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Reds and jewies play havoc
  |  First Published: August 2004



THE RUN of big snapper and mulloway around the Batemans Bay region is turning out to be one of the best for many years.

August may be a cold and miserable month to be out in the elements but the class of fish poking about is well worth rugging up and having a go at. It’s by no means too late to chase a red and if recent captures are anything to go by, you’ll need to be ready and adequately geared up.

Justin Lake recently landed a 10.02kg lump-headed ripper in six metres of water off Durras. At 22lb on the old scale, it was one impressive fish. He fooled the old red with a skinned strip of sergeant baker fillet cast in the vicinity of a cuttlefish carcass. Justin is a big fan of the ‘sarge’ fillet and used the same tactic a week later to snare a 7.2kg reddie as well as a few 3kg to 4kg fish.

Off the rocks, snapper junkie Dean Heycox landed a 9.1kg snapper. He, too, may have cracked the magic 20lb barrier but three weights on three different scales have some believing he didn’t quite make the 20lb club by the slimmest of margins. The fish measured exactly the same length as Justin’s but lacked any trademark bump. Either way, it is still an awesome catch.

I love seeing the people who do the hard yards getting the big fish. These two fellows fish harder than anyone I know.

Both fish are in the hands of Tony Evans of Realistic Fish Mounts in Ulladulla. Tony is the best in the business when it comes to snapper mounts, not to mention mulloway and game fish. The 12-month average waiting period for a finished product is testament to his skills. He can be contacted on 02 4455 4000.

I have had a few intriguing conversations of late with several divers who have provided some fascinating insights into the snapper’s feeding habits. It comes as no surprise to regular snapper-chasers that the red fellows have an attraction to a sandy, gravelly bottom and these conversations have only reaffirmed these sentiments.

One recollection involved several snapper delicately wafting their tails on the sand bottom while lying on their sides to disturb the sand and force pipis to the surface. What then followed was a swift motion and a precision head-butt to crack the mollusc open, then the cycle was repeated.

Another story involved a circle of eight medium-sized snapper repeatedly head-butting the sandy bottom in a small area. Whatever they were trying to catch did not seem to be working but the diver reckons the noise was nearly deafening.

Maybe they were trying to enlarge their bumps in some bizarre peer-pressure ritual. The final oddity involved a big snapper, with a big bump to match, swimming upside-down using its bump as a keel to plough the sand, bringing sand crabs to the surface to suffer a similar fate to the pipis.

What all this means to us anglers is we should seek out such areas where sand meets reef for success.

MIDDAY MULLOWAY

As I mentioned at the start of this report, mulloway are also turning rods inside out. Yet another midday 30kg monster fell victim to a pilchard-tosser.

The fish was hooked while the bloke was fishing for salmon and tailor off the rocks and was landed in the middle of the beach. Tony Evans and a mate also got in on the daytime jew action with 14kg and 16kg fish off the rocks on salmon and tailor fillets after a tip-off from his brother, who had been diving for crays.

It just goes to show that these fish aren’t the fussy, timid feeders that folklore tends to portray. I have hooked a few myself in the daytime off the rocks in only a few half-hearted attempts which all ended in line shredded through the boulders.

Again, solid reports from divers put me onto these fish. Maybe I should give up the freezing night vigils and pursue more seriously those rock-dwelling day jewies on plastic, wood and bait.

Estuaries have been producing mulloway, too, notably on soft offerings. Phil Petridis had an 18-minute tussle with a 10kg Squidgy-eater, then pulled the hook on a second one 10 minutes into the fight the very next cast.

The following day I pulled the hooks on one in the same spot on a 4” pumpkinseed Berkley Stickbait. That daytime jew continues to elude me!

Wade Eaton scored two smaller jew a week later and pulled the hooks on a much larger one. Unfortunately, a pro netter on his day job witnessed Wade’s captures and has been busily netting ever since. The Clyde can’t take a trick, even in the depths of Winter.

Captain Kev Gleed got one that went 15kg that, unlike Phil’s, didn’t fight that much despite being a very well-conditioned, fat fish. It still took 10 head-shaking minutes to subdue, just not with the drag-warming runs you’ expect. Kev also pulled the hooks on another one the next cast.

Wade’s most recent jew hook-up was on a No 7 Squidgy and the fish took the whole spool of 3kg Fireline and backing about eight minutes into the fight.

Fishing solo meant that Wade could chase only on electric power, which worked for a while but, following a series of rod-jarring head-shakes, the jewie hit the afterburners and headed for the ocean and took the lot. Wade has now added a beefed up outfit to his arsenal for big plastic work.

The words ‘I told you so’ showered down upon him, with plenty of laughs thrown in. Everyone learns the hard way in fishing, it’s what keeps us coming back for more.

OTHER OPTIONS

Other fish on the chew this month should be salmon off the beach, tailor in the estuaries and off the beaches, bream off the rocks as well as some stud trevally.

One lucky boat crew found a huge school of kingfish off Broulee Island that filled the sounder screen. It took twelve bust-ups before two fish were landed. They went 16kg and 18kg and were caught on pilchards and squid.

Some big whiting are still lurking about and they have shown a soft spot for micro-sized plastics.

Those enigmatic estuary perch are still being released in the upper and lower reaches of the rivers, with no pattern noticeable in their movements.

As mentioned last month, gummy sharks to 15kg continue to show up on the beaches at night so there is still a stack of options for the keen fisher to tap into.

Wade Eaton has been finding plenty of big perch like this. Treat them like bass and return them unharmed. The netters do too much damage to their numbers and big ones are all too rare these days.

Justin Lake with the 10.02kg knobby that found a fillet of sergeant baker impossible to resist. At 22lb in the old money, it is a true trophy specimen.

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