on this little jewel of the South Coast were rewarded with some excellent fishing in the sheltered waters of Wagonga Inlet and around the bountiful reefs offshore, and now we have the place to ourselves again.

Those with their own boats or who hired a ‘tinny from Taylor's’ and ventured out on the inlet have found the flathead eager to take practically any bait offered. Soft plastics are also becoming increasingly common and very successful. These seem to work best on the lizards when slowly retrieved along the edges of the seagrass beds where there is a steep drop off on the last of the rising tide.

The ‘uphill’ side of the seagrass, and out onto the sandflats has been producing a good show of whiting. These delicious little fighters have also been responding well to the smaller soft plastics on occasion, but I still think your chances are far better if you take the time to get some fresh beach worms.

Some thumping salmon have been thrilling the beach devotees and have been hammering small, fresh slimy mackerel that have been around in good numbers this year. If you can't catch the slimies yourself and can't buy a few locally, then the frozen variety still can net you some decent fish,

The old stand-by blue pilchard, although expensive, is still very reliable. Lately I've observed a few less experienced anglers using pilchards on single-hook rigs in the surf. This is an expensive and fairly unproductive way to catch the larger salmon. Anyone can get lucky in fishing, no matter how inexperienced, and we ‘old experts’ should never think for a minute that we can't learn from the ‘fluke’ successes of the inexperienced.

I prefer to use a triple gang of 3/0 hooks with a whole slimy or pilchard. Line the hooks up along the back of the fish so the hook attached to the line is level with the eye, then thread the fish on tail end first. Place the hooks through on alternate sides, with the last hook in through the eye socket.

The bait fish should then present fairly straight and about as secure as a pilchard can be without a lot of fiddling and tying.

The schools of salmon swim up and down the beach, finding holes and gutters to feed in, so when they come on  the bite the action is usually fast, furious and short-lived. You don't want to be fiddling too long with your bait or giving it away for free. And don't waste time admiring the first fish – save that for when they go off the bite, then you can admire the two or three more you caught in the following 15 minutes of full-on, high-adrenalin fun.

Best time for salmon is the last two hours of rising tide in the early morning or late afternoon. Look for a gap in the whitewater that indicates a deeper hole.


The Montague Island kingfish are still putting on a good show and the charter boats are returning with satisfied customers. The kingies are taking squid and live bait. Yakkas are OK but a little overrated as kingfish bait – I find the small slimy mackerel much more effective.

The kings are also hitting the jigs particularly hard. Two of my customers actually hooked up the same kingie. It seems rather unlikely but the best we can work out was this rather lively and surely very hungry 72cm king hit the jig that the first customer was retrieving and before actually realising the pickle he was in, the took a bite on a strip of squid the second customer was offering.

When we brought the hapless fish on board it had both hooks in its mouth! There was some contention as to who had actually caught the fish. I've been fishing for years and there are still these  regular  incidents that baffle and amaze. Then there was the time I had seals and dolphins delivering live baits into my very hands - more about that next month.

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