Better late than never
  |  First Published: April 2005

The warm water arrived quite late this season. Inshore, the ocean temperature climbed above 20° only by the end of February but hopefully this equates to a good late season on Summer species.

Marlin captures out wide have been steadily increasing over the past month with the good consistent run of mid-sized yellowfin tuna tapering off as a result of the warmer water. Inshore kingfish action really didn’t get going until last month despite widespread healthy stocks of slimy mackerel and frogmouth pilchards showering the surface. The only things spooking the bait schools that I encountered were schools of salmon.

I have just had a much-needed couple of weeks off during which I had some great action off the rocks chasing kingfish. It has been a few seasons since I have got one up on those thugs of the ocean but I managed to wrestle a near-14kg king onto the rocks on a big whole squid.

The fish had me in the cunje on four occasions and rather than going for broke I knocked the reel in free-spool to coax the hood back out. Trouble was that once the drag was reapplied, he simply powered back into the trouble zone. Ten minutes later, the gaff went in.

A few days later Peter Oberg landed a 20kg kingfish on a dead slimy mackerel. Interestingly, both kings had live slimies on offer but opted for the dead bait.

Bonito and frigate mackerel are scooting through the washes but one fish per hour of constant lure casting is a poor ratio which won’t entice too many hopefuls onto the rocks. With an ounce of luck their numbers should have increased by now.


Surface luring for bream continues to produce good captures and received some serious attention on my holidays. I have adopted the Bushy philosophy of total lock-down drag which seems to work a treat. I am losing far fewer fish in shallow oyster rock and rack country.

I also spent some time in Tuross in the shallow flats in search of a feed of whiting. I am not the biggest fan of estuary bait fishing so I decided to try a slightly odd technique to snare a few.

I spent an hour on the beach securing a bunch of thick beach worms for bait, which I then rigged in sections onto the lightest Squidgy finesse hook to resemble a 3” or 4” stickbait and proceeded to fish the flats in the same manner as bream luring, albeit a good deal slower than I normally would.

The technique worked a treat on big whiting, snapper, flathead, tarwhine, blackfish and a stack of obese, turbocharged bully mullet. I pulled the hooks on a couple of whiting that looked like 50cm and resembled a school jew or bonefish – serious line-stripping fun in less than half a metre of water. The worms stay on the finesse keeper OK but you really need to force the keeper to lock on.

Mid sized school jew have still been making news in several estuaries which prompted my LBG mate from Goulburn, Carl McKavannah, to try his luck in Tuross. A late-night hook-up on a live herring took a few odd twists when his ‘jew’ began performing some strange antics.

Several minutes later, Carl faced over 1.5 metres of angry snapping hairtail trying to tear strips off him in his boat. Carl has a family holiday house in Tuross so he knows the place pretty well. He reckons they used to catch the odd one way back in the days of black-and-white photographs and it makes you wonder if specific Hawkesbury River hairtail tactics would produce the goods.

In the Moruya River catches of big salmon have still been occurring but not in the sheer numbers of last Winter.

Wade Eaton and Ben Roberts found some stunning wild bass to 50cm recently on spinnerbaits and lost some unstoppable brutes in the trees. Surface luring produced small fish and aroused only slight interest from the big fish.

Follow-up trips to the same pools have not given them the same success, proving the fickle nature of these challenging natives. There is still plenty of time to chase a few bass but remember, let ’em go, let ’em grow – big bass are vital to a healthy fishery and deserve our utmost respect.

Who’s a happy lad? The author snared this kingfish off the rocks at midday on a whole dead squid when live slimy mackerel did not get touched all day. It weighed close to 14kg straight out of the water.

James Gale had a ball on Moruya River salmon. Fingers crossed the current run of sambos turns into the same light-tackle estuary madness again that last Winter produced.

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