ANOTHER week of ups and downs with the offshore fishing, exactly what you would expect for this time of year.
The hot spots for the last week have been Montague Island for kingfish, as well as 12 Mile Reef through to Tuross Canyons for marlin.
Interestingly the marlin have been preferring live baits this week, the preferred method for hook-ups has been to watch the sounder for bait balls then drop down a large bait jig - catch the bait - then bridle up the livie - throw it into the bait school and very slowly motor away from the school.
The principle being that the marlin will pick off the bait fish as it leaves the school.
For those of us who watch nature for signs and trends, the leatherjackets have started to decrease in some areas, who knows we might be able to catch a reasonable bag of flathead shortly.
With the bait fish and the jackets decreasing the pelagic species such as kingfish, bonito, marlin and even tuna will be starting to look for other food, so be prepared for all options: jigs, lures, strip baits and livies.
Most of the kings being caught have had the small jackets in their stomach, so one theory as to why the season has been late this year for the kings is that they have had too much feed to worry about anything else.
If there were thousands of tonnes of slimies and jackets around for December and January, why would the kings worry about taking baits or lures off a few fishers?
The temperature offshore dropped on Sunday, going from 21c to 18c overnight, staying that way for a couple of days before returning to 19.8c on Tuesday.
Unfortunately the current also stopped on Sunday, again “No Run No Fun”, so don't expect the kings to fire until the current picks up again.
Schools of good sized silver trevally have also been found on the reefs to the north of Dalmeny and also at Montague Island, these are great little fighters and if they are bled on capture they are also excellent quality eating, but they don't last, so eat them fresh.
The tip for the week is to ensure that you take plenty of ice with you when fishing offshore, if you want to keep your catch in premium condition make up an ice slurry.
The new silicone-based buckets from the hardware shop are ideal for making ice, and the best ice is made with sea water as it lasts longer.
Don't just make a cool slurry, make a slurry which is so cold that you can't comfortably leave your hand in it for more than 15 seconds.
Tuross competition testing but rewarding
AT this time of year the promise of good fishing before the weather cools down typically draws a crowd to the South Coast waterways at the weeekends.
This year is no exception and like many others I spent most of the weekends fishing. No surprises there.
What has surprised people I’ve told is that myself and 244 other anglers entered a competition that involved 18 hours of fishing over two days and wait for it … no one was allowed to keep a fish for dinner.
This isn’t as crazy as it first sounds, let me explain.
The event was the 2014 Tuross Heads flathead and bream competition. It is a strictly catch-and-release competition and all fish must be caught using lures or artificial flies.
Competitors photograph their fish, along with a key tag showing their number, on a measuring mat.
To minimise stress to the fish, only their length is recorded, hence the competition was divided into three categories; the longest flathead, the longest bream and the longest ‘bag’ comprising two of each species.
On Friday night there were a few signs of nerves as people fussed over their boats, reels and lure collections.
To add to the drama, a fierce thunderstorm rolled over Tuross at about 11pm and didn’t pass until 2am on Saturday morning. Tents and windows shook, the rain came in sideways and the lightening show was blinding. Most anglers only managed three or four hours sleep before the competition started.
With the exception of Friday’s storm, the weather was great and there were some beautiful fish caught over the weekend.
Paul Scott won the prize for longest flathead for an 87cm fish. Nine flathead over 70cms were caught reinforcing Tuross Lakes’ well-deserved reputation for big flattys.
Jake Mikolic of Narooma won the prize for longest bream beating many experienced anglers for the title - Jake is only 10 years old! The biggest bag was won by Patrick Suthern with an impressive total of 183.5cm for his four fish.
Perhaps it was the large influx of freshwater from the storms, or the lack of sleep, but whatever the excuse most people found the fish were not as easy to come by.
A modest 138 or 56 per cent of anglers recorded a legal-sized flathead and only 49 or 20 per cent of anglers recorded a legal-sized bream.
I’m happy to admit I did my part to contribute to these statistics catching a few flathead but not a single bream.
The largest fish of 58cm raised me to the lofty heights of 22nd overall. All of the flathead were caught on Rapala minnow lures that slowly sink – a great searching tool for the sandy bottom and any fish lying-in-wait.
Like 80 per cent of anglers though the bream were too timid or cunning for me.
A series of half-hearted bites early in the morning and fish retreating to the snaggiest parts of the lake during the day made them tough to catch - stories I heard repeated time and again each evening by other anglers.
For many participants though, the fishing was secondary to the event itself.
The mood throughout was festive and the competition friendly.
There was a great presentation from NSW DPI Fisheries on the latest techniques and research for maximising fish survival - more on this in a future column.
So the question remains; were we just crazy fisherman to brave the thunderstorms, relatively tough fishing and the heartache of returning all the fish we caught to the water? Nope!
It was a lot of fun and brilliantly organised by volunteers from the Tuross Heads Fishing Club and the Boat Shed.
Any profits are richly deserved and will keep the town’s coffers ticking over between school holidays. The event is now an important fundraiser. Love to see you there in 2015.
- Graham Fifield
Big result for small kingfish off Sydney: Fisheries patrols
A RECENT compliance operation targeting fishers retaining prohibited size kingfish in the Sydney region, has resulted in the apprehension of a number of fishers and the seizure of many small fish, Department of Primary Industries (DPI) supervising fisheries officer Chris Clarke, said this week.
While this latest operation was in Sydney, we hear through the fishing grapevine that Fisheries compliance officers have been active in recent weeks at renowned kingfish location Montague Island off Narooma.
This includes this past weekend during the Narooma ANSA fishing convention where officers were on the water out the island, which has seen preponderance of small kingfish lately.
The Narooma News was attempting to verify if any prohibited size fish were intercepted at Narooma or Bermagui recently, but never heard back from the Fisheries spokeswoman.
“The operation was conducted last month by DPI fisheries officers in the Sydney North District after receiving information that there was allegedly a number of prohibited size yellowtail kingfish being caught by recreational and commercial fishers,” Mr Clarke said.
“Yellowtail kingfish are a highly valuable recreational and commercial species and are listed as a ‘priority’ species under the Fisheries Management Act 1994.
“Fishing in and around Sydney is currently very good, with lots of yellowtail kingfish being caught.
“The operation targeted fishers in Middle Harbour, Pittwater, Sydney Harbour and Blackwattle Bay and resulted in the apprehension of three commercial fishers and four recreational fishers and the seizure of 35 prohibited size kingfish, between 48.6cm and 64.3cms in length.”
The minimum legal length for yellowtail kingfish in NSW is 65cm and the possession or bag limit is five per person.
”Prohibited size, or “rat” yellowtail kingfish can occur in large schools off the NSW coast at this time of year and although great sport to catch anyone found keeping or in possession of these prohibited size fish can expect harsh penalties,” Mr Clarke said.
“Ten separate offences were detected including possess and sell prohibited size fish as well as the Master of a boat being fined for allowing an offence to take place . The Master of a boat commits an offence if they allow another person on the boat to commit a serious fisheries offence.
“They are all facing fines of $500 per person per offence.
“These offences each carry maximum penalties of up to $22,000 or imprisonment for 6 months (or both) for a first offence or $44,000 or imprisonment for 12 months (or both) for a second or subsequent offence.
All information relating to bag and size limits can be found on the NSW Fisheries website at:
Follow us: http://twitter.com/#!/nswdpi
To report illegal fishing, visit your nearest fisheries office, report online at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/fisheries/compliance/report-illegal-activity or call the Fishers Watch Phoneline in 1800 043 536.