Salmon, mowies a sure bet
  |  First Published: September 2003

By way of introduction, a little about myself: I’ve been in the Narooma area for around 25 years and had three kids go through schools here, so I just about qualify as a local.

I’m a part-time primary teacher, part time artist and art teacher and owner-operator of Island Charters Narooma. Our vessel, Dallas, is a 10-metre Savage powered by twin Cummins diesels. We do fishing, diving and sightseeing charters offshore and in the estuary – virtually anywhere from the inlet to the continental shelf. I’m also a keen diver, so I know what’s actually down there on many of the reefs to 30 metres or more where we fish.

I like chasing kingfish more than anything else because of the fun factor, and the Montague Island area is justly famous for them. When the kings are on, you can catch plenty of them and they put up a fantastic fight.

We’ve seen a notable increase in size and numbers of kingfish since the ban on floating traps and maybe one day they’ll be back to the levels they were before this over-efficient method was introduced. Local professionals were targeting snapper and bottom fish because of the decline in kings but now they are turning back to kings on hook and line. As a consequence, there is less commercial pressure on the reef fish and we are now seeing better catches of snapper and morwong. Fisheries have got it right on this one.

We also run game-fishing charters and I enjoy the ‘serious’ work of chasing tuna and marlin. Our best yellowfin tuna is around 80kg.

While this month isn’t the greatest time to be fishing the Narooma area, the beach fishing is usually very good. You can expect excellent action on salmon on a rising tide morning and evening. Find a nice hole on one of the more secluded beaches and try your luck.

Blue pilchards are a very popular bait but they are quite expensive, so why not try a piece of salted slimy mackerel. They are easier to acquire and nowhere near as expensive and very effective on salmon. Tailor might not be so prolific this month but you should pick up the odd bream, which will also relish the salted slimy fillets.

The estuary could be a bit quiet until the water warms up but jewfish are a year-round catch in Wagonga Inlet. Live poddy mullet are the standard bait for good results but a small trevally is also a very successful livie.

One of the best jewfish spots is the ‘isolated hazard’ marker in the centre of the inlet, where the timber ships used to dump their sandstone ballast before taking on their cargo. This is a very good place but you can catch jew just about anywhere in the inlet where there is deep water.

Off the rocks this month, drummer are always a good bet. These fish are a real challenge and require some skill fishing to prise them from their rocky homes. Light tackle is the way to go to get the best bites but once you’ve hooked your fish, the real fun starts. You also need to know how to make cunjevoi stay on a hook and you always have to keep an eye out for dangerous waves. For those less interested in specialising, there also should be plenty of salmon from the rocks.

Narooma is also brilliant for blackfish and you can see thousands of them at times around the harbour and lower channel – but just because you can see them doesn’t mean you’ll be able to catch them.

Offshore, September is still a fairly quiet time for kings and game fish but morwong, leatherjackets and mixed reef fish are still rather good. I’ve noticed also an improvement in the number and size of flathead. I think it’s because there is less trawling being conducted locally and on the softer bottom around the island reefs flathead are very good, because the trawlers can’t get to them.

As an indication of how good things can be in the ‘off-season’ recently five anglers aboard Alice caught 11 morwong each in five hours and also picked up half a dozen good-sized flathead and plenty of six-spine leatherjackets. Leatherjackets might chew up the gear but you don’t mind losing a hook or sinker for a big jacket – they are a colourful catch and tremendous eating.

And lastly, it takes all kinds of people to catch all kinds of fish. I got a phone call recently from some Melbourne clients, a group of six, who wanted to book two full days’ fishing offshore.

“So you want to go to the shelf and chase tuna?” I asked.


“OK, we’ll go and get some kingfish,” I said.


“What about some bottom fishing, then – snapper and morwong?”

“No. We want to catch something that we caught last time. What do you call them, sweep?”

Montague Island sweep are mostly around a kilo and nearly as good as bream to eat. I’ve converted plenty of local people who previously thought they were only rubbish fish.

Well, the decks were awash with sweep and our Melbourne guests had an absolute ball on light tackle. We could have caught kings but that’s what they wanted to catch. Yes, the customer is always right.

Mind you, when we got home the deck looked like it was covered in confetti with all the scales and it took me half an hour to get all the scales out of the bilge…

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