It just gets better!
  |  First Published: February 2009

Fishing just about anywhere down here is just getting better and will continue to improve for the next few months.

I've been spending a bit of time fishing the Shoalhaven River of late. It's been a few years since I fished the river seriously and, considering I have been giving it a good bagging as being unproductive and heavily over fished by pro's and nets, I should get a new perspective on the river.

I was sitting around at home writing an article one Saturday recently when Bobby Russo rang to ask if I wanted to go and have a throw for a jewie in the river that afternoon. Bob has spent quite a bit of time in the past few years chasing jewies in the river and had some reasonable success with soft plastics and hardbodies.

Bobby assured me that everything looked good, including the moon and tides and he was confident we'd see one. It was blowing a fairly stiff southerly and raining, and to be honest I wasn't overly keen but decided to have a go anyway. And I'm glad I did.

We started off drifting about on the last of the run out tide and, in-between getting blown about by the southerly and getting rained on, we managed a couple of flathead to 45cm that we released. With about an hour of light left the cloud cover lifted and the setting sun broke through. Not long after that, the wind died down and we ended up sitting in just the right spot on a low tide with no wind. We made the most of it and got as many casts as we could in.

Bob was just in the process of telling me how effective the black and gold 110mm Squidgy Slick Rig he was using was on jew when his rod tip got pulled down as a fish engulfed his lure. The first run was straight towards cover and went for a good 50m before drag pressure and 12lb gelspun pulled it up.

While Bob went to work on the fish I drove the boat about chasing it and tried to take a few photos. I guess I did a reasonable job of both because 15 minutes later I gaffed a 10.5kg jewie for Bob and got a few photos to boot.

I've got to give it to Bob. He picked the day and he knew the conditions were just right for a jewie. He kept at it and got results. I fished the following weekend and managed a couple of flathead to 50cm along with an accidental capture of a protected black cod that was released in perfect condition. That's the first one I've ever caught.

As most readers would know, I do a bit of mako shark fishing each spring. I've gone on record before claiming that it can be dangerous if you have a shark play up on the trace or gaff. There's a very real danger with wire traces, gaffs, sharp teeth, ropes and up to a couple of hundred kilos of wildly thrashing shark right in your face. It only takes a spilt second lapse of concentration, one poor judgment, a slightly slow reaction or even just bad luck and the consequences can be severe. Dan Mulligan found that out back in December while fishing the Jervis Bay White Sands Tournament onboard OutCast. With one crewmember down for the Saturday of the tournament, Dan and Skipper Mitch Ryan headed out to the shelf for sharks.

They found a mako of around 180-200kg within a couple of hours and had it up on the trace a while later. Dan traced the fish and Mitch had to put the rod down to get a flying gaff in it. They managed but Dan ended up with his hand and arm twisted up the in trace and gaff rope as the shark thrashed about on the other end.

The damage was his arm broken in two places and his shoulder nearly dislocated. Now that's a serious injury on a football field or out bike riding, but suffering that sort of damage 15miles out to sea in rough conditions couldn't have been a lot of fun.

It took an hour and half to get back to Jervis Bay where they were met by an ambulance at HMAS Creswell. Dan ended up in Wollongong Hospital and had to have surgery to have plates installed in his arm to keep it together. He's making a good recovery and reckons he'll be back shark fishing this spring. OutCast went on to take out Heaviest Shark Title in the White Sands with a 309kg mako on 15kg tackle on the final day.

As I said at the start of this column, now is a very good time to be out chasing a fish. If you fish the rocks get out and have a go for a blackfish and if like something bigger, now's the time to chase a marlin or kingfish from Currarong. Beach fishing is also worthwhile with some nice bream and whiting on offer. Outside is worth a look with good flathead, reds and mowies being taken.

As I've already explained the Shoalhaven River does get flogged by pro's and netters but it is producing some good jewies along with some good blackfish on weed during the day and nippers or squirt worms at night.

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