Surface Fires
  |  First Published: February 2009

The estuaries have been on fire along the coast. Bream, estuary perch and flathead in particular are all worth pursuing.

I have been spending the bulk of my efforts surface fishing my homemade popper-headed plastics over weed beds, shallow rocks and fallen timber. Surface popping has been yielding 10-15 bream a session and most days the fish have proven to be quite aggressive.

The fish dwelling in the timber result in explosive strikes occurring nearly every cast that lands with pinpoint accuracy. Unlike fish found on the flats or around rocks, casts need to be perfect to fool the bream. Flat casting hard under hanging branches and skipping your offering like a stone so it looks like a fleeing prawn is the go. The bream will go berserk shouldering each other out of the way to smack your lure.

Store bought poppers are great too but they aren’t cheap. There is an amazing array to choose from these days but stick to ones that actually float for best results. I took my boss for a spot of creek breaming the other day and he lost a $20 cicada lure to a kilo fish that busted him off boat-side. He then managed to put another expensive popper into the trees above our heads that was unsalvageable the next cast! Seeing as he was $35 down in two casts he kept three bream as a consolation and that night’s dinner.

Over the weeds, estuary perch averaging 35cm have been smacking surface lures with the odd whiting also on the rampage. Cloudy days and getting on the water early or late has been the key to scoring on perch. We have had some good action on rainy days too with perch mixing it with bream in the same fallen timber. Some fishers think bream and perch don’t inhabit the same snags but this definitely not true.

Flathead have been plentiful in the deep stretches with solid fish averaging 70cm being commonplace. I have to confess I do not target flathead specifically; rather all my captures are jewfish by-catch so I am sure there is just as many fish in the more traditional shallower haunts if you are specifically chasing them.

All of the flathead finding the net in my boat have been really fat, well conditioned fish. Even though you are allowed by law to keep one fish over 70cm you really should let all those big girls go and stick to the smaller fish for the table. A few locals have been keeping 90cm fish on a regular basis, which is basically crapping in your own nest by removing such important breeding females.

Daytime jewfish on the other hand have been pretty scarce recently, but those using live baits are still catching some occasionally at night. To my disgust, however, I did pull the hooks on two solid jewies on a deep bend that I have never tried before way upstream from Nelligen, so maybe they are simply higher up than I have been fishing.

I still haven’t heard anything on the artificial reefs set to be installed in Lake Conjola, which is meant to be in place for 2009. This will be a real boon for the lake, which is basically a pretty boring featureless bottom. Conjola has staggering amounts of baitfish that ball up so thick on the sounder that it often confuses the unit into thinking 15m deep water suddenly becomes only 2m! Add these bait balls to some solid structure and I can see some great jewfish and monster tailor action occurring, I can’t wait.

Another big change is also occurring in the Moruya River, with the old quarry wharf being dismantled. The condemned wharf was taken down late December due to rot and should hopefully be already replaced with a new fishing-friendly platform.

The wharf is a very popular spot for the elderly, tourist and less serious anglers due to its easy access adjacent to the main road. Angler consultation will supposedly be factored into its construction so no doubt it will be an even more popular location to wet a line.

Over the years we have used the wharf as a spot to secure live yellowtail and kingfish, and also caught bream, tailor, flathead and salmon off it. I’ve also seen some nice school jewfish and my mate Nathan even scored a big John dory there.

In the ocean, kingfish will be going crazy this month and if the sightings of schools of big fish are anything to go by then we should be in for a cracker. The Moruya reefs have been seeing some legal rats taking live baits and lures but I am tipping the big boys will be around by the time you read this. Schools of slimies, bonito, frigate mackerel, pilchards, pike, whitebait and squid are all possible and they will all get the big kings fired up.

I have made some small additions and alterations to my boat so it is more suitable to chase kings this year. I still plan to do plenty of land-based sorties too but if the weather looks good I will be doing it offshore for a change.

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