Battling those westerlies
  |  First Published: July 2004

THIS TIME of year is generally dominated by strong westerly winds but if they abate for any time, good fishing can be had if you know where to look.

If the westerly is broken by a southerly buster, it’s time to hit the rocks. The minute the ocean is stirred up by the onshore airflow, drummer, blackfish and bream will be drawn into a feeding frenzy as food is washed from the rocks.

Baitfish become confused as their schools are broken up by the rough conditions and the inshore Winter pelagics such as tailor and salmon take advantage of this. Big snapper patrol the outer rims of this frenzy, picking off anything that thinks it might escape.

All the headlands will be producing good numbers of tailor and salmon with anglers targeting them with pilchards on ganged hooks in early morning or late afternoon. Best bites are coming as the run-in tide coincides with the change of light.

But if the westerly persists, fishing can be a lot harder. Day after day these bloody winds blow – it can almost drive the keen angler mad. The water becomes gin-clear and cold; generally not good fishing conditions.

The only relief that comes to mind is groper fishing. Unlike most other species, groper seem to like these clear, calm conditions and will take a bait quite readily.

If I turn mad enough to fish for these blubber-lipped brutes, I usually gather some rock crabs for bait as quickly as possible and sit in behind a rock to get out of the wind.

When a groper is hooked, there is no finesse as it heads for the bottom at a rate of knots. Heavy gear and strong hooks are needed if you want to consistently catch the blue beauties.

Although groper are a fantastic fish to catch, I tend to release most of them and there’s a bag limit of two.


Inside the Port, blackfish anglers jealously guard their rocks on the breakwalls. Ducking and weaving among the old-timers with their slender, custom-built rods, the Coles boys harass the luderick with short spin sticks and some green weed scrounged off an unsuspecting colleague.

Once they get their hands on weed they set up next to the old-timers, down stream of course to make the most of their berley trail, and proceed to pull blackfish out hand over fist. Its good to see natural anglers like young Ben and Matthew, as keen as mustard, doing what they love to every spare moment of their lives.

Big post-spawn Winter bream are taking up residence in the Port. Under oyster racks, along rock walls and through weed beds they silently haunt the system in search of a feed.

If you’re lucky enough to land your lure or bait anywhere near one of these big, blue-lipped bruisers, hold on, because they only want to go one way – back to cover.

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