I've been promoting and reporting on the great catches of estuary species on lures from St Georges Basin for a few years now and just recently I got to experience that piece of water at its best.
I've had limited exposure to The Basin since it was declared commercial-free several years ago but I have a lot of mates who have devoted plenty of time to chasing bream, flathead and whiting down there.
They've also taken the odd snapper, jewie and jumbo tailor in there as well and this fishery really has become a remarkable piece of South Coast estuary fishing.
My last trip there was with Woolomia-based bream guru Simon Pender in his 470 Quinnie Top Ender. We fished during a pretty stiff southerly and put his boat in at Basin View about 7am one day.
We had a crack at several locations for the first hour for one bream and a couple of average whiting and flathead. We then moved to another area and proceeded to absolutely clean up on black and yellowfin bream.
It was without doubt the best bream-on-lures session I've experienced in many years and we ended up with 15 fish in the livewell between 700g and 900g.
The best fish included several black and yellowfin bream that were all pushing a kilo. We released half a dozen smaller fish along with half a dozen flathead to 60cm as well.
All of those fish were taken on shallow-diving Jackall Chubbies in brown suji shrimp colour.
Simon probably accounted for two-thirds of those fish and clearly outfished me by a long way. He does a lot of bream spinning and that was my first serious bream lure session for several years.
It didn't take long to get the hang of things and I totally enjoyed the experience. Bream to almost a kilo on 4lb Fireline and 6lb leaders are great fun and some of those hits are bone-jarring.
Simon is carving himself out a bit of a reputation on the bream tournament circuit these days and to see him working those Jackalls and drive the electric to put us in the right place at all times was great to watch.
It certainly made a big change from my usual game fishing and, to be honest, I can see myself doing a bit more bream spinning in the future.
It's just so relaxing and enjoyable compared with a hard day out on the continental shelf when the big fish aren't playing. It's also a hell of a lot cheaper and much easier to clean up when you get home.
Despite being heavily netted seven days a week, the Shoalhaven River has been producing a few decent fish.
The odd jewie is there for those who put in the time and there are some big bream up around Broughton Creek.
Further up river, the bass guys have been having a great time of it and also taking the odd estuary perch as well.
Down around from Broughton Creek to Greenwell Point gets heavily netted day and night by just about every pro on the South Coast and these days you're lucky to catch anything to get excited about.
We used to get some good blackfish and flathead in the Crookhaven River around Greenwell Point but these days you hardly hear of anyone getting catches in that stretch of water.
Fortunately, the inshore action hasn't been too shabby over the past month or so.
Jervis Bay produced some great kingfish in January and February, believe it or not, right in the middle of the holiday period.
It was a bit crowded but most boats fishing around Long Nose and under the Point Perpendicular lighthouse accounted for some good kings from 60cm to 90cm. There was the odd under sized fish that had to be released but most of the fish were the legal 65cm and a lot of boats caught a feed.
The most productive techniques were trolling diving minnows and jigging with 50g to 100g jigs but a few bigger fish were taken on live baits as well.
Around the same time The Banks and The Block and Cheese were also firing for some nice kings from 6kg to 8kg. Most of these fish were taken on 200g and 300g jigs but live baits also accounted for a few fish.
To be honest, fishing jigs is a hell of a lot easier and more productive, if you ask me. You don't have to waste time getting livies and you can drop a jig down on top of the fish as soon as you pick them up on the sounder.
Out wider, the marlin will be around in numbers as you read this.
This season looks like being a cracker with fish starting to show up out wide in December. January and February just got better and better and by now it will be in full swing, with bait schools in abundance and striped marlin working them at all the known locations such as the Kiama, Drum and JB Canyons.
With any luck there should also be some mahi mahi lurking about those bait schools or around any traps. The Banks will also be fishing well with black marlin on the chew.
Over the holiday break in January I got out and did a lot of fishing.
I fished out wide, inside Jervis Bay and chased some blackfish from the rocks north and south of Jervis Bay.
In four days I was stung on the ankle by a bluebottle while fishing the rocks, bitten by a tick while walking in to Little Beecroft and had my forearm scratched up by a 40kg mako while removing a longline hook from its mouth.
The bluebottle sting was quite severe and left a red welt that lasted for two weeks. It was by far the worst sting I've ever had from a bluebottle.
At the same time, my daughter Rebecca got her finger jammed while retrieving the anchor one morning and ripped the skin off it in another nasty injury. By the end of that week I was wondering what else could go wrong and if we’d suffer any more injuries while fishing. So much for a safe and happy New Year!
Don't forget the Shoalhaven Open Tournament in mid-March if you're a South Coast game fisher. Last year’s tournament was the first that offered prizes including a couple of 42” plasma TVs, quality boat electronics and Shimano reels, etc.
This is a big change for the Shoalhaven Gamefishing Club, which has traditionally run trophy-only tournaments. The change to prizes was very well received by local crews and this year's tournament will be a hotly contested affair.
There were a heap of striped marlin tagged during last year’s Open and this year looks like it may even be better. This years it’s on March 20 to 22 with the briefing at the Greenwell Point Bowling Club on the evening of March 19. Entry forms are available at McCallum's Sports and Culburra Bait and Tackle.
There are some great prizes this year including three 42” plasma TVs and a heap of reels and electronics. There's even a 42” plasma as a lucky door prize along with some great raffle prizes.
The author with a typical St Georges Basin bream on a hard lure.
Orient Point angler Josh Hunt fishes the Shoalhaven River in his Hobie kayak.
South Coast bream specialist Simon Pender with two of 20 black and yellowfin bream taken on hardbodies in St Georges Basin.Reads: 11101