Withdrawal symptoms
  |  First Published: September 2003

I THINK it's called withdrawal. Symptoms are restlessness, agitation and a dramatic increase in the reading and viewing of fishing literature and TV shows.

My wife has just pointed out other symptoms that she has noticed – intolerance and irritability, as well as, in her own words, "I'm sick of you hanging around the house all day".

It's been 12 days since I've been fishing and I'm really feeling it, as I'm used to spending every day on the water and 12 days feels like 12 months. However, there is hope: I've been told the repairs to my motor should be complete this afternoon and nothing short of a cyclone will stop me from being on the water tomorrow.

You could imagine my surprise when my eight-month-old high-tech outboard seized up while I was on the water. I've been using the same brand of outboard for a long time and I have never, ever, had a breakdown of any description in the last seven years.

That's seven years of commercial use. For example, my current motor has 500 hours in just eight months. When the motor was stripped down, mechanics found excesses carbon in the cylinders and the block, which necessitated the replacement of all pistons, rings and bearings, as well as a lot of block machining.

I always look after my outboards, I never thrash them and I always let them idle for a couple of minutes to warm up prior to putting them into gear. The problem was eventually traced the brand of outboard oil I was using. It's the same oil I have used for many years and has never caused me problems. However, it seems the new fuel-injected, high-performance two-strokes are a lot less tolerant of lesser quality fuel and oil.

not be flippin’ plastics for the bream, I've got nothing but good things to say about this new style of outboard because I've noticed up to 40% decrease in my fuel bills compared with a conventional two-stroke motor. Not to mention that they are smoother and produce less fumes at trolling speed.

What came as a real surprise was the fact that outboard engine manufacturers will not recognise warranty claims where the problem has been traced back to oil other than the manufacturer’s own brand. Their words were: "We build a fine engine and if it suffers a breakdown because of poor quality oil, that's not our problem – take it up with the oil company".

Somehow I don't think I'm going to get very far with the oil companies, especially when there are hundreds of other boats running around using the same brand of oil without any problems. The lesson here for me, and for other boat owners, is if you make a warranty claim on your outboard and the problem is related to excessive wear or a build-up of carbon in the engine block and you are not using the manufacturer’s own brand of oil – even though there is no mention of this in any of the literature that I received with my outboard – your warranty will be invalid.

Learn from my mistake, don't find out for yourself.


Anyhow, on to the fishing on the Central Coast.

September is the prime time for salmon around our area and large schools can be found inshore right along our coast. On a good day they will take anything thrown at them, ranging from pilchards and minnow lures to chrome spinners and flies.

On a bad day they can be incredibly fickle and conventional techniques don't seem to work. A trick that I have found successful is to motor up to a school, shutting down the motor and getting a good, solid pilchard-cube trail going immediately.

I'll then do the usual trick of floating half a pilly down the berley trail on relatively light line.

It can be surprising what can be under the salmon schools too. In the deeper layers there can often be big trevally, the odd kingy and even snapper. There are not usually many kingies around at this time of year in close but those I've come across I have usually found underneath or in close proximity to the salmon schools.

So it is well worth pinning a smaller salmon (or tailor if there are tailor about) through the top jaw and slowly idling it around the salmon school, giving it the opportunity to swim down deep.

This time of year is also a good time for pigs and drummer off our rocky shores, as well as some bream in the washes. As well as tailor and salmon on the beaches, there is still the odd jewie to be caught, as well as over-sized tailor.

The fishing can be a bit patchy in September and, some days, the fishing can be shut down. My only advice on days like these is to move around heaps. Try a lot of different areas and different techniques; try areas that you would normally not fish, such as the very upper reaches of creeks and estuaries.

On the flip side of this, I can remember having a fantastic time on the snapper off the rocks near Box Head once when westerly winds had completely glassed out the water and you could see the bottom some 90 metres off the shore. In the past I have always classed this as a waste of time fishing for snapper or, really, any fish.

However, on this day we ended up with a nice haul of reds up to 4kg in water that I would class as gin-clear. That's fishing for you –expect the unexpected and don't get to set in your ways about anything.

Offshore, it's a perfect time of year for drifting for flathead, with the prime area being along the 50-metre mark right along our coast. Mixed in with flathead you will find mako sharks of various sizes. These are not only a lot of fun to catch and release but also about the best eating of all the sharks.

On the wider reefs, in 100 metres-plus, there are usually some nice kingies hanging about and they often respond well to live baits and jigs. Best way to catch them is to motor over areas where there is a fair rise in the bottom depth and look for schools of baitfish and kingies hanging around their edges.

Try drifting over them initially and if you start getting bites, anchor so you are positioned right over the school. If bites aren't coming, it's best to move to another peak and try there.

In the estuaries there are always a few bream and trevally as well as school jewfish in the upper reaches.

This can be a great time for blackfish in the estuaries and along our rocks. I'm certainly no blackfish fanatic but if you have never tried it, it is well worth the effort. There are a lot of good lessons to be learnt from chasing blackfish as far as bait presentation and berleying are concerned, and these can be also be applied to a lot of other fish and techniques. I love the fact that they seem to bite just as well in the middle of the day as at any other time.

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