PEOPLE are now asking what has changed this year.
We have had Chinaman jackets turn up when the water is clear and warm -normally they prefer cold and dark water - before Christmas schools of bronze whaler sharks were a daily problem for fishers when they were taking hooked kingfish.
Then we’ve have had more wind than normal, and the kingfish run still hasn't started in any real numbers and we are catching fish species which normally call the North Coast home!
Enough of the negatives.
The good news has seen signs that nannygai are coming back, we have had the best year for snapper for over 10 years, some monster tiger flathead have been taken, dolphinfish (Mahi Mahi) have returned, and the marlin season is off to a great start.
These changes mean that fishers have to be adaptable, not only in what species they are targeting but also what areas they are fishing.
This week Narooma charter boats have returned to port with plenty of happy customers, with eskys full of snapper, mowies, nannygai, pigfish, flathead and reef species.
Some unusual species caught have included John Dory, pilot fish and a few amberjack have made an appearance again.
There are still large schools of slimy mackerel about 3km west of the island, these fish have grown steadily in size over the last couple of months to the point where some fishers are targeting big slimies for a feed instead of just for bait - they are excellent when smoked.
Some of these slimies are over 1kg.
This week’s tip is about flathead. If you want to target these excellent table fish, keep changing your fishing depth until you find the fish and then keep fishing in that depth.
And remember the bag limit is 20 per person.
Narooma Flathead Challenge
Organisers of the annual Million Dollar View Narooma Flathead Challenge are gearing up for another big catch-and-release tournament.
The competition on Wagonga Inlet on February 22-23 sees teams competing to catch and release the biggest and most dusky flathead.
The fish must be photographed on a brag mat before being released.
There is a $500 tagged flathead and prizes for other species catches.
It all happens out of O’Brien’s Hotel, home of the Million Dollar View, and the deadline to enter is January 27, although the competition is usually fully booked very quickly!
Great fun to be had in shallows
By Graham Fifield
You’ve probably said dozens of time this month: it’s hot. Canberra has had some of its hottest January weather since records began and the hot temperatures look set to continue.
One plan to beat the heat is to pack up the family, and head down to any of the South Coast estuaries.
Pop the kids on an inflatable pool toy, throw a tennis ball into the water for the dog and then ease yourself in to cool off for a few hours. But don’t forget your fishing rod — the shallow water has been producing some surprisingly good fish in recent weeks for some anglers.
Keen Canberra angler Stuart Smith and his girlfriend Claire Foster discovered this on a recent trip to Tuross Lake.
They got up early to avoid the holiday boat traffic and headed off in their kayak.
Stu was trolling shallow-diving bibbed lures and having a ball, scoring a mixed bag of flathead, bream, tailor and whiting.
Cruising over water only a metre deep, he felt a tap through the rod. It felt like another small flathead.
When he went to reel it in however, there was a considerable weight on the end of the line. They assumed it was a snag — until, with two or three beats of its tail, the ‘snag’ powered off into the deeper water.
With heart racing and on light gear, Stu managed to guide the fish to the side of the kayak.
Claire netted the fish, but it was so big that only half of it would fit. Two people and a big fish tucked into a one person kayak would have been quite a sight.
They peddled the boat, with the fish still only half in the net, to the safety of a nearby bank.
With everything now under control they measured a beautiful 84cm dusky flathead (certainly a big female at that size).
Supporting her weight with a wet rag in one hand and lip grips in the other, they got a couple of great photos.
Stu eased her back into the water and is happy to report that she swam away strongly. A great team effort!
Not to be outdone, Claire caught a 43cm whiting, also on a shallow-diving lure. Pound for pound, a whiting of that size might be a better catch than the flathead - they don’t come much bigger.
These catches are great examples of a recent pattern, where whiting, bream, flathead and the occasional estuary perch have been caught by anglers in water you could happily stand up in, especially given the heat.
Top-water lures, such as small poppers and stick baits, have been working well in as little as 20cm of water and up to about 1.5 metres.
Soft plastics paddled across the surface or hopped across the bottom will tempt a few fish but new anglers may find shallow diving lures easier to use-the lines stays tight easier, especially in the wind, and the better models can simply be retrieved slowly or trolled behind a kayak.
If you don’t have access to a boat or kayak, the great news is that there are vast areas of shallow water available for you to wade, all up and down the coast. The best spots are often those sandy flats covered in small nipper holes, with scattered patches of weed, or where the depth drops from shallow to deeper water.
Keep an eye out for baitfish flitting across the surface or whiting ‘tailing’ with their heads in the sand digging for food.
Listen for slurps, boofs and splashes, this often means fish are feeding on prawns on the surface.
Finally, don’t discount those areas that are high and dry at low tide — six hours later they can be teaming with fish.
So when you’re next packing the car for a coast holiday include some sandals or old sneakers, a handful of lures, a light spin rod and a willingness to wade through waist-deep water.
With a bit of practice, the fishing action can be hotter than the air temperature.
Graham wrote the report and it was submitted on his behalf by Rob Paxevanos of Fishing Australia…