April means several things to me. For starters, it's snapper time down here with some nice fish moving around inshore. It's also the transition period between striped marlin and yellowfin.
It's also when the beach jewies show up as well as being a good time for blackfish and drummer from the rocks.
You can now see why I usually take a few weeks’ holiday around this time. The fact that it coincides with school holidays also helps.
The past few months have seen some pretty wild weather down here with heavy rains, flash flooding and big seas creating some very good stir-ups in the rivers, estuaries and inshore.
That means one thing to me – snapper!
We've been getting some nice reds on plastics since February and the odd period of big seas and heavy rains hasn't hurt one bit. About the only time we haven't been able to put a feed of snapper on the table has been the four or five days over a full moon or when the seas have been too big to get outside.
Most of our fish have been coming from 10m to 20m of water so we're not going too wide. They've been averaging 1kg to 2.5kg with the odd larger fish and most have been taken at anchor while berleying with pilchard cubes or prawn heads.
We've taken the odd fish on bait but 90% have grabbed a soft plastic in the berley trail. It's been great fun and an average morning or afternoon session has been producing between three and six reds.
Throw in the odd squid that grabs a squid jig fished in a side rod holder and you can understand we've been eating well lately.
We've had a chance to play around with a few head and tail combos while chasing the reds. In the shallow water I really like those Squidgy Resin Heads in 7g which are a light head so the sink rate is slow, giving you a little longer in the drop zone but they won't get down in a bit of current. The hooks on these heads are just strong enough for good reds.
We've also had good success with the 10g Squidgy heads in green, pink and black.
Next up are the 7g and 10g Nitro heads which have a solid hook that's more than up to pulling big reds out of shallow water with 20lb braid. I've also been using a few TT heads in 1/4oz (7g), which are working well.
All of these heads with 2/0 and 3/0 hooks will catch reds. I don't worry too much about colour of the head, it's the weight in relation to water depth that matters.
We've also been using a lot of different tails. The Gulp 5" Jerk Shads have been working well in sapphire shine, lime tiger and nuclear chicken (if you can find them). I've also been using the Gulp 4" Minnow on some of the lighter heads in shallow water. Watermelon pearl works well.
If you're not into the Gulp range try the Berkley PowerBait 5" Jerk Shad in new penny and the 140mm Squidgy Wriggler.
Take your time when fitting tails and try to get as neat and streamlined a combination as you can. I carry a small pair of scissors and trim the plastic’s head to fit the shape and diameter of the jighead.
Getting a neat fit means longer casts because it doesn't spin in the air and it swims much better and looks more attractive to the reds.
It hasn't all been snapper, though. While those heavy rains put the estuaries out of the question for a few weeks, they didn't take long to recover.
Some very nice bream and flathead have been getting taken in St Georges Basin with 80cm and 90 cm flathead very common. The Basin Lure and Fly Club recently held a tournament down there and some very big lizards were weighed and released.
The flatties will be just about getting ready to lie low for Winter now so if you haven't been into them by now you might have to wait til next October.
The bream, whiting, snapper and tailor will still be around so don't despair.
The next few months will see the beach jewies show up and hopefully after those heavy rains there should be some good fish.
The best option is to find a deep gutter in the afternoon and try to catch some tailor out of it. You can use pillies on a three-hook rig or a 40g or 50g lure if they're about.
Fish fillets of the tailor back into the gutter as it gets dark or keep them alive and fish them that way.
A high tide in the early evening is best and the first quarter of the moon is a very good time of the month.
Don't let that stop you fishing other tides or moon phases, though, the more time you put in the better your chances of hooking a jewie. Be prepared to put the hours in and don't expect to catch one of the first trip.
As I write we're in the middle of a very slow and very late marlin season. The black marlin have been very patchy inshore with The Banks producing only the odd fish.
Out wider, the stripes have only just started which means we may still be catching striped marlin when you read this.
Either that or the east coast longline fishery has done a lot more damage to this species than we had first suspected. Longliners caught hundreds here in 2006/07 although in recent years boat numbers have been reduced through licence buy backs and there more restrictions on targeting striped marlin.
One thing most game fishers would agree on is that the longliners have caused some damage to yellowfin and striped marlin stocks over the years. If the marlin haven't shown up in numbers by mid-March I guess we'll be out chasing yellowfin and mako sharks by now.
After last Spring’s mako action I reckon I could handle that but a few striped marlin would be very nice.
The guys on Escape Charters out of Greenwell Point caught a nice 224kg blue marlin in February just over the back of The Banks in 80 fathoms. Work colleague Tim O'Connell was the angler on 24kg tackle and a trolled lure. Escape Charters can be contacted on 02 4441279 or 0407 891688. They also do reef and deep sea packages.Reads: 612