DESPITE the digital weather station showing a reading of just 6° at 7pm, accompanied by a 10-knot sou’-wester dragging the chill factor towards zero, it didn’t take a great deal of convincing to get my mate, Chris, keen for a fish.
The slightest mention of the word jewfish had him chaffing at the bit and ready to go.
It would be the understatement of the year to say we both had a slight case of jewfish fever – we’d been mauled ferociously by the jewfish bug and even bathing in heavy duty Stop Itch doesn’t seem to bring the slightest bit of relief to the symptoms.
So on this bitterly cold mid-July night, armed with one decent fresh squid, we went in search of a fishable gutter.
The first locale on Tuggerah Beach housed a half-keen angler complete with glow attachments to his long rod. We gave him a wide berth and drove on towards the next car park.
Pathetic beach formations greeted us as we peered through the moonless night into the crashing, consistently metre of swell.
With no other options on hand, we decided to head back to the first location and try to sneak a bait out in the extreme corner of the washy gutter. Luckily, the angler had packed up and left us with the full gutter to fish. The tide chart told of a high around 11.30pm, peaking at a hefty 1.8metres.
I’m not a fan of larger tides on the beach, believing the big tides push too much water over the sandbars and fill the gutters, rendering the whole scenario a bit dead. The big tides offer perfect conditions for the fish to be spread out over a wide area.
The odds were not good and a quick check of the fishing diary had shown pretty average results on such nights but only a jewfish would ease the fever.
The plan of attack on this night was to fish mid-tide when the water was more concentrated in the gutters.
One other major fish-feeding trigger associated with this outing was moonrise, around half an hour after we got there. Id learned from hundreds of previous beach jewfish outings that moonrise is a peak feeding period for jew from the sand.
Last, but certainly not least, it was four nights after the full moon, possibly the most consistently productive times of the lunar cycle for jewfish, according to my years of fishing for them. So it was no coincidence I chose this night and time to have a lash for a jew despite it being mid-Winter on the Central Coast.
It didn’t take long for the big strips of squid to settle into the foam-laced hole. These succulent strips were laid flat on snelled 8/0 hooks and held to the bottom with a No 10 ball sinker.
Around 20 minutes had passed when I heard Chris’s reel scream and a jubilant ‘Yep, I’m on!’ cry in the darkness.
After a hasty five minutes, a nice schoolie around 11kg lay on the sand as the wash parted, leaving me an easy gilling job. A quick handshake and a photo and it was back to business.
My bait had drifted unmolested a further 20 metres down the beach, helped by the push of the strong lines of swell. Just as the moon peeked over the horizon, my Alvey took off and I laid back into a nice fish – not small but not large, either.
I had the fish just behind the shore dump in no time and then it started the usual slow tug-of-war and led me another 50 metres down the steep beach. As a chunky wave stood up sharply, the fish hitched a ride and got hammered while I was doing the usual dash backwards up the beach, trying my best to keep the slack out of the line.
In the dim glow of the moon, I hadn’t noticed a small step etched in the sand and I me over the darned thing. My Petzl head lamp flew off, just catching on my clothing. The light from the dangling torch revealed the eight-wrap rod buried to the hilt.
Then the fish surfed a wave right up to my double-socked and wader-clad feet. I slid my frozen, ink-slimed fingers over the jewie’s gill plate, ready to enter the point of no return, when the fish bucked and thrashed. The hooks flew out and the next wave consumed the fish and took it back to where it yearned to be. I did a nice impersonation of an Irish dancer trying to stop it, bit to no avail.
I got over the loss quickly enough, because I’d already decided to return the fish – we had one hell of a feed already on the beach.
This night was better than average for jewing the Central Coast beaches in the dead of Winter. Normally the jew at that time leave a lot to be desired compared with the Summer months but the fish are still there.
When fishing the sand for jew in Summer it’s not uncommon for me to fish five consecutive nights when conditions are right. During the Winter I’d much prefer to make calculated judgments and fish the peak activity times to be in with a solid chance of a jew.
If conditions aren’t textbook-perfect, coinciding with either a tide change, moonrise or change of light (typical jewfish peak feeding periods), I’d prefer to give it a miss until something better turns up.
It really is a great time of the year to be on the beach with crystal clear nights and swells fanned by icy westerlies, there’s rarely a crowd.
At odd times a finger of warmer water may pass through and the fishing can go through the roof, so being flexible and on the ball can be the key to a jewfish bonanza at such times. Quality bait as fresh as possible is also a prerequisite.
Stunned friends and relatives often ask, “How the hell can you go fishing when it’s freezing and windy?” correct choice of clothing makes all the difference. Leave yourself short in this department and you will have a miserable trip, fish or no fish.
Chest waders are worth their weight in gold, especially worn over a pair of woollen socks and two pairs of tracksuit pants. I must confess to not being a fan of waders years ago but that first purchase, only three or four seasons ago, showed me the error of my ways.
While they and easily fill with water if you were to get bowled over by a wave, I believe commonsense easily overcomes such dangers. I normally top off this suave attire with a hooded jumper underneath a woollen jumper, topped with a decent water proof spray jacket.
A favourite beanie finishes ‘the look’. Don’t worry about the odd glances you get from the fashion police when you stop at the local servo!
Winter is still a great time to be fishing your favourite surf beach – just make sure you rug up and stay warm and dry. The fish are still around and are generally of a better class, although they may be fewer. Plan your attacks armed with the best baits possible and you’re in with a better chance than your mates sitting in front of the idiot box.Reads: 2544