Running the gauntlet
  |  First Published: February 2010

Mullet and blackfish will be starting their migration runs now, with the first schools usually present in the middle of the month.

The migration is all about breeding as they gather to leave the estuaries en masse and head north, where they will have to run the gauntlet of sharks, jewfish, kingfish and other predators, not to mention the beach haul netters always waiting to exploit the situation.

Jewfish will under heavy scrutiny over the next several moon phases and with good reason. There have been some real beasts about during the lead-up to this report.

When I first started writing for Fishing Monthly many years ago, it seemed South Coast jewfish availability was very limited and captures were relatively infrequent.

It seemed consistent action on jewies was basically north of Sydney with the North Coast being the mulloway ‘Mecca’.

I am not sure whether jewfish numbers have swelled on the South Coast or anglers are becoming more skilled in capturing these prized fish but I’d guess that it is a combination of both.

Whatever the reason, jewfish have become virtually year-round targets in the estuaries and from beaches and rock ledges along the coast.

Soft plastics have certainly increased the anglers’ arsenal when it comes to fooling these fish. I virtually have given the bait game away in favour of lures.

In three sessions recently I managed to land four jewfish off the rocks with the best going 18kg, and that was hooked at 1pm with barely a cloud in the sky.

The fish took 15 minutes to beat on 10kg braid and forced me to leave the rocks as it screamed off on its fifth run and wade out waist-deep into the surf to steer it away from the rocks.

When the fish was finally beaten I was almost 100m up the beach from where the fun started!

Divers have been spearing jewfish to 28kg as well as sighting fish estimated between 35kg and 40kg – massive fish in anyone’s book.

Jason Slabbekoorn had a ripper night recently, nailing an 18kg fish as well as a 27kg beast.


Offshore, game fish numbers have been hot and cold. On plenty of days boats have barely turned a reel and on other days action has been OK.

Marlin numbers have been a bit down on last year but some good stripes are still to be had.

This month is usually pretty good for marlin and the bait concentrations are nicely in place for a good showing of fish.

Massive schools of striped tuna and juvenile yellowfin tuna averaging 4kg have been encountered so I certainly would not be surprised to see a really big blue or black marlin hooked this month.

Small mahi mahi will be reliable at the FAD, wave rider buoy or near any flotsam you encounter. Live bait is the best option if you really want to win on dollies but you will still score reasonable action on lures.

Those preferring to fish for the table have been doing well lately with morwong and small snapper abundant over the wide grounds.

Flathead, chinaman leatherjackets and even a few john dory have also come in.

Inshore and from the rocks some big snapper to 7kg are showing already – hopefully a precursor to another great Winter of big reds.

Some good schools of bonito and frigate mackerel, together with some legal (65cm) kingfish, have been prowling the washes.

Bonito make for a pretty good table fish providing you bleed them on capture. The best method is to make a 15cm incision behind the pectoral fins in towards the fish’s spine, then place the fish in a bucket of water. This will sever the fish’s bloodline and yield the best tasting fillets. Be sure to remove the skin, too.

Please don’t bleed fish in rock pools above the high tide zone. This will only serve to putrefy the pools, leaving a stagnant and smelly mess behind for the next users of the rocks.


In the estuaries, bream continue for bait and lure anglers with some nice fish topping the kilo mark.

There have been some great hauls of whiting taking soft plastics and poppers around entrance shallows.

School jewfish continue to be big drawcards for lure fishers and plenty of anglers have been experiencing the thrill of releasing these majestic fish.

The same cannot be said for flathead, however, as I am still seeing far too many big fish being kept.

The sight of a flathead nearly 7kg being caught on live bait and left to slowly die on the bank is something that really grates me. These are prolific breeding machines at that size and are terrible on the plate so are much better released to keep the fish stocks plentiful.

Bass fishing is becoming a tough ask with the drought really taking hold. Many popular pools have all but dried up and dragging a canoe or kayak long distances between pools is not much fun.

We need a serious downpour or three or it may be getting a bit dire for some bass holes.

Reads: 2030

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