A flash of chrome in the frost
  |  First Published: June 2005

The rod tip bounces once, twice and then does its best to emulate a C as line is torn from the reel in short, sharp bursts.

A minute later a metre-and-a-bit of chrome appears from the depths, shining brilliantly under the fluorescent lights. Soon the fish is boated, with all on board avoiding the wild, canine-like teeth as the angler steps back and admires his first hairtail.

Gee, I hope they show up this Winter because they are so much fun to catch. I know the last couple of seasons have been fairly poor in our neck of the woods but I'm hoping this season will be different.

Those cold, still, dark nights where every surface is covered in dew. Oh, did I mention the word cold? I'm sure that the Cowan Creek area is a couple of degrees colder at night mid-Winter than any other place on Earth.

This only adds to its uniqueness – frostbite is pretty hard to forget. But to hell with the cold, the hairtail are worth it. They are fish like no other.

With what looks like chrome-plated sides and a head like something out of the Alien movies, they truly are unique. Even DPI Fisheries knows very little about them as they turn up in odd places at odd times. They do, however, favour deep, still, clear water and most seem to be caught at night.

Favourable baits are small live yellowtail, pilchards or strip baits. Needle-sharp hooks are a must because their mouths are like resin and too heavy a main line can make them shy.

A wire trace is essential and about 40cm of Shipton’s Knottable wire seems adequate. No sinker is usually required and baits are set anywhere from just clear of the bottom to just below the surface.

All of the bays in Cowan Creek have had their moment of fame at one time or another.

By-catch can be in the form of oversized tailor and school jewfish. I know of one angler who caught an 8.9kg snapper while fishing for hairtail in Jerusalem Bay a number of years ago. Fishing is truly full of surprises.

Elsewhere in June along our coast, there should be some thumping good whiting in our estuary systems as well as school jewfish in the upper reaches.

Salmon and tailor should be frequenting our rocks, beaches and inshore waters. Bigger kingies should be on the wider reefs with some nice reds between 60 metres and 80 metres.

Sure, it gets a bit cold at this time of the year but I'd prefer to be cold catching fish than warm sitting at home and catching nothing – what about you?

Young angler, big fish. School jew such as this are a by-catch during nights in Cowan Creek live-baiting for hairtail.

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