Catch rates escalate
  |  First Published: March 2004

ALTHOUGH the number of visitors fishing around Narooma has dropped dramatically as Summer has come to an end, the catch rate per head has continued to grow from ‘damn good’ to ‘bloody marvellous’.

Great bream are still being caught around Wagonga Inlet with nippers being the preferred bait, but they are taking all of the usual offerings.

I recently replaced two of the old mooring lines for my boat and noticing a clump of cunjevoi on one of them and thought I'd put it to good use. I dragged out a couple of estuary-rigged rods and bunged on a little tasty bit of cunje muscle, thinking I could set the rods in the holders and get back to work.

I had just put down the second rod and turned back to my rigging when the reel screamed (God, I love that sound except when one of my customers clicks it on just to wind in!) Within five minutes I had two lovely bream around a kilo each.

These beautiful fighting fish seem to have developed a more competitive/aggressive streak this year. I say this because in the past we have had to endure an seemingly endless stream of little pinkies (cockney bream or juvenile snapper) taking the baits for every decent bream caught. This season the bream have been charging in, pushing the small fry aside, in their haste to take the bait.

I am not imagining this because I've observed it on several occasions in the crystal-clear waters around Narooma wharf, especially when we have emptied the berley bucket at the end of the day’s charter.

This in itself is curious as in the 25 years I've fished around Narooma it has always seemed the bream are more aggressive biters in the murkier waters at the back of the inlet and in the brackish waters of the nearby creeks and lakes. It has always been a case of very careful timing of tide and sun position to get a good catch in the crystal waters of the lower end of Wagonga Inlet.

I have observed a few avid amateurs trying to use cunjevoi for the first time and noticed their frustration at watching their carefully-acquired bait fall off the hook before it has even left their fingers! The only sure way for the first-time user of this excellent, but mostly very soft, bait is to make sure you get the muscle, not just the jelly-like guts.

The most solid piece of the cunje muscle is tucked in around under the rim. Try to get it out and onto the hook in one piece and you will find a good variety of excellent fish will be more than willing to take a bite. The mighty drummer is a sucker for this bait and it is one of fishing's greatest challenges to keep one of these powerful fighters out of the rock crevices they inhabit once you've successfully hooked them.


Anyone who has spent time in Narooma at different times of the year knows that Autumn here is one of the world's best-kept secrets. The days are consistently still and sunny and the terrible Summer nor’-easter has at last pretty well blown itself away. It is quite normal to be down to a T-shirt and soaking up a very pleasant 18° to 20° by 9am, with the water temperature hovering around 20° inshore and 22° at the continental shelf.

It is in these delightful conditions that we are preparing ourselves for the peak game fishing season for the waters off Narooma and Montague Island. April is when the mighty yellowfin tuna traditionally start to appear and the marlin are still around in good numbers.

Albacore and striped tuna are usually the first fish in the box as we troll out to the shelf, which is closer to the mainland here than anywhere else in Australia. We may then get a marlin strike or pick up a few smaller yellowfin on skirted lures. If the signs are good, we stop and start cubing, most of the customers nodding off in gentle Autumn sun when the first of the Penn 50s screams as it gets violently stripped. We are instantly awake and the action has begun…

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