NAROOMA locals have never had much trouble finding nice snapper around Montague Island at any time of year, although anywhere can have the occasional off day.
The more astute visitors have cottoned on to this and when the fishing gets a little quiet, you can see the visitor’s boats creeping in on the charter boats and the locals who have retired to their time-tested snapper/flathead grounds. This is particularly noticeable off the south-eastern and south-western corners of the island, as the locals only fish there usually only when all other sites are slow.
A slow south drift at around 22 metres on the south-western corner and at 35 to 40 metres on the south-eastern corner will nearly always bag you some smallish snapper up to 40cm with most fish hovering around the 30cm legal limit. Over the past few years it has been a case of one keeper for every two or three throwbacks.
However, it seems that the ratio has been steadily changing over the past two years. Looking at my records over the past 12 months (we have to note size and species of all fish kept for Fisheries as licensed charter boats), there is no doubt that the average snapper size is increasing.
Tourists regularly have asked me what size snapper we can expect to catch. Until now I’ve usually said something like: "We breed ’em by the shipful in the local estuaries and lakes. Wagonga Inlet is always chockers with little pinkies ... they then seem to come out to sea to grow a little more and we catch heaps around 30cm to 40cm. Only very occasionally do we get one over 4kg. I reckon that when they feel that bump growing on their head it gives em a headache and they head south for colder water to try to ease the pain."
However, these past few months we have been regularly catching snapper of 3kg to 5kg and several up around 7kg.
To get onto these bigger fish you have to do some careful tracking with your sounder. Locate the reef called the Fowl House on the western side of Montague. It is shaped like a horseshoe with the curved end pointing north and the straight ends pointing south. It's about a kilometre from north to south. If you get on a southward drift along the western edge of the western leg of the horseshoe, where it drops from around 12 metres to 30 metres, you are in the right place. Any flat gravel or sand bottom right on the edge of a reef drop-off is a good place to look for snapper and mowies.
The reds are taking most baits but I'm finding a combination of a strip of fresh slimy mackerel with a squid tentacle dangling off it is particularly effective.
I mentioned in my report last month how much more aggressive the bream are becoming in the clearer water of the inlet. This seems to be still the case, especially around the Narooma town wharf.
Many locals who rarely fish the wharf have been enticed to take the challenge of fighting these magnificent fish – and challenge it is, to bring them in between the boats and around the oyster-covered piers. Some of the more experienced bream anglers have had tremendous success letting an unweighted bait drift down. You have to time this according to the tidal flow as it fairly hoons past the wharf at peak flow, but the more natural movement of the bait definitely results in a better catch rate. Again, most standard baits are working but fresh cunjevoi or nippers definitely have the edge.
Things get a little quiet for the charter boats here in Narooma over Winter but I think that also is about to change.
Narooma has boomed big-time over the past 18 months and I think the secret is out. Winter in Narooma is delightful – a bit nippy in the early morning when we're getting the boat ready but by the time we've caught the live bait and are out on the grounds, it’s often creeping up to 18° on another still, sunny day.
Snapper around this size are becoming increasingly common around Montague Island.
The author with a thumping 70cm morwong caught off Glasshouse Rocks, Narooma. They don’t come much bigger.
This mahi mahi ate a trolled blue Rapala lure.Reads: 975