Time for hunting and gathering
  |  First Published: July 2008

Grab your winter woollies and don the beanie because it is time to do a spot of ‘bread-and-butter’ fishing – the colder months are prime for some hunting and gathering and bream, black drummer, snapper, and flathead are just a handful of options available to put a feed on the table.

Anglers on the beaches and ocean rocks are encountering big migrating bream. The washy zone where the beach gives way to rock is always a great big-bream hangout.

Providing the water isn't gin-clear, a few bream shouldn't be too hard to come by. Small black crabs, oily fish strips like tuna or mackerel, fresh squid or possibly some royal red prawns would be the best baits.

A small running ball sinker down to a 1/0 chemically sharpened hook is all that is required. Just make sure the bait is free to move around in the current a bit and is not simply anchored to the bottom or you will not be fooling too many bream.

To increase the odds of success, try to coincide your outing to a rising to high tide in the early or late hours of the day. Low light definitely makes a big difference when finicky bream are concerned.

Black drummer are another species much harder to capture once the sun starts to get overhead. The first and last hours of daylight are gorge times for these fish affectionately known as ‘pigs’.

A typical early morning session on pigs will see every bait ravenously snapped up virtually the moment a bait splashes down. When the fish are truly on it doesn't take long to rustle up a feed.

Exercise a bit of restraint if you find yourself in a hot bite. Three or four 1.5kg fish go a long way, usually providing two meals for my family. I also like to release any fish approaching 3kg mark (if you are lucky enough to land them!) as their flesh can be a bit tough in the pan.


July is a gun snapper month for rock and boat anglers and with floating cuttlefish carcasses likely to be present, snapper will never be too far away.

Rock anglers will be generally putting their weight behind distance-casting baits of octopus, squid and cuttlefish. Seeking out gravel beds and reef edges to land your cast on and waiting for a fish to find your bait is a common practice on the South Coast.

If that seems too slow for you then a bit of proactive fishing from a boat with cast soft plastics is a super option. The idea is to cover a lot of water by drifting and casting or using an electric motor.

Once you find a few snapper, soft plastics will bring them undone really quickly. It is common to spend an hour or two trying to find some fish then bagging 10 rippers or more in the following hour.

Snapper are incredibly aggressive lure takers so just be persistent and keep casting.

I like to use 3/8 oz and 1/2oz jig heads for the depth of water I like to fish and I choose a hook size around 5/0. Little pan-sized reds have no problem getting hooked on them and they provide the necessary strength to tolerate hooking bruisers of 8kg or more without straightening.

I have been using much larger plastics these days as the smaller fish still seem to get hooked on them and have greater big-fish appeal. The extra casting weight certainly helps and 7” plastics are basically all I use now.

The Batemans Bay offshore flathead fishery is improving with the removal of trawl effort since the introduction of the Marine Park.

Being able to drift for flathead and actually score a good feed again without resorting to measuring every fish and throwing most back will be a big boost to local business.

Tourist anglers thrive on the easy nature of drifting for flathead. They can do it from their own little tinny or jump on one of the many charter boats.

I am tipping the humble flathead to be one of the standout improvers in the next few years. If local angler accounts of the size and number of flatties getting around is anything to go by, things are looking pretty rosy.

Tuross is still firing despite the cold. Ray Smith caught this fantastic flathead while wading the flats.

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