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Trophy targets
  |  First Published: September 2016



I’ve heard the decree that it’s been the coldest winter in memory, and on the odd frosty morning, I’ve entertained the thought – but only on the day. To be truthful, this winter has been remarkably pleasant. More days have been over 20°C than I can remember in the winters I’ve lived in the area. Warm days make it pleasant to be out fishing. If you get a chance to head offshore, take it.

There are snapper on the near shore grounds and reefs. As you venture deeper, you’ll find good mixed bags and plenty of leatherjackets to top off the fish tubs. Collecting live baits at Haydens reef, in front of the Tanks, is worth the stop. While the jackets get a bad rap for being overzealous and destructive on terminal gear, they’re actually a good eating fish. The seasonal plague of leatherjackets offshore shouldn’t deter anglers. It’s just a consequence of the season.

Rock fishing has been odd over the last few months. Clear water has tempered the expected run of rock blackfish, but it’s only a matter of timing to extract a decent bag of fish. A good wash, a rising tide and a bucket of bread berley is the makings of a top session. Prepare to move if the fish are sparse. Seal Rocks, Blueys Beach and Elizabeth Beach are good locations to start fishing and Janies Corner and the Shark are good fallback positions.

At this time of year, big bream are still roaming the ocean rock gutters and holes. Silver trevally will make an appearance off the rocks and beaches. Great tailor are being caught around the area, though 600g fish are the norm close to the coast. Salmon turn up in the mix while spinning, as do the odd, undersized rat kingfish.

With a new moon on September 1, if you’re quick, you may be able to wrangle a cool mulloway from the beach or rocks. They love the cover of extra dark and bigger tidal movements. If you miss it, there’s a black moon in October (the second new moon in a calendar month), so start to plan a trip to the beach on dusk for a few hours.

A high tide around 8:30pm on September 1 and in October is ideal to get your game on. I recently fished the top of a tide and managed a 16kg fish that climbed on a hardbodied lure. Live bait, squid or flesh bait would have produced more fish, but you set your goals and take your chances. With big mulloway, set your goal and execute the plan.

While the cooler months slow fish activity in the lake, there’s still plenty of fish to be caught. Tailor enter and hunt areas like the Step and Hells Gate. They’re often seen busting up balls of baitfish in the deeper channels. Bream returning from the spawn run generally congregate around the bridge pylons, and Paddock leases. Searching these areas will find schools of hungry bream.

A mix of legal and trophy fish are spread over the lower lake’s entrance. Filter through the smaller fish to find the bigger ones. Baitfishing for bream can be frustrating with all the smaller fish around, but if you just want a feed of legal sized bream, now is the time to take advantage of their return to the estuary.

The break walls will fish well for bream and blackfish this month. It will also fish well for mulloway that have been pushing into the estuary of an evening. I saw a school of mulloway cutting into mullet in the Wallamba channel the other week and dismissed them as mahimahi until one of the fish cleared the water. Mulloway boofing bait on the surface is nothing new, but to see one break the surface was a first for me. I couldn’t raise one on the tiny offering I had rigged.

I know there plenty of anglers champing at the bit to go bass fishing after the no-take closed season. The post-spawn fish will be well on their way back up the rivers by now. Early season in the Wallamba should be good, before too much pressure and surface weed affects the fishing. Bulahdelah and the Myall River will get plenty of attention in the coming months. Early bird gets the bass.

1

Early morning spinning for tailor and salmon is a good transition into a high tide pigs session.

2

Mulloway hunt the gutters and headlands of the beaches and rocks this time of year. This one is a great example of how big they get. The exercise and warmth of casting lures is key on the cold nights.

3

The weather this winter hasn’t been as cold as you might think. This lovely bass certainly warmed up to the hook.

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