WINTER may be a few months old but nobody, it seems, has told the fish.
Some quite warm patches of water are still lingering as I type. Each year when Winter is upon us I find myself writing things like ‘unseasonably warm ocean temps’.
It may well be that we can continue to expect the water to remain relatively warm throughout the cooler months for some years to come. Call it global warming if you like but it seems those sub-13° temps of five or so years ago have been replaced by 16° to 17° minimums.
Extended seasons or year-round possibilities will invariably open up for some species of fish, which previously was not the case.
Kingfish, for one, have been showing great promise north of The Bay, especially at Ulladulla, where plenty of kings to 8kg have been taking jigs and live baits.
I have caught kingies off the rocks in July in years gone by so it may still be worth pursuing the king if the water trends continue along the same pattern.
If not, snapper will certainly fill the void as plenty of reds have been providing thrills for boaties and rock fishos alike. Most fish have been between 1kg and 3kg with the odd 6kg and one estimated 9kg honker that was released.
Bonito have still been slashing and zipping about but numbers are pretty thin. Spinning metal lures for hours for very few strikes is no easy task but that is what you need to do to hook a Winter bonnie.
I also pulled the hooks on a good mackerel tuna the other day after a couple of howling, drag-warming runs and have heard the odd rumour of more, as well as seeing some macks taking to the air while feeding on baitfish.
I have spun up mack tuna as late as August but their availability is heavily dictated by the presence of whitebait or similar small prey. Raiders around 20g, Crystal Eyes and other small baitfish profiles are the gun lures, matched to some light Fireline and a 10kg fluorocarbon leader. Hook-ups result in long, speedy runs – one of the best ways to get some warmth flowing through the body.
Out wide, striped marlin were being caught throughout May in 21° water and tuna were still to arrive in numbers. If somebody pins a beakie this month I will not be surprised.
July should hopefully yield catches of yellowfin and albacore as reports from further south sound encouraging. Makos and blue sharks will also be on the cards if you need to stretch the back muscles a bit.
Speaking of toothies, those pesky whalers are still cruising the beach gutters. My most recent after-hours beach sortie produced five whalers, two bite-offs and a lone 1.2-metre gummy shark.
I thought I’d seen the last of these hook thieves but that lagging warmth has kept them keen. Other reports of good gummies have surfaced and I presume we could see more of the same in the months to come.
Estuary systems cool down more than the ocean but it does not spell the end for estuary fishing.
Most of the big yellowfin bream will be found in beach gutters and along the ocean rocks throughout Winter but there always seem to be enough bream staying put in our estuaries to warrant having a go.
Black bream should be occupying the brackish zones by the time you read this. They are in the creeks to breed so do the right thing and put ’em all back to do their thing.
Flathead maybe a little docile in the cool water but they still bite a very slow plastic presentation.
One fish that is far from docile is tailor. A few of our estuaries have been fishing fantastically well for tailor for a while now.
I took my four-year-old son Noah for a fish in Wagonga Inlet at Narooma and boy, did he have a ball. He caught five tailor between 1kg and close to 2kg on bream gear.
He wanted to go and catch little fish after that because his arms were too sore! He even netted a few bream, trevally and snapper for Dad, which for him was as exciting as catching the tailor.
To finish this month’s report, a last-minute story from regular fishing buddy Murray Cooper has to be shared.
After witnessing the capture of a 9.5kg jewfish off the Bay breakwall on a ganged pilchard, sister-in-law Nicky Cooper returned to the same spot to have a fish.
The tide had just peaked and she decided to light a smoke. Right then the big jewfish hit, easily peeling a heap of line. The drag was too light so Nicky upped the drag but applied too much, the fish consequently dragging her off the wall and into the drink!
With some assistance from an onlooker, Nicky and rod made it back to the wall still connected to the metre-plus jewfish, which was on the surface and thrashing wildly. One last power dive and, pop! – it was all over.
Wringing wet, full pack of soaked smokes, wet wallet, a graze on the chin and no fish! It could have been much worse.
So what was the gun bait that tempted this beast? Ganged hooks, baited with a prawn on each hook – unbelievable!
Noah Hudson-Dawson with one of the ‘little’ Narooma tailor. He caught bigger but refused to go near those nasty teeth for the photo.Reads: 396