A memorable tuna season
  |  First Published: August 2009

Tuna fishing this season just keeps getting better and better.

Staggering numbers of 100kg-plus southern bluefin tuna have been captured off the coast in recent weeks, particularly out of Bermagui where fish to a whopping 167.5kg have been boated.

Yellowfin tuna, too, have been prolific and the size has also been pretty good with a few solid specimens over 60kg and numerous fish around half that size.

Anglers working a slow and steady cube trail have also been scoring quality albacore from 6kg to 26kg and everything in between.

The water has still been relatively warm so it is looking really good for tuna action for the remainder of 2009.

No doubt it’s a nice little Winter boost to the economies of the various ports along the South Coast.

If you decide to give cubing a go, bear in mind that it can take a while to lure the fish to the boat.

We have had some days when the first hook-up took almost two blocks of pilchards slowly added to the ocean before any action occurred, despite our locating fish in the area on the troll.

However, if the weather is suitable it is usually a better call to kill the engine and cube rather than to continue running lures – that’s unless the fish are visible on the surface and moving fast.

Of course, with so much tuna action happening, more than the usual flotilla of longliners have hit town and are working the schools hard. It certainly is not what we recreational anglers want to see but at least you will know you are in the right area to find the fish if you see a cluster of pros over the continental shelf.


Inshore, the snapper action is still viable with plenty of small fish on offer and the occasional larger red showing up.

Anglers working plastics in the shallows have been finding fish to 4kg off Durras and Moruya and bait fishos have been doing well on reds to 2.5kg on the deeper reefs.

I almost forgot how good a feed of snapper is but I recently scored a few mid-sized fish off the rocks on frigate mackerel fillets I’d stashed in the freezer. Pan fried in cornflake crumbs and served with an Asian crunchy noodle salad and a glass of wine, dinner doesn’t get much better!

The merge from Winter to Spring typically results in crisp westerly winds and calm inshore seas.

Such conditions make schools of salmon easily visible as they cruise the big beaches like Broulee, Durras and Tuross.

Get yourself a good vantage point on a sand dune or cliff top and you can easily see beach formations, and often the fish themselves.

Metal lures are my choice of tackle but baits like pilchards work just as well.

It is normal for the fish to be 2kg to 3kg at this time of year and while they certainly fight pretty hard, you definitely do not need to use heavy tackle. A 4kg spin stick has ample grunt and provides plenty of fun at the same time.

Expect to lose some line several times throughout the fight, especially in the shore dump.

I like to use metals between 30g and 65g and I always replace the treble with a single hook because these fish have an uncanny knack of throwing a treble hook when they jump.

It has been a very ordinary year for jewfish off the beach but there are a few to be had off the rocks for those casting soft plastics.

The fish encountered lately have been small, averaging 4kg. Ray Smith even had a session recently where the fish weren’t even of the legal 45cm, more resembling big slimy mackerel than jewfish. Half a kilo would have been close to the mark for these tiddlers but they’re fantastic signs for the future of jewfish stock for the Batemans area.


Flat seas and clear water are synonymous with this time of year – just the ticket for hunting big blue groper off the rocks.

The quickest way to find yourself hooked up to one of these big brutes is to secure a few red crabs for bait around the weeds and rock pools at the low-tide mark when the seas are flat. Big groper cannot resist them.

Use heavy line, in the order of 30kg, an extra-strong 6/0 hook and hang on tight!

Groper have amazing power off the mark but pushing that big paddle tail knocks them up pretty quickly so if you survive the first couple of dives, you will usually be victorious.

I find groper to be pretty ordinary to eat so they are strictly catch-and-release in my opinion, but other people love eating them and they are quite prolific on the South Coast.

If you feel the need to keep one for the table, be sure to have a sturdy knife because they are tough customers to fillet due to their thick scales and heavy bone structure.

One great thing about fishing for groper is they will bite freely throughout the day, even under a full sun, which is great for a late start on icy cold mornings.

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