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March 25, 2015
Fishing highlights from the estuaries in 2014
What price would you pay for fishing success?
By Graham Fifield

Imagine, you've just bought a couple of fancy new lures. When the day finally arrives to go fishing you jump out of the car and make your way down to the river, bristling with anticipation. After ripping open the small box you tie one of the new lures, and fling it out into the water. There is a tug on the line and instinctively you lean back on the rod. The line goes taught, your heart skips a beat and then … snagged.

The brand new lure is now stuck. You point the rod tip straight at the log, not wanting to break a nice rod as well, and pull back until the line snaps. "Damn, that cost twenty bucks" you mutter to yourself. You sigh and reach for another lure from your bag. Not wanting to forfeit a second nice lure though, your casts don't seem to land quite as close to the timber as they were before. That care-free confidence has gone. For the remainder of the day, you get a couple of follows but can't catch a fish.

Bass, bream, trout, Murray cod or estuary perch, they all love the cover of fallen trees and rocks. Get the cast just right and they can be lured out. Get it wrong by a few inches, or encounter a hidden branch, and there is always the risk of getting snagged.

Perhaps to make it easier on the hip pocket, you could just get a handful of really cheap lures, then it wouldn't be so bad to lose one right? Inevitably though, these lures are a disappointment. Either they tend not to swim straight or after hours of trying to catch a fish, it can all end in heart ache with a bent split ring or bent hook and a fish that got away.

After a few trips chasing bass in some snag-lined rivers recently I've settled on the 5cm Rapala Rippin Rap in 'baby bass' gold. With quality hooks and rings and a great rattle at low speeds, these lures work great for inland natives too. Three trips and several beautiful big bass later, I've got the same lure in my tackle box ready for next time. To be honest, part of its success and longevity might be down to a couple of little tricks.

Firstly, try removing the front treble from lipless crankbait and diving lures. This is the hook closest to the towing point and the most likely to snag up. In nine out of ten cases a fish will give chase and bite the back of the lure, so the front treble has little added benefit in this scenario.

The other thing worth trying is squashing the barbs on the remaining rear treble. This is always a good idea for fish which may be destined for release, but it has an added bonus. If you do happen to hook a rock or a log you can often 'twang' the lure free. Pull the rod gently backwards until it has a nice bend in it. Then grab the line just above the reel with your other hand and pull it out to one side like you are drawing a bow. Then, fire the arrow - let your fingers slip off the line, so it suddenly snaps back into place. The sudden jolt will travel down the line and send the lure lurching backwards. If there are no barbs on the hooks, the lure is much more likely to jump free from the structure. Try it a dozen times if you have to, you'll be surprised how well it works.

The best lures in the world won't catch fish unless they are cast to where the fish live. So having the confidence to cast into the darkest recesses of the river is vitally important. If it's proving hard to stay positive when you're losing lures, try the tips above. But knowing that when a fish bursts out of the timber and grabs your lure, the split rings and hooks aren't going to bend or break - that is priceless and those quality lures will be worth every extra cent!

See you on the flats.

Graham Fifield, Flick & Fly journal

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March 23, 2015
Rob Paxevanos with a lovely Clyde River Mulloway, just one of the species that has bounced back in good numbers since the introduction of the Batemans Marine Park
Balancing Fishing and Conservation: It's Not One Or The Other
By Rob Paxevanos

Rob Paxevanos is the Author of Australian Fishing Basics and the Host of Fishing Australia on the WIN, NBN and GO Networks.

The federal government's review of marine parks and sanctuaries is focused on the impact of marine sanctuaries on fishing. But, if it is going to make informed decisions it will have to examine the evidence of how conservation and fishing is already working hand-in-hand in many parts of Australia, delivering benefits to people and the environment.

Being the host of a national fishing television program, I get bombarded with info from both sides of the debate over marine park that has raged for a few decades in Australia. I also use, read and hear much about the less debated but equally as important fishing havens, a fisheries management system in NSW that some argue are a better option than marine parks.

However fishing havens and marine parks both aim to protect our aquatic environments and the inhabitants so why all the fuss about which one is best?

I was first dragged into the marine park debate in about 2005 when a proposal to create the Batemans Marine Park was raised. At the time, this is where I did much of my local fishing and weekly fishing reports.

Like many Australians, I enjoyed the freedom of being able to fish almost anywhere and I was offended by the possibility of closures. I stepped onto the 'anti-marine park' bandwagon and I was a key component in driving the message that we were being told where we could fish by non-local city slickers that were anti fishing.

We were successful. So successful that I noticed some tourists began taking their holidays elsewhere. Another unexpected result of our opposition was that fishing-related businesses (accommodation, tackle shops, charter boats, etc.) started to suffer from lost revenue.

This was tough, but to accept the marine park, and its sanctuary zones, I believed it was essential that destructive commercial netting was banned from the area.

It was a big decision for me to accept the marine park, and an even bigger task to go back to the general public and explain why I changed my mind. But no matter which way I looked it, the ban on commercial netting we were able to achieve would benefit anglers. I still believe this to be the case to this day.

Of course no management system is perfect, and fisheries by nature are dynamic, but one thing's for certain the fishing in Batemans Marine Park now goes from strength to strength each year. In my job, I am able to easily travel to a wide variety of spots outside sanctuary zones, others are not so mobile, or have had sanctuary zones placed where they had fished for generations.

The good news is that the benefits outweigh the negatives, and these days if a new marine park is coming in, or an old one is up for review my advice to anglers is typically along the lines of: don't go just say 'No Marine Park' if you don't know all the detail about the benefits they can and do deliver.

The focus for anglers concerned about sanctuary zones should be to work with local like-minded groups and authorities to help put sanctuary zones in the right places and ensure a balance to keep popular spots open to anglers and protect other important feeding and breeding areas. It really is up to local anglers to get together and discuss their specific local area and needs.

In NSW, fishing havens at places such as Tuross and Durras are managed primarily to suit recreational anglers so things like commercial netting are banned. I have fished many and I can say they definitely work in an anglers favour. Less nets equals better habitat, more fish and happier anglers.

Understandably, many anglers are gunning for more havens, for example in addition to Botany Bay the Australian Recreactional Fishing Foundation has Sydney Harbour and the Hawkesbury River in their sights. While the possibility of Port Phillip Bay on Melbourne's doorstep becoming a fishing haven has already entered the state political arena.

One of the big differences is that havens have very little if any sanctuary zones outside the ones that have typically been in place for many years.

Despite anti-marine park groups arguing against them, it is worth noting that sanctuary zones now have some major science evidence behind them. There is a new film, available at, that documents this evidence.

For example, massive increases in size and numbers of crayfish numbers at Tasmania's Maria Island. Increases in numbers of brood-sized Coral Trout inside sanctuary zones on the Great Barrier Reef sanctuary zones are another great example. Both crays and coral trout are highly sought after by both recreational and commercial anglers, so to see them building is numbers in sanctuary zones is a really good thing.

I have long had an underlying belief that sanctuary zones in moderation, and in the right place, give fish some peace from humans, allowing them to build in numbers and size, behave naturally and breed in peace. That is unquestionably good. Giving up fishing spots just takes a little education and co-operation.

Fisheries management (havens) and marine parks are not an either/or proposition. One does not replace the other. In fact, I have come to realise that they complement each other. Together, they are the best tools we have to ensure our oceans and fish life remain healthy.

Mother nature, of course, will also weigh in. She'll throw in a massive increase in some fish numbers from a successful spawning of a species that we don't even understand the basics of. But I can't use this argument against no sanctuary zones any more. When it happens it's a bonus, it's just that sanctuaries are just more likely to make it happen.

Footnote: An extended version of this article can be found in the blog section at

See you on the water...
Rob Paxevanos

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March 20, 2015
A close-up of the Asian paddle crab found in Matilda Bay last month, which when first caught was described as light tan in colour. Note the sharp spines between the eyes and the six spines down each side of the crab.
Potentially Deadly Asian paddle crab find in WA triggers request to fishers and serves as a warning to anglers in other states

Scientific confirmation that a crab caught recently in Matilda Bay, is an Asian paddle crab (Charybdis japonica) has prompted a fresh reminder for fishers to be on the lookout for the pest species.

An alert fisher, who caught the crab in a drop net on the Swan River late last month, helpfully reported his find through WA's FISHWATCH program.

Senior Biosecurity Management Officer with the Department of Fisheries, Marion Massam today called on other crab fishers to also continue their vigilance, in the ongoing efforts required to prevent the pest species from establishing itself in WA.

"Their assistance is crucial – the three paddle crabs previously detected at Mosman Bay in 2012 were all caught by recreational fishers," Ms Massam said.

"This particular Asian paddle crab was light tan, but we know the species varies greatly in colour – its definitive features are the sharp spines between the eyes and the six spines down each side, as identified in the department's pest alert, which is available at

"The biosecurity alert also shows pictures of native crabs (particularly the small four-lobed swimming crab) that have sometimes been confused with the Asian paddle crab.

"The native small, brownish swimming crab has no spines between the eyes – take a close look. If there are no spines then it's the native crab."

In general, fishers should first look at any small crabs with a shell width up to 120 mm that look different to blue swimmers and then check for the spines between the eyes. Ms Massam said people should not eat the pest crab, because the species can carry a disease that could cause poisoning in humans.

"We need to make sure the Asian paddle crab doesn't establish in Western Australia, as it could out-compete native species like the blue swimmer, could spread diseases to other crabs and prawns and would probably be impossible to eradicate," she said.

"Crab fishers are urged to check their catches and, if in doubt; take photographs, retain suspect crabs, note the fishing location and contact FISHWATCH on 1800 815 507."

Aquatic pests and diseases are a significant threat to WA's precious oceans and rivers. The Department of Fisheries is leading the effort to prevent them arriving and establishing themselves in our waters.

New Water Proof Marine Radio:

GME's GX400 is a versatile marine communication tool featuring both 27MHz Marine Band and 27MHz Citizen Band transceivers in one unit. Built tough to withstand some of the harshest environments in the world, the GX400 is equally at home at sea or on land.

Ingress protected to IPX7, the GX400 can be positioned on the dashboard either by flush mount or the supplied gimbal bracket mount. With a compact mounting depth of only 45mm, it's possible to mount this compact unit into tight locations where space is limited.

For enhanced clarity and ease of use, the GX400 is equipped with dual speakers. One in the front panel and a second built into the waterproof speaker microphone.

For simple installation in small spaces, the GX400 features a rear microphone input socket. This enables the user to run a 5m or 8m extension cable (available soon as an optional accessory) from the rear input to a more convenient location on the vessel where the flush mount socket can be installed. The MC616 speaker mic can now be input from this location, and a waterproof blanking plug added to the front mic input socket. This is ideal for "above windscreen" installations in hard-tops, eliminating obstruction caused by the mic cable hanging in the skipper's field of view.

With programmable channel scanning, dual and tri-watch functions users will be sure to not miss important communications, and the large red "Channel 88" direct selection button enables instant access to emergency commincation in the case of distress.

Available in black or white, the GX400 is a stylish and versatile addition to any vessel. The GX400 is available through Authorised GME Dealers at a Recommended Retail Price of $179inc GST.

See you on the water...
Rob Paxevanos

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February 17, 2015
Capturing the lifetime of a fish
By Graham Fifield

I caught a fish last weekend. That's not particularly surprising I suppose given I go fishing and write about fishing quite often. But this fish was different to usual. In fact it was really quite special.

It wasn't unique because it was a particularly big fish for a south coast estuary, I would say it was only medium sized – just under 40cm long. It wasn't even a particularly colourful fish. With the exception of a bright yellow fin near its tail, it was completely silver. It wasn't even the way the fish was caught, because to be perfectly honest, I wasn't even trying to catch it. When it was hooked I was trying to catch a flathead with a couple of clients on the boat. As we floated around Wallaga lake near Bermagui we were using fairly stout gear with reasonably heavy line - not the sort of gear we would normally use to target this fish with lures.

Nevertheless we hooked it and after a few anxious moments it reached the net. I had a smile from ear to ear and let out a cheer of excitement. I had never caught one this big on a lure before. But it was a comment from one of the gentlemen on board that made me think about the value of this fish and what this fish represents. It was a simple enough question; "are we going to take this one home and eat it?"

We could take it home, I have no doubt it would be absolutely delicious, perhaps deep fried with a Thai-style hot and sour sauce. But then it wouldn't be swimming around in the sea anymore. If this were a tournament, this fish would have been a great addition to a 'bag' because it was fat and heavy. It might have even represented first place and thousands of dollars in prize money. But I'm not a tournament angler and this wasn't a tournament, so it had no monetary value.

The fish, in case you haven't guessed, was a yellowfin bream. The significance of this fish was its size, not compared to other fish swimming around in Wallaga lake, but its size for a bream. A 40cm bream is a huge bream. Bream grow very slowly, so according to the latest studies, this 40cm fish was at least 20 years old, probably closer to 25.

And in that moment, it dawned on me - this fish has seen it all. This bream probably entered the world when Bob Hawke was prime minister, and has lived through five more prime ministers since then. It has witnessed the decade-long millennium drought and the flood events that followed it. The rise in popularity of soft plastic lures, braided lines and electric motors. It has survived commercial net fisherman who make their living by fishing lakes like Wallaga year in and year out. This is an old and apparently very wise fish and it has defied the odds to live this long. That alone, I thought, was enough to earn its freedom. And who knows, maybe the next person to catch it will win a tournament or like me, just come to appreciate that this fish has been around for a very long time and take a photo or two to remember it by.

So to answer the question; "are we going to take this one home?", I simply replied "nah mate, we're going to let this fish go again, it's a bit special".

See you on the flats.

Graham Fifield, Flick & Fly journal

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February 15, 2015
Tuross tournament testing but rewards with trophy fish
By Graham Fifield

Last weekend the 4th annual Tuross head flathead and bream tournament was held on the NSW south coast. 258 anglers enjoyed good conditions, a full moon and favourable tides with plenty of water moving in and out of the lake each day. The competition was strictly catch-and-release and fish could only be caught using lures or artificial flies. The ingenious recording system used a combination of numbered key tags, measuring mats and photos to record each anglers catch. The competition was divided into three categories; the longest flathead, the longest bream and the longest 'bag' comprising two of each species.

Whether it was the increased boat traffic or the fish just playing hard-to-get, many anglers struggled to bring fish to the boat, even the normally reliable flathead. Just over half of the competitors recorded a flathead over the minimum size limit of 36cm. On the flip side, those lucky enough to locate the fish were rewarded with some fantastic flathead, including five over 80cms. These huge fish are often called crocodiles and with good reason, they are prehistoric looking fish with a vast cavernous mouth. Without exception these 'crocs' were fat and healthy and all safely released to provide the same thrill to the next angler who can tempt one. Craig Emslie won the prize for largest flathead with a whopping 91cm fish. Jo Starling (pictured) bettered her personal best with an 84cm fish caught on the Squidgy prawn lure that her husband Steve 'Starlo', no doubt designed with fish like this in mind.

At the other end of the piscatorial measuring mat were the bream. Notoriously finicky feeders on lures and rarely growing longer than 40cm, bream fishing can be highly technical, sometimes delicate and extremely addictive – even if the photos lack the melodrama of the big crocodiles. 60 anglers caught a bream greater than the minimum fork length of 23cm – roughly equivalent to the official minimum length of 25cm to the tip.

With only 90 minutes remaining on the final day it was safe to assume Mark Brown had the prize for biggest bream secured, with several fish measuring around 33cm. Then the tide changed. In an action packed 10 minutes the biggest bream and second largest flathead were landed within seconds of each other. Firstly, Justin Lee, who was fishing in a small channel next to some flats hooked up. After several anxious minutes the fish revealed itself to be an 88cm long flathead. As Justin's fish reached the net, cheers of excitement rang out across the lake - I know, I was one of those cheering. Before the commotion had died down Stuart Smith, who was just around the corner, felt a bump on his small diving lure. After a spirited run over the weed beds, this fish too was safely cradled in the net, greeted by more cheers – although somewhat more subdued. This bream measured 33.5cm to the fork - the largest for the tournament by the width of a fingernail.

These last two hours of the final day, just after high tide, were some of the most eventful. For me personally, lagging behind with just the one fish up until then, three bream all came within this window, although one mysteriously parted ways with the lure. My second legal flathead (57cm) was photographed with only 30 minutes remaining. It was a timely reminder that subtle changes in the conditions can switch the fish on and off and persistence is often rewarded.

The champion angler was Daniel Dowley whose bream (31cm, 30cm) and flathead (85cm, 46.5cm) gave him a comfortable lead at the top. Well done. Thanks is due to the major sponsors Rapala, Wilson, Berkley, Z-man, TT-lures and all of the local businesses that lent their support. Special thanks must go to the organisers who I suspect started planning this event about 12 hours after last year's finished. See you there in 2016!

See you on the flats.

Graham Fifield, Flick & Fly journal

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February 11, 2015
Twilight Delight: Some good reports all around including snapper and kingfish in close on lures especially early and late in the day (pic by Rob Paxevanos)
By Anthony Stokman

Hello folks. Well the silliest of the season is over and it's that time when locals start to stick their heads out again and can now venture back down to the boat ramps without any stress of the holiday traffic.

The screaming, yelling, boats sinking without bungs and flying boat winches have ceased till Easter Holidays. This is a local's favorite time of the year. The fishing is still red hot minus the traffic. Don't get me wrong the town needs the traffic and business it's just that it coincides with some of the best fishing of the year. But so is the cycle of life in tourism locations. You can't have one without the other. So now it's the time locals and where will you go? Well there are plenty of options.

We'll start offshore and it has been a cracker marlin run to this date. More people are getting into this offshore scene and in the beginning towing lures are still popular amongst the beginners. Just getting your confidence being out so far and concentrating on safety equipment, electronics and what the boat can handle and what seas you are comfortable in is more of an importance at those stages.

So to think safety first and make sure you are in a boat that is capable of being out there and all your safety equipment is in good working order and you have all that you need to make your trip a safe one is paramount. When all that is secure and you have done a few trips to the shelf your confidence will build and you can start enjoying yourself. However never become complacent and always do a safety gear and weather check before heading out each trip.

We have had a few beginners this season and with such a good run of marlin we have had a few first timers landing their first marlin in their first to second trip out. So well done Anthony and some of my other happy customers.

In an earlier column I talked about switch baiting and that method has definitely been proving itself over the last few weeks. We had the Annual Batemans Bay Tollgate classic held in January and they tagged 104 marlin and weighed in 2. The smallest boat in the fleet aptly named "Fearless" captained by Mad Mick Fields caught the heaviest marlin of the comp angler being Peter McMaster with a Blue Marlin weighing 162.4kg.

Some good sized dolphin fish weighing from 10 to 20 kilo were caught and Zoe Oconnor on "Opatunatee" caught a spearfish. Competitions with such a large number of boats give you a good indication on what's out there. The competition results indicate to me, plenty of striped marlin, some blue and some black marlin with large dolphin fish and the odd surprise.

One surprise being caught just up the coast at Jervis Bay is a large northern barracuda and as the water increases in temperature up to 25 degrees during March don't be surprised to see the very odd Spanish mackerel and wahoo down here as they will venture down during those temps and time.

But the target species would be the marlin and dolphin fish that are in numbers. The dollies don't seem to be around the FAD off Burri at this stage and seem to be in smaller numbers than last year but are bigger in size. Best catches have been off the buoys and fish traps at the back of Montague Is and trolling wide looking for marlin. Anything small or large object you see floating is always definitely worth an investigation with lures being trolled past or sneaking up and putting down a livie can yield results. So offshore is all systems go and even coming closer to shore there have been a few little black marlin chasing bait. So keep your eyes open and you never know your luck in the big sea.

Looking at inshore reefs and fishing it is as to be expected at this time of the year. You got to move around to find snapper. Some fishos are finding them in 15m depth anchored and berleying. Some drifting in 40m and one guy I know found a good school in 100m depth. But it can take you all day to cover that kind of water. Just got to try your old haunts and maybe go somewhere new in your area for a holiday.

Kingfish are swimming around in small to medium schools with the odd nice fish and school moving around our points, bombies and Islands. They are not holding off The Bay in one spot as they do off Moruya. But this is yet to happen. Montague and Jervis still being the most consistent. But if you are on a kayak and want some fun. Then trolling the new Rapala XRap XXXR-10 with the 6 x strong hooks is the perfect size and the colour range of these lures are irresistible to the fisherman and are proven irresistible to the fish. They swim at 5ft and are getting smashed by small kings around Wasp Island and the chance of landing a bigger one is always a possibility. Kayaks have done well in this area and I have been the one to push deeper diving hard bodies onto them with great success on snapper and kings over the last 3 years. As soon as I got the new XXX Raps in stock I thought of the boys in that area and new this was their lure for that terrain.

Obviously works well in all other places like out the front of Pretty point or Snapper point etc but we have done a lot of testing in this place and the kayaks seem to do better than the powered boats. The stealth of the kayak has its advantages at times. If you want to get your lure down deeper trolling the Rapala Fat Minnow 9 is another good bait size and swims down to 8 to 10ft. Then even deeper is the Classics Lure Dr Evil and that swims down to 20ft and has caught snapper and kings time and time again.

If kayaks are catching inshore snapper and kings then this also means rock fisherman are also in for a chance. And Layton Brant and Jem Abbot the area rock gurus proved that with some recent catches of snapper from our stones. Salmon, Tailor, Drummer and sharks have been in the mix from out stones of late also with the odd king off Pretty and Snapper point. Steve Moy had some luck on small kings off Snapper Point on lures and it was a nice size shark that took off with his livie on his last visit.

On the beaches the whiting continue to be running and of a good size. This species has been a great stand out during the warmer months and a fisherman is welcomed home with lots of love by his family not because of his husband/father qualities but because he is bringing home tasty whiting! Beach fisherman have been feeling the love this past summer.

Salmon and tailor continue to be found in large numbers on any given beach up and down the coast. Tailor have been massive in our estuaries as have the trevally. So if you are chasing bream or flathead and your lure gets picked up and goes flying the chances are one of the two species has hit it and you could be initially confused with a mulloway.

Speaking of Mulloway they have been as common as catching bream in our Clyde. There hasn't been a massive army attacking them during the day bombarding them with lures but of a night they have been a regular catch. The Clyde produced Jews every night for 2 weeks running during the month of January and they continue to be a popular target. Anything seemed to be working which shows the possible numbers in the estuary. Fresh strip bait, butterfly yakka, Lund frozen squid to livies of any kind have all been successful. Keep in mind rules and regulations with live bait though. Squid have been in abundance and are great bait as well as a great feed.

Upstream Nelligen has been struggling to produce good productive water with the onslaught of rain every time it's looking like cleaning up. There has been a few prawns getting up there and the fishing is slowly improving with a few bream around the structures. Right up the back the bass have been a pretty reliable target. But get right up there and beyond Shallow Crossing.

The prawns have been very patchy and there isn't really one stand out area and you can go anywhere and have a reasonable to average catch on a good night.

That's all for now folks, autumn is coming but the fishing is getting hotter!

Cheers, Anthony Stockman

Anthony Stockman runs the Complete Angler Tackle Store at Batemans Bay

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February 04, 2015

By Anthony Stokman

Ok, we will start from the back to front. Bass! oh my wordy yes. The bass are well and truly on and it doesn't matter where you're at it's a bass fest and plenty of PB's being broken.

For the last couple of months the black and purple Ausspin lures Spinnerbaits weighted at 1/8 have been doing the damage and still continue at the back reaches of Batemans Bay. Over January and up till now you can throw anything at them and get fish. In the soft shell cicada department the tiemco have a great natural colour range and a great surface action to tempt the bite and have been a favourite among anglers.

Small Chubby and minnow divers are also running out of the shop, colours being small black or gold or both with orange belly's or tails. As I said you could throw a half eaten sausage with a hook in it and jag one.

Downstream The Nelligen area has seemed to be a bit on the quieter side in comparison to last year. It seems the better part of the fishing in the Clyde has been from Big Island out to sea. Spring started with big flathead, tailor and whiting and this has continued throughout summer.

A couple of weeks after the big rain we saw the bream come out to play and they are still on the chew. Bigger 4 inch plastics will get you a PB flattie and the new 4 inch Nemesis from Berkley in Gulp and Powerbait have been flathead candy and have been tempting big bream as well.

Massive whiting are being caught on our beaches and 35cm to 45cm fish are becoming common in the catch bag. On the sand flats any surface lure works as long as you are fishing the last 2 hours of the run out, a bit of breeze always helps and with the barometer on your side you can't go wrong. Outside of that technique is always worms or nippers that will see you on the score board.

The estuary has been turning on a great mulloway show for the last few months and is expected to continue. During the big rain and onslaught of traffic it went a bit quiet for a couple of weeks. But since then and up until now mulloway have been a regular occurrence in the estuary. John Hilyear and Josh Baddock have been going head to head on biggest jew. But it looks as though Josh finished with one of the best mulloway caught in the Clyde for 2014 that I know of.

Inshore boating has been up and down with some good catches of snapper, the odd king, big mowies and plenty of squid around.

Not everyone is scoring on the snapper department. A lot of boats are finding it hard and as I said in the last issue you have to move around in the summer months. You can get them in close in 40m or out beyond 60m. Look around for them. As you do this you could also bump into a floor full of flathead which is always a nice meal. And if you are trolling from place to place there is always that chance of a kingie.

Kingie's are not quite holding off here. But big schools have been swimming through and blacking out the odd sounder. Jervis Bay has been holding some nice fish and anglers have been having some fun on the surface with them also. Montague Island is on and has its off days as it does. But its holding fish and they are mostly small at this stage. The squid around the Bay have been plentiful. Great bait and great dinner if you lucked out on the snapper.

A little further offshore we saw the Dolphin fish come out to party in Spring but there is no sign of them during the early stages of summer but I expect them to start showing up soon and hoarding the FAD east of Burrewarra Point. What seems to be more of a possibility at the FAD right now is black marlin. We had a nice little run of blacks last year compared to previous and this summer is already looking better. A couple of boats have caught some around the FAD and blacks have been spotted swimming around boats in the snapper grounds. One of the most feisty fish you could hook on to this summer.

Further offshore and just inside the shelf is marlin. They have come on quite well and a lot of boats looking for these majestic creatures have had several hook ups or landed some already. The season is looking to be a good one. We spoke about switch baiting last issue and how it was the most successful way to hook up and stay connected. This is because you have managed to get a circle hook pinned into the corner of the marlin's mouth.

How do we do this? Well first of all you will need to run lures without hooks. Because this can be a tricky process I would suggest running two medium sized lures and no more to keep things simple. I find 9 ½ inch Moldcrafts being my favourite. They are big soft things with soft heads and I find marlin love chasing them down and playing with them. There has been occasions when I see a marlin hit a hard headed lure or a lure with a hook in it and then pulls some drag and swims off never to be seen again. It also happens with softheaded lures but I have seen it more with hard heads and hooks and I can't but think maybe it is un-natural enough to shy marlin off. So I use softheaded Moldcrafts and even if I'm wrong I'm fishing with confidence and sometimes that  is what it takes to get fish and enjoy your fishing.

Added to the mix is a teaser. Just two good sized Moldcrafts and the boat is sometimes enough to raise a fish. But again I'm more confident having more commotion out the back and I think it can get you more attention from nearby marlin. I like to run a strip of plastic squid with a bird and or glitter teaser floats. There's quite a few different set ups as long as there is a party out the back to raise fish it doesn't matter too much.

The next thing is to have skip baits ready to go. These are large sized slimey mackerel, small striped tuna, small bonito, small salmon even some people have even skipped maori wrasse. One of the biggest blue marlin caught out off Bermagui was on a maori wrasse skip bait.

To rig up a skip bait its best to see it then to read it, so go and find it on youtube and find the simpliest technique that suits you. Now once you raise a fish the first thing to do is have your crew on the same page and working together on the boat with allocated tasks so people aren't running around head butting each other when a fish is up and people are excited.

One member can bring the teaser in and then another is on the lures ready to whind in. Once the teaser is in bring in the lure or bring it close to the boat and have it ready to put back out if the fish needs teasing up some more. The ideal situation is to have the fish interested in one of the lures and a crew member already dropping back a rig skip bait on tackle that is going to cope with a 60 to 120 kilo fish.

Once the skip bait is back towards the lure the fish is chasing start to pull it in and have that skip bait on the nose of the fish. Once the fish takes the skip bait, let the fish have it so the bait can get inside the marlin. When you think the marlin has downed it then put the reels drag into action and let the circle hook do its work and come up, around and lodge into the corner of the mouth of the marlin for a definite hook set. Then hang on!

This sounds relatively simple but a lot can go wrong and marlin can be up and gone and back and looking around the back of the boat. So there is a lot of feel to it as well. It's your job to keep the fish up and try and keep its focus directed at one lure and then onto the skip bait. Then there is the timing to set the hook. Practise will make better and experience is paramount.

It's a case of starting the technique and fine tuning it and you'll get better, smoother and increase catch rates. You won't always catch every fish you raise, but you'll catch a whole lot more than on trolling hooked lures!!!

Once you are confident with switching you can confidently switch with live bait as well. So basically that's it. Keep it simple, everybody onboard has to be clear with their tasks and then stick with it and hone your skills. Then you will probably develop your own way or what suits your boat. The fish are out there this summer. Get out and enjoy it!

Cheers, Anthony Stockman

Anthony Stockman runs the Complete Angler Tackle Store at Batemans Bay

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January 21, 2015
Fishing highlights from the estuaries in 2014
Feeling fresh after the holidays? The capital region has got you covered
By Graham Fifield

Last week we reviewed the estuary options and a few highlights from the past 12 months. It was a suitable topic given the majority of the population has been to the south coast rivers and lakes at least once during school holidays. But the city streets are slowly filling up again as people drift back to work and before we know it school holidays will be over too – sorry kids. There are plenty of local freshwater options however and the great thing is they are accessible after the work day ends or the final school bell rings. Here are a few possibilities coupled with one or two highlights from last year for inspiration.

Carp. Love them or hate them, they are here to stay for the foreseeable future. Carp are the perfect fish to introduce new anglers or kids to fishing. Besides that, they are just plain fun to catch while relaxing by the side of the water. Try a very lightly weighted 'running sinking' rig with three or four kernels of tinned sweet corn, or a 20 cent-sized piece of fresh white bread, moulded onto a small hook, about size 6. Toss it out with a small amount of berley of the same bait and sit back.

For lure-loving anglers, you can't go past redfin. Another introduced fish to these waters, they are prolific, very aggressive and happen to be one of the best freshwater fish to eat. Redfin tend to form schools, so if you can find one you can usually find lots. Searching lures are a good option. By this I mean versatile lures which can be fished at different depths. The classic Celta in red and silver is a proven lure, particularly for water less than three or four metres deep. For deeper water the Rapala rippin rap will work well. Fan you casts around and try counting to different numbers as the lure sinks after each cast. You never know, you might just cross paths with one of the many stocked yellowbelly in the local lakes while you're at it.

Our mighty Murray cod continue to bite for those with the patience and the right techniques. The highlight locally last year was a massive 103cm fish caught on a surface lure. It is great to hear that anglers targeting these fish are strictly catch-and-release as Murray cod still need our help to ensure their future. After many, many hours of trying last year the closest I got was a heart-stopping strike at my feet and a set of bent treble hooks - these fish are not to be underestimated.

The capital region is littered with small picturesque trout streams, particularly in the high country. A backpack and a couple of lures, or a box of flies, is all you need to explore some great fisheries and some feisty rainbow and brown trout. Light rods and line, long casts and a willingness to explore is the best way to find some fish. At this time of year watch out for snakes!

My personal highlight was catching and releasing my first (and second) bass last year. Mimicking what I've read about these great fish, accurate casts close to fallen trees or other structures were critical to getting a bite. The first lure I'll reach for on the next trip will be a lipless crankbait which sinks down the face of the structure. Many of the bites came as the lure sank even before turning the reel handle. Bass love the freshwater upper reaches of our coastal rivers and are stocked in dams such as Tallowa and Brogo.

So I hope you're feeling 'fresh' after the Christmas break because even if you can't sneak down to the coast there are plenty of great freshwater options on our doorstep.

See you on the flats.

Graham Fifield, Flick & Fly journal

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January 8, 2015
Fishing highlights from the estuaries in 2014
Worth its weight in salt – fishing highlights from the estuaries in 2014
By Graham Fifield

2014 was a big year for fishing stories and there were also a few big changes for this fishing column. Rob Paxevanos, who almost single-handedly kept these pages filled for 10 years, left Canberra last year for warmer climes. So while the column has continued in written and online forms it is largely thanks to Rob's work behind the scenes that myself and others have the opportunity to keep this legacy going. 12 months down the track and I am still very grateful – thanks Rob!

On the fishing front, it's been fun to describe some amazing captures throughout 2014 and a few tips and techniques on how these great fish were caught. As it is school holidays and everyone's attention is down the coast, let's focus on the highlights from the saltwater estuaries. Flathead measuring 84cm and 92cm from Lakes Tuross and Conjola were amongst the pick of the fish last year, both caught on hard-bodied lures in shallow water. Of course there were the fish that were at least this big, the true Leviathans, but these tend to get away. Soft plastics remain one of the most reliable ways to cover water and find a flathead. 60-80mm plastics in natural colours threaded onto jig heads ranging from 1/4 to 1/8oz weights are a safe bet. On the off chance you might tangle with a big fish, 12-15lb line comes recommended from heart-breaking experience.

Whiting were abundant during the warmer months and are still biting at the moment. Once restricted to bait fishing, whiting are now readily catchable on lures. One of the most exciting and visual ways is using poppers, such as the transparent Gomoku models. Work them quickly over sandy flats to imitate a fleeing prawn. Whiting up to 43cm graced these pages during the year, with sessions up to a dozen fish not uncommon. If 2015 is the year that you plan to give this a go, it comes with a caveat. Once you start fishing surface lures it can be difficult to stop.

From weekend warrior to tournament pro, bream remained a challenging and fun fish to catch along the coast. At the Tuross flathead and bream competition for example, only one in five anglers managed to record a legal-sized bream. Sometimes the perfect cast, with a perfectly weighted lure, tied to a light line, into snaggy and unforgiving environments is what it takes to catch one of these great sport fish. Kayak fisherman might enjoy exploring Lake Meroo as I did, despite the flooding rains. There were some beautiful black bream in this forgotten corner of the coast.

My personal estuary highlight from 2014 was catching and releasing a mulloway after many, many attempts. Ironically it was caught on the 'last cast' of the day while trying for a flathead to take home to my partner for dinner. Good fishing karma I suppose? The handsome and strikingly coloured 70cm fish was caught on a small soft plastic in only three metres of water, not the typical spot for mulloway. My advice for those trying to catch their first mulloway in 2015 is to find out as much as you can about their movements through the estuaries to increase the chances of crossing paths. Or perhaps you will just get lucky one day as I did.

These are just a few snapshots of 2014. With a little luck there will be bigger and better things to come in 2015 including innovative new lures for anglers such as the Storm Stilleto. Next week though, we will revisit some of the local freshwater options and highlights for the year. Until then, happy fishing.

See you on the flats.

Graham Fifield, Flick & Fly journal

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December 17, 2014
A hungry south coast flathead
The silly season is upon us, time to get fishing pre or post celebrations!
By Derek Steele

During the month of November The NSW/ACT region received less than optimal rainfall periods, well below average. According to the Bureau of Meteorology this made last month the driest November since 2002. It's amazing what a difference a week or two can make in the scheme of things.

In some areas of the South Coast over 200mm fell in one week alone. Estuaries such as Tuross flooded with tidal influences causing havoc with the iconic boatshed. Scattered debris with a side of chocolate milkshake have turned once pristine clarity into a turbid soup. Flotsam and jetsam such as large logs will abound so if your boating coastal this holiday period it literally pays to keep a lookout as these hazards can turn an iconic holiday into one filled with treachery for the unwise.

It's not all doom and gloom though, mother nature flushing systems brings out the best in people and the water born critters they chase. As conditions clear dirty water lines of fresh and salt mixing are ideal hunting spots for larger estuarine predators such as Flathead and Jewfish. Use the conditions to dictate your fishing, align the negatives with positives such as tidal phase and depth.

Contrary to popular belief, in my opinion searching for an edge bite is best done after a few days of periodical rain. Once the fish get used to the cloudy conditions they tend to slip up more than the average angler. The same can be said for targeting drop offs and sand flats, the shallower water often brews to tea first. Some cracking Flathead have been caught in the shallows recently down Tathra way and knowing the rivers upper reaches the Bega would have been dirtier than ever.

While the rain keeps falling along the coast Canberra and its surround have received a constant soaking. Rivers like the Murrumbidgee heave water and due to the downfall have played early seasonal havoc with Cod Anglers. Those that managed to calm the storm early reported some quality fish taken on surface lures and XO spinnerbaits in the wider sections of the river.

The new township of Googong had its runoff facilities tested numerous times with numerous drenchings equating to the overflow of new control ponds and general 'Googonian' hysteria. The good news is Googong Dam remains at 100% coming into summer, providing not only decent bank side access for anglers but also well worn terrain for Golden Perch haunts.

The hordes of Redfin become almost unbearable in Googong over Summer with 3-4 fish hooked on the one lure on many occasions. Being the troublesome pest gives them a reputation as a rubbish fish but any angler worth their salt (or in this case, fresh) knows they are tasty on the chew. While Canberra's urban lakes don't have the world's best water quality I highly recommend keeping a few out of Googong for the table. Fillet, skin, toss in a bag of crushed up Salt and Vinegar chips and BBQ.

Speaking of Redfin many kids will receive rods and reels from Santa so expect to see areas such as Black Mountain Peninsula, Scrivener Dam and Weston Park being frothed with parental consent in search of some striped beasties. Kids are quite impressionable at this age (The age of Santa) and efforts you make now in regards to fishing with family and friends are where the pastimes are set. If you are a seasoned angler and bump into young parents and their kids enjoying the art stop and say hello, offer encouragement to the father and some tips to the child.

Don't forget anglers are reminded that Yerrabi Pond in Gungahlin remains closed for any waterbased activities including fishing. While the Cod death investigation by the ACT Government is still ongoing the pond remains closed and is being patrolled by ACT Police enforcing compliance. For all up to date advice on environmental status and closures of urban waterways in Canberra visit the TAMS website -

Stay safe on the water this holiday period and enjoy wetting a line or two.

Derek 'Paffoh' Steele

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December 10, 2014
Back-country rivers heat up
Snakes alive! Back-country rivers heat up in time for holidays
By Graham Fifield

Fishing the back-country rivers is an amazing experience and one of my favourite forms of this sportfishing. I love wading through gin- clear water with nothing but a rod in one hand, a small box of lures or flies tucked into a shirt pocket, and a backpack. There is a sense of adventure heading into the bush and with good cause, there is a very real chance of getting up close and personal with the local wildlife. By back-country rivers I mean those around 60 to 90 minutes' drive from Canberra, such as the Eucumbene, Thredbo, Tuross, Mongarlowe and Goodradigbee. These are all streams where you can tangle with rainbow or brown trout in stunning surroundings.

Fishing recently with a good friend, Andrew, the scene in front of us was exactly that: stunning. The trees formed a perfect silhouette on the water; the river teamed with insects and was alive with the chorus of small birds. It was another unseasonably hot day and so the water was cool and refreshing. Earlier that morning we had grabbed light spin rods, sturdy boots and plenty of suncream. There would be no need for waders today; the water was cool but not cold. I was armed with my trusty suspending Rapala lure and Andrew had chosen the classic Celta spinner. These two lures have probably caught more trout in this country than all of the other lure types combined so I felt quietly confident we could tempt some fish.

By now the sun was high, there were few shadows and the water was clear. So it was the first deep bend of the river that produced the first fish of the day. As the small minnow lure began its seductive waggle it suddenly stopped and the shiny flanks of a rainbow trout shimmered under the water as it struggled against the line. A great start but it was soon after this that we were briefly stopped in our tracks by a large red-bellied black snake casually swimming across the river in front of us.

As the morning progressed we found that the deeper pools and some of the deeper rapids were where the fish wanted to be. Sometimes in these small streams you only get one cast to hook the fish. Land the lure too far from where the fish is hanging out and all you might succeed in doing is drawing the fish out for a look, at which point it will spook and disappear under a rock. The best casts therefore are long, landing in the white water or the head of the pool. The most productive retrieves are as slow as the current allows while still maintaining action on the lure, giving the chasing fish the longest time possible to catch up and bite. They generally aren't huge fish, often only 20-30cm long, but they are great fun.

It was while navigating around one of these deeper pools, that we had our second nature 'moment'. Hidden amongst the thick shrubs and tea-tree, curled up in a sedge was a large brown snake. Andrew had come within a few inches of stepping on it. The decision was unanimous – it was time to get away from the snakes and head back.

We strolled back downstream towards the car with a new alertness and awareness of our surroundings. We were now hyper aware – or perhaps I mean scared witless - of our surroundings. Of course, as the famous saying goes – trouble comes in threes. So as we approached the first pool again another black snake swam out onto the river and straight towards me. I lifted the rod high above my head and slapped it down on the water in an attempt to scare it away. The snake changed direction and I resumed breathing.

So as the water warms up this summer and the insect activity increases in the back country rivers, so too will the activity of the other wildlife: the frogs, birds, fish, and of course, snakes. My advice to the keen back-country fishers is to wear long trousers and gaiters, pack a snake bandage and even a personal locator beacon, if for no other reason than getting bitten by a snake at this time of year might mean missing out on all the holiday fishing fun to come.

See you on the flats.

Graham Fifield, Flick & Fly journal

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December 01, 2014

Lines looming as Holiday Period Booming
By Derek Steele

The NSW South Coast is home to some of Australia's most notable fisheries such as the Tuross, Moruya and Clyde river systems. Since the implementation of the Bateman's Marine Park came into effect, several of the traditional, well worn fishing destinations are now strictly 'off limits'. However for the more adventurous among us, numerous creek and lake offshoots branch away from these bothered waterways. Offering superb angling opportunities while distancing themselves from the local populace, these tributaries are just begging to be explored.

From picturesque Durras in the north, down to the distant Wonboyn in the far south, scores of unique settings lie along and in-between. Many of these are major tourism draw cards and obtain a heavy angler presence year round, and for good reason too. Being less visited, the other river entities tend to run through and along various National Parks and shires, literally declaring themselves lonely recreational fishing sanctuaries. Some are still commercially fished, some are rarely beleaguered but most will agree the Marine Parks up and down the east coast of NSW are forcing the intrepid anglers to venture outside the box and start fishing the cardboard.

Admittedly, these areas can be a little hit and miss when water temperatures are at their coldest in winter. Come spring and the warmer months of summer, the heat creates a haven for breeding and feeding with Bream, Whiting and Flathead moving in to complete their lifecycle. Unfortunately all this hotspot activity often coincides with holiday periods. As anglers sometimes we have to compromise with chosen family holiday destinations. We can't always be smacking dream species, that's what the rest of the year was for. With the impending Christmas break looming and a little family time planned it just might be time to start exploring further afield.

With population comes pressure so if you prefer the power of a paddle and have room to move try exploring the upper reaches of a system. Many lakes and rivers on the South Coast become trivial drawn out waterways with plenty of estuarine activity.

Typical features include drowned timber, ubiquitous snags and draining creeks, all which tend to concentrate conventional food flows before emptying into deeper water. Fish such as Southern Black Bream and the illustrious Estuary Perch love the channelling effect and often use these structured features to ambush prey. Keep your wits about you though, while these fish may seem predictable they still tend to wander throughout the elongated system so searching is key.

However, if you are on holiday with rug rats and partners in tow exploring might not always be an option. Introduce a little foresight however and a minimal approach to a great day on the water can still be had. With Whiting marauding sand flats and boat ramps at capacity walking the flats with nothing more than a handful of surface lures (or servo Prawns) and a shoulder bag is a worthy option, especially when it's a stone's throw from the holiday house. Wading is one of those angling traits you tend to heckle as you motor by but one should always employ a grass roots approach every now and then, you will surprised how stealthy you become. Get away for quick stroll on a rising tide and Whiting, Bream, Blackfish and Flathead are well within your reach.

Fishing during holiday periods is more than just ramp rage and commitment tussles. The influx of waterway users is just as annoying for locals as it is for tourists. Tourism on the other hand benefits enormously. Whichever way you look at it they still all go hand in hand. Visit the local tackle store, spend some money, buy a fishing magazine, the paper and a morning coffee. Smile lots, go for a drive, enjoy the wind in your hair, explore some maps, fire up Google earth and try something new. They say a bad days fishing is better than a good day working. That must mean a great days fishing is better than a full year slaving. All this talk of work has me wondering... Should you work the water or should the water work for you?

Derek 'Paffoh' Steele

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November 23, 2014
Durras lake looking brown and fish free
What a difference a week can make
By Graham Fifield

They say a week is a long time in politics. But how about in fishing? This time last week fellow columnist Anthony Stokman described how the flathead are on the bite, the bream are on the move and the estuary perch are returning to the snags, rock walls and holes.

Since then though, a lot has changed. The Australian Wallabies nearly beat the All Blacks in the rugby for example. And while many anglers looked forward to some time on the crystal clear South Coast water last weekend, some ferocious rain during the week quickly changed that. The lakes and estuaries were coffee coloured and full to bursting with freshwater, most spilling out onto nearby beaches. Many South Coast towns reported 100 to 200mm of rain in a single day with Narooma experiencing extensive flooding.

While there can be some good fishing in this situation, it seems to be hit and miss. Estuary fish are notoriously hard to catch on lures in the brown water. As vast amounts of fresh water quite literally push all of the fish towards the mouth of a lake or river, Johnny (aka Johnny-on-the-spot) can do very well if he or she is in the right place, typically where the fresh and saltwater meet. Predatory fish drawn to the activity sit here under the cover of murky water and feed up.

At Durras lake last weekend there were a few small bream, whiting and mullet taken on bait, but larger fish and flathead were noticeably absent. This was particularly evident during the run-out tide as freshwater dominated the system. As the tide pushed in however, things started to improve and as high tide loomed, clear salty water forced the freshwater back in a distinct line. The meeting point was conveniently between the boat ramp and the caravan park, offering a handful of nice sized flathead and small tailor to both land-based and boating anglers.

It was a similar story on the Clyde river. While there were a few fish caught, bait fishing seemed to account for more than lures. But as the tide rose, fish started moving with it into the shallows in the lower reaches. Around big island there were a few bream, including one big fish that crunched a Gomoku popper before taking it as a souvenir into a nearby oyster rack. If any of the Clyde river oyster farmers read this and finds a prawn-sized popper, transparent with an orange head, can I have it back please? This little lure is fast becoming a favourite for whiting and bream up and down the coast.

Focussing our casts around the oyster racks for bream, dad hooked a beautiful big flathead in the 80-90cm range. After surfacing once to reveal her full extent, she took off on a spirited run that light bream gear was unable to stop. She swam under a nearby rope, the line snapped and she was gone. "Oh well, we would have let her go again anyway" he said.

So while there was the odd moment of excitement, the bites on lures after the flooding rains were few and far between. Bait fishing was more productive. As a keen lure fisherman, I'm looking forward to when the water clears, which of course it will with each passing day and each cycle of the tide. The flathead will become more active and easier to find again, the bream will be on the hunt along with the estuary perch. The system will return to its normal spring patterns - until the next time it floods. Maybe by then the Wallabies will finally manage to beat the All Blacks in rugby?

See you on the flats.

Graham Fifield, Flick & Fly journal

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October 15, 2014

NSW South Coast Report
By Anthony Stokman

Most rain ever, most sun ever, back to more rain. As long as it's the most fish ever! And at this stage it is looking pretty good. It only feels like yesterday we were talking about bluefin tuna, probably because such a good run is still etched into our memories. Now offshore we are eagerly awaiting for the marlin. And with the way the warm water is moving in it could be sooner than later. Already some captures off Sydney and some have been spotted off the Illawarra. So not long now!

School yellowfin tuna could still make an appearance over November as they did the last couple of years, with some small ones and up to 40kg being caught off Jervis Bay. Boats that do venture to the shelf from Batemans Bay are still excited about getting out and putting their electric reels way down deep for Gemfish, Harpuka and the like as the currents are still favorable at this stage. There have been plenty of mako's out there also for those shark fisherman. So if the conditions are favorable the shelf and beyond isn't a bad place to be.

Moving in closer to the inshore reefs the snapper are doing what is expected of them at this time of the year. That shallow water snapper bite has slowed right off and now you are finding bigger schools out in the 50m to 90m depths. So far there has been a good run of snapper and along with them there have been plenty of mowies, nannygai, pigfish and plenty of big blue spot and tiger flathead.

Spring has seen an abundance of inshore reef fish at this stage. There seems to be a lot of bait and chasing the bait are schools of kingfish. Through the spring you get the whales, dolphins, seals, stripey tuna and kingfish chasing the bait all over the place.

And chasing the stripeys and kingies are the fisherman in their boats. This can be a bit of a cat and mouse game. You see the birds working and you rush over there only to push the fish down. And then you see the fish have popped up right where you have come from. You can find yourself darting all over the place trying to get onto the surface action.

It's probably best to take your time and slowly cruise up towards them and shut down your motors just within casting distance of a 60g to 80g metal, obviously a 7'6ft to 8ft rod will get you extra distance. Sometimes the lure landing on them will spook them, so if you can get the lure to land passed them that would be ideal. I let it sink for a few seconds and then I bring it up through the water column at a fast speed. Sometimes the fish are very flighty and easily spooked no matter what you do, so bottom fishing in the area with some livies out and waiting for them to come to you can be the best option.

And when trolling the area sometimes they might come up close to the boat and take a lure, but I have caught plenty of stripeys by running the lures right back. The few buoys in the area will be holding kingfish at times from now on as well.

Beaches have been fishing ok with salmon, tailor present and some whiting being caught on live worms. A possible chance of a Mulloway as well as we are still seeing them being caught around our small oceanic bays. Our man Ray Smith cracked his PB record of 9 jews in one session on lures the other day by catching a remarkable 13 jewies!. Pretty good effort  for daytime fishing off the stones on lures.

John Hilyear landed a 30kg Jewfish and a 25kg Jewfish in one night on his livies as he does this time of the year in one of his river locations. A few have been getting caught up the river also. There would've been a fair bit of mulloway movement through the estuary system as you read this and November should continue to be a great month to target them.

The Flatties are on the chew, the bream are moving back in, the perch are moving further up and are on the snags, rock walls and holes. We are seeing more and more people using soft plastics now and I would say it's as common as bait now. So naturally now we are seeing an even bigger number of fisherman trying new things, now they have surprised themselves by catching a fish on a lure!

One completely new thing that has come out for fisho's this summer is the Gomoku Bottom by Storm, part of their tiny little finesse hard body range. The Gomoku Bottom is also know as a Stiletto due to its shape and the way it sit's perfectly on the bottom like a hiding prawn or fleeing baitfish (something we've been trying to achieve with soft plasstics for years). But telling your mates you've been fishing with Stilettos can be tricky!

The Gomoku Bottom is also a great little hard body for those fisho's who have tried plastics and is now interested in hard body lures. This lure is a great transition. It is very user friendly as fishes all depths and when it settles on the bottom it's design keeps the hook up and away from snagging and in the fishes face. They are small and are perfect for bream, whiting and flathead. But because of its size I would be using a 8lb leader on the flathead. If you want to start using hard bodies then this little guy is a winner.

Storm also have the SX Soft Vibe in two sizes and sizes weights 7cm/16.5g and if a little current or casting into the holes 9cm/26.2g, these have been dynamite on big flatties and estuary mulloway. Plus you get two per pack!

The lake systems are kicking into gear now and a lot up and down the coast seem to be open. Some good schools of whiting have been seen in Tuross and the flatties are there in Durras. And it's about that time you come in and get your prawn light and nets. Last year Lake Tabourie was popular and the year before Corruna was the spot. Must be Coila's turn this year. It doesn't matter what your into it's the time of the year with many options. Enjoy!"


Anthony Stokman - Complete Angler Batemans Bay

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October 1, 2014
Boats line up for one of the many SBS Tournaments along the NSW South Coast.
NSW South Coast sees the Return of the Southern Bream Series
By Derek Steele

Many moons and tidal periods ago a fishing club was founded on the banks of St Georges Basin. A not for profit organisation that enjoyed returning money to the governing area of the Shoalhaven via efforts such as fish stocking. Priding itself on sharing combined knowledge and angling techniques the Basin Lure and Fly (BLF for short) clubs aim was to cater for all estuary anglers, be they Whiting wranglers, Bream aficionados, float bobbers or silver slab hunters. With monthly club multi species points competitions at various rotating venues such as the Shoalhaven River, Jervis Bay to as far south as Ulladulla (Most events are predominantly on the Basin itself) BLF membership has proven quite popular.

In the past the Basin Lure and Fly Club also hosted and ran an exclusive Bream tournament competition for members known as the Southern Bream Series. The series of tournaments where held as far north as Sydney right down to Mallacoota in Victorias south east region. Based on a catch and release team's event for boaters (2 anglers) and an individual event for Kayakers, anglers found themselves vying for the same species all whilst adhering to rulings pertinent to the clubs and NSW/VIC fishing & boating regulations.

After successfully running the event for many years one of the country's biggest fishing companies, Shimano, partnered up with BLF and created the Squidgie Southern Bream Series. This allowed further venue migration and expansion into areas such as Tuross in the states south back up to the mighty Hawkesbury north of Sydney. Numbers of entrants exploded with some rounds seeing in excess of 100 boats and 50 kayakers (A spectacular sight on any waterway). Unfortunately for reasons unknown to many the series ended in 2012. This created a huge gap in Australia's now blustering tournament fishing scene and left many of the BLF members, the local tourism operators and regular competitors crestfallen.

To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. As an avid SBS tournament angler since its inception I cut my teeth in these events. You see the series itself provided some important tools for the everyday angler, especially the principles of employing safe catch and release practices on a species known to age slowly. It also provided a solid foundation for kayak anglers to practice their sport safely, all whilst gaining the respect of the boating community (A once difficult process).

The BLF committee set themselves a mammoth task in resurrecting what was once one of the most followed and attended fishing competitions nationwide. In late 2013 BLF announced the return of the tournament bream angling series. Comprising of seven rounds up and down the coast, the 2014 series would culminate in a huge two day grand final at St Georges Basin on the 11th and 12th of October. For an introduction to tournament angling, to gaining knowledge from some of the best bream anglers in the world, the series has it all.

You don't need to be an angling gun to become involved and be competitive, nor do you need the flashest boat on the block. The amount of father/ son teams and old tinny brigades shows you can be competitive regardless of craft and previous expertise. Numerous stories of low pretention abound, with the added bonus of creating new friends and employing newfound skill sets. The vast experiences available in fishing tournaments sets the tone for enjoyment, learning and most of all sharing. From preserving fish stocks to preventing degradation of estuarine environments your participation is important on so many levels.

With big cash payouts, product giveaways and well known identity's participating the 2015 series is set to be better than ever. Head on over to the BLF website (, download an entry form and give it a go. Don't forget to attend the Grand Final weigh in at Sanctuary Point (Palm Beach) Sunday 12th October to see what all the fuss is about!

Derek 'Paffoh' Steele

Catch Rob on Twitter:

September 10, 2014
Anthony Stokman reports school sized snapper off Batemans Bay
Spring has sprung a leak
By Anthony Stokman

Hello fisho's! Spring has sprung and started with some great weather. But winter didn't want us to forget her. So she has thrown together some big swells and some rain to rain on our Spring parade. Durras Lake has opened, the whales are migrating back south and the bait should start coming in. It's a beautiful time of the year where everything comes out of hibernation, the animals, the flowers, the fish and fisherman.

The rainfall has made the fishing a little tough in the estuary. But it's also given it a good flushing and cleaned it up and that snotweed that was annoying everyone so much should now be cleared away. By the time of reading this it should be looking good to coincide with the numbers of mulloway to be targeted over the next coming months. With all this recent rain we should see big numbers of estuary perch and bass coming out to play. A big rain at this time of the year should see them happily breeding also. You can see the effects of this year's breeding in about 5years time when they will grow to 25cm and then the growth rate slows right down where they might put on another 15cm over 20 years. I'm expecting big things out of the estuary this October.

This month go upstream and pepper the snags, rock walls and holes for bass and estuary perch. Hard bodied divers and 3 inch grubs have proven their success in the past. The schools of estuary perch tend to be tightly packed and you could only be meters away from a school. So if you are casting at drop offs along rock walls make sure you cover the area completely. Once you find them, you can pull 10 or more out of that patch.

If it's the mulloway you are after then look for bait at the back of the eddy's up and down the river. Last year we saw massive schools of prawns and bait in our estuary. This could be due to the drought on land being over. So if this is true we should hopefully see a repeat this year.

Find the big schools of bait and the predators won't be far away. You would think a prawn imitation lure would be effective and they were quite effective in the Tuross system. But the lure of choice in The Clyde has been hard and soft vibes. There are a lot of different vibes out there ranging from 15g to 30g and being 7cm to 10cm in length. Shimano Sniper Vibe, Shads Lures, Cultiva Mira Vibe plus a host of others will all work on any given day. Tony G caught 2 nice jewie's ranging from 65cm and 75cm on little bream blades a couple of weeks ago out of Tuross. In this case they were probably feeding on small bait and matching the hatch worked a treat.

The 5 inch jerkshad or 100mm Squidgie Fish has always been the most popular plastic and will catch you fish as well. But probably the most important thing of all is put the hours in. For some it's difficult because work gets in the way. Work always gets in the way. But if you can put in a good 5 days fishing in you'll start to live and breathe the system and you will track them down and your chances of catching the holy grail of the estuary just jumped.

Coming out of the estuary snapper are still being caught in close and out wider now as we expected. There have been some good schools getting around in all depths. There's the odd shark being caught and some flathead and the other usual reef suspects. We didn't get as hammered by the leatherjacket as they did further south. But we should soon start to see the other tackle rat turn up, the barracuda. Kingies are still very quiet with the odd school getting around.

Further offshore there has been some good 20kg to 30kg yellowfin tuna getting caught from Jervis Bay to Sydney. We are hoping that water pushes down to Batemans Bay. There would have to be the odd tuna off here but due to bad conditions not many have been getting out. And when there has been a small window a lot more guys these days are getting into fishing off the bottom just over the Continental shelf with electric reels. They have been bringing back some good catches of Ocean Perch and the odd gemfish. But it's the blue eye trevalla that everyone is after and only so few have been caught recently.

Back on our beaches there is a good steady flow of salmon and tailor and if you fish out of the opening of Durras Lake you'll be in for some action. During October and November Durras Lake itself should be fishing quite well. They are still getting big bream off the beaches, but as you read this you'll see them moving back into the estuary. So it's happy days. You can feel that extra warmth in the air, leaves will start appearing on the trees and the South Coast river and lake systems are coming back to life. Enjoy!


Anthony Stokman - Complete Angler Batemans Bay

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September 3, 2014
A silicone thimble is great way to protect your thumb from sharp flathead teeth
There is something fishy about bananas
By Graham Fifield

If there is one food item that is despised by anglers all over Australia, it is bananas. Ask anyone about on-board catering for a day of fishing and the response is generally fairly relaxed, sandwiches, chips, chocolate – no worries, but definitely no bananas!

Historically, there are several reasons why bananas have been associated with bad luck on boats. Firstly, on long voyages the ethylene released by bananas would cause all of the other fruits and vegetables to ripen and go rotten. The crew would then go hungry. Apparently during the Caribbean banana trade of the 1700s, wooden vessels had to move very fast so that the bananas reached their destination before they spoiled. Travelling at such high speeds any fishermen on board had a hard time trolling lures or bait and subsequently returned with very few fish.

Sailing ships would sometimes stop in the tropics to pick up extra food and water while crossing the oceans. The crates of bananas would carry a variety of unwanted guests such as snakes and venomous spiders. After poisonous bites and disease spread throughout the crew, it was quickly determined that bananas were to blame. Similarly, in the amazon, bananas farmers would occasionally be found dead in their small wooden boats with a load of bananas on board. It was eventually discovered that tarantulas lived inside the freshly picked bunches. These are all very plausible situations.

The problem is, if you do an internet search of fishing forums in 2014 you can be regaled with dozens of stories where bananas have apparently ruined a day's fishing, caused someone to lose a tournament or even caused major mechanical problems. The issue with these stories is that they are exactly that, memorable stories. No one remembers the time when they suddenly stopped catching fish, without a banana to blame. Or when the tide changed and the fish suddenly started to bite. But a trip where a banana can be linked to fishing misfortune, now that's a story! In the scientific lingo, they call this confirmation bias.

Such is the stigma towards the humble banana that banana muffins, pictures of bananas, and even banana-boat sunscreen are all off limits. I discovered this while visiting the northern territory when my foam drink holder mysteriously went missing. It had a picture of the big banana with my name written underneath, a souvenir gift from Coffs Harbour.

So what's so bad about bananas? What is the magic ingredient that makes the fish stop biting, even through metres of water and the hull of the boat? As far as I can tell, nothing. There is no chemical or substance that is a known fish repellent. I've asked other anglers and scoured the web. At the time of writing I'm still looking.

So on the weekend I conducted a little experiment. I popped the Hobie kayak on the Molonglo river section of Lake Burley Griffin and happily trolled some diving lures up and down the snags for two hours without luck. Then I ate the banana I had on board, came ashore, put the peel in the bin, washed my hands thoroughly and headed out for another two hours of fishing. Again, nothing. Not a touch, not even a redfin. Hardly conclusive I know, but according to legend I should consider myself grateful that I didn't perish on the water.

Bananas are a rich source of potassium, carbohydrates and Vitamin C . As athletes can testify they are also a great energy food and good for fighting muscle cramp. This makes them the perfect food for kayak fisherman who are spending long hours on the water. So don't feel too nervous about taking bananas on board your boat, especially if you are by yourself. But it might be wise to limit yourself to just one or two and watch out for tarantulas!

See you on the flats.

Graham Fifield, Flick & Fly journal

Catch Rob on Twitter:

August 20, 2014
Attention!  If you want to catch the iconic Australian Salmon off duty Sergeant Whitey has some tips for you
Essentials of Spinning for Australian Salmon

Australian Salmon are great fish to catch due to their sheer power and occasional aerobatic leaps of freedom, but I reckon that if you lined up 50 fishermen in a row and asked them all for their individual techniques, then you would get 50 complete different answers. So it is this reason when I'm chasing Salmon that I generally apply the K.I.S.S method, and no I don't mean that I paint my face White with a Black Symbol on the front, cover myself in glitter & wear big flash boots. I mean that I generally Keep It Simple Stupid!!

The following is a list of techniques, hints & tips, to hopefully get you onto these big fighting Australian Salmon. It is based on fishing around the Stockton Breakwall area near Newcastle Harbour, NSW, but I spoke to Rob Paxevanos, author of Australian Fishing Basics, and he tells me that these techniques will work well on Aussie Salmon on breakwalls, headlands and deeper estuary mouths across the southern half of Australia.

Growing up in Tasmania and chasing the elusive Trout most of my life it's always been about 'Matching the Hatch', basically, finding out what the Trout are feeding on & tossing flies, lures, baits, etc, to fool them into a strike. So I put this same theory into action for Australian Salmon, knowing that they feed on things like Pillies, Whitebait & Bluebait, and other smallish baitfish.

Time of Day: I've found that the best time of day for using lures/plastics has been first light until mid morning, and again late afternoon until dark. Bait fishing has seen many Salmon caught during different times of day, the majority down deep with Pillies the main success for bait fishermen. So obviously the fish are still down there somewhere; but not as actively hunting, more being enticed by the smell of an easy meal. You would need to put in more time if using lures during the day.

Tides: The majority of Salmon that I've caught has been during the run-out tide or very early during the run-in tidal flow. It appears that they seem to be on the bite whenever there is water flow/movement & then go dormant once the tide starts to slow down or stops, I believe that this is due to the baitfish also being moved along in the water current and the Salmon chasing after them (makes sense to me anyway).

Weather: There has been no real difference in the conditions for me, I've caught them in rough windy weather, and on calm sunny days. The only thing I've really noticed is the clarity of the water, the Salmon really seem to be on during crystal clear ocean days.

Lures: So this is my main point of interest, again I try to match what I usually see swimming past me on the day. There's usually always baitfish up to an inch in size swimming along the shoreline, but then I sometimes see bait fishermen catching Salmon on Pillies off the bottom. So I mainly use metal lures ranging in size from 15 grams up to 25 grams only, hard body minnows up to approx 10cm, and soft plastics also up to around the 10-12cm mark. I believe that this covers all the baitfish from the very small to the medium size that Salmon chase after to eat.

Metal lures in the following colours, Pearl White, White with Red/Pink Head (represents a Smelt pattern), Chrome or Gold with Blue/Green Stripe, or anything representing a Blue Sardine, should see you get onto some fish.

Best metals I've found have been Luhr Jensen Crippled Minnows, Acme Cleo Little Spoons, and River2Sea Sea Rocks. I have all mine rigged with VMC 6X Hooks in size 4 for the bigger metals, and size 6 for the small.

Hard body minnows; again I try to use these in all the above metal lure colours, and rigged with the same size hooks. Main lures I use are Rapala X-Rap Countdowns, Savage Gear Minnows, or Kokoda Minnows.

Soft Plastics I'll try to use something similar to a Pillie or other smallish baitfish, any natural colour plastic, like Silver, Pale White, or even something that resembles a small Salmonoid. I've caught several using a Blueish type Rainbow Trout pattern made by Kokoda called a Pop-Eye soft plastic, but anything made by Squidgy or Z-Man with a paddle-type tail should do the trick.

Technique: My technique is probably as simple as it gets, I try to keep the lure in the fishes face for as long as possible to trigger a strike. So I'll cast out as far as I can, click over the bail arm, and retrieve the lure as slow as possible. Basically, I impart just enough movement to get the lure flicking from side to side at a very slow swimming pace. Most people cast out & retrieve the lure at a million miles an hour to imitate a fleeing baitfish-well that's all good when the Pelagic fish have schooled up & are chasing the baitfish into a fleeing frenzy. However, the rest of the time the baitfish will be swimming along slowly minding their business, and the Pelagics will ambush them from behind.

The main area I target is along the edges given that the baitfish are cruising along rock walls, shorelines, etc, usually getting washed around in the currents. I imitate these fish and it's working very well, even casting from the beach and using the metals up to 25grams I still get good amounts of fish, including Tailor & Pike.

If casting in deeper water I'll alternate between surface fishing or letting the lure sink till it hits the bottom & start my slow retrieve from there.

Final Tips: If you try all the above and get a few hits without hook-ups or no action whatsoever, don't be afraid to tweak things around a bit, for example a few tweaks imparted to the lure or a little pace can fire up the salmon on occasion.

For me the perfect conditions for Australian Salmon is to have high tide just on daylight and fish the run-out tide early morning, or high tide approx 1-2 hrs prior to dusk and fish the run-out tide till dark.

Good Luck and Tight Lines!!!!

Cheers, Sergeant Mike 'Whitey' Whiteroad

Catch Rob on Twitter:

August 3, 2014
A silicone thimble is great way to protect your thumb from sharp flathead teeth
Lessons learned from a lost Leviathan
By Graham Fifield

The classic fishing story is, of course, the one where the angler stretches out both arms and says "it was THIS big!" In 2014, it is typically followed by a digital photo presented on a phone. Tales about the 'one that got away' can be equally dramatic, although they rarely have photos to accompany them. While disappointing, losing a big fish can be a valuable learning experience. Firstly, we can learn from what went right. Where was the fish caught? During which part of the tide? On what lure or bait and under what conditions? This is all good info to file away for next time. And then there is an opportunity to learn from what went wrong. So perhaps I can save you the heartache of losing a really special fish, because last weekend I had one on the line and it WAS this big, but you'll have to take my word for it.

I was fishing in one of my favourite south coast estuaries in a hole around nine metres deep. Still conditions meant the boat was drifting very slowly and the soft plastic lure could reach the bottom before I either drifted away from it, or straight over the top of it. The tide was running out and schools of bait fish and mullet – food for predatory fish – would occasionally pass under the boat. I made a cast and waited several seconds for the lure to reach the bottom. I gave the rod a sharp flick upwards, before winding in the slack line and letting the soft plastic fish swim back down. A substantial tug on the line suggested something had just swallowed the lure and settled back on the sand. I raised the rod tip and felt several kilograms of apparently immovable weight. The rod, now bent over double, started to pulse in time with the tail beat of a huge flathead. My heart was racing but my actions were calm – to begin with. After a few minutes and two laps around the boat however, I was starting to lose my nerve.

As anyone who has put their thumb into a flathead's mouth knows, they have small sharp teeth to prevent their prey from escaping. It was these teeth that were playing havoc with my fishing line and my nerves, grating and sawing against the leader every time the fish changed direction. I decided the longer the fish was on, the more chance it would eventually chew right through the weakening line. In response I tried to speed up the journey of this fish from nine metres down to the net poised on the side of the boat by firmly lifting it off the bottom with the rod. It was almost in sight when…the line snapped.

OK, looking on the bright side, what went right? It was a very deep section of the estuary with plenty of tidal flow and the last of the falling tide, late in the afternoon. The soft plastic was a paddle-tailed fish in black and silver and 65mm long. What went wrong? The fish chewed through the line. So the obvious solution would be to use heavier line than the 10lb leader I was using - 15lb would have been better. An alternative solution would be to use a longer lure, say 80-120mm, with a similarly long hook, so the fish would be more likely to bite down on the body of the lure, rather than on the line tied to it. The bigger lures will limit the number of smaller fish you will catch, or the chance of catching a bream or trevally, but so too might the thicker and more visible line. It's a trade-off between more fish, or a big fish. On the drive home it also dawned on me that once the line was weakened I probably should have put as little pressure through it as possible, rather than trying to get the fish to the net more quickly to prevent any further damage. These are the lessons learned from a lost Leviathan; I sincerely hope that you too don't have to learn them the hard way.

See you on the flats.

Graham Fifield, Flick & Fly journal

Catch Rob on Twitter:

July 27, 2014
Fishing Urbanisms
By Derek Steele

Our National Capital, the residents dream land set in a picturesque rural bush. Seems quite fitting we own the title given our prestigious landmarks, tourist attractions and hallmark political seatings. Walter Burley Griffin sure came up with a solid plan, incorporate a well planned scenic locale with the fringe benefits of future urban sprawl. With development comes control measures such as water quality control ponds, infrastructure such as dams all with a taste of aesthetics. Sans our manmade lakes in the south/North most have a reason for being there beyond simple outlooks.

If you look closely our city is littered with bodies of water (I use that term loosely). New estate styled developments with huge farm landscaped ponds, smaller wastewater runoff filtering into pools, river runoffs, urban creeks, suburban anabranches and the humble Yabby pond. You may walk your dog past one every day, stargaze as you drive past or simply share the same suburb. Many of us will remember pulling Yabbys from the rural outskirts at old BMX Tracks/Woolsheds but when more focused angling addictions take hold they are never given a second thought.

Half a dozen years ago I was invited on a fishing trip after work, where we ended up I would never of picked. A series of old, muddy ponds lay on the outskirts of one suburb with a creek running below. Fully expecting to hit the creek the first cast into the much smaller pond catching me by surprise. Turns out we spent the next few afternoons hopping between ponds losing count at the number of large Redfin gracing our lures. It was an eye opening experience and I have to say since these days I have never looked at a body of water the same, anywhere.

In a few short afternoons I learned a lot. Angling skills that will stay with you for life such as seeking, searching and reading water better. Over the next few months similar sorties in polarising locations (More flow and activity) brought pleasing results, this time though the species differed. Schools of Goldfish taking bread on tiny hooks with not an impoundment in sight, yet still coming wave after wave. Natives such as Cod and Yellowbelly well entrenched in such a setting one could only describe as truely lost, yet still visible to the trained eye. With even more research and a healthy fascination I received reputable Intel on Trout a mere stone's throw of Black Mountain Tower. The latter was eventually put down as urban myth, but to this day though I still have my doubts.

To think all these explorations mentioned above were nestled within suburbs, away from our larger impoundments and, back then, future planning. We started paying attention to certain areas with outflows and again not only found a diverse range of fish but healthy numbers too. With food being brought to them specimens were incredibly coloured and aggressive. One thing we started to uncover was we weren't alone, seeing the tell tale signs of previous angling 'Urbanisms'.

With plenty of other fishing needs and wants in life these areas of life were quickly forgotten, then the drought broke. Seeing torrents of water gushing through areas neck high were you once stood before kept me mindful on many of the purposes of these areas. Warmer months brought the unwanted threat of snake bite with bitterly cold winters taking any waning away. Suddenly I didn't feel as compelled to seek recompense and sought my addiction elsewhere. People would ask me what the fishing was like in Canberra and to be honest I didn't know how to explain what I had been up to.

Fast-forward a couple of years and I still glance at Canberra water scanning for any signs of activity. Visually I've been rewarded but I haven't been in any position to rekindle any past. Recently though I took an outfit and a handful of lures to a place I had never been before, the result was a brace of Redfin (All under a major road). I take no credit in founding the principals, nor to the strange looks I received by passing pedestrians and cyclists. But take note, that dodgy bastard hanging around the underpass with a fishing rod might not be so dodgy after all... He just may be onto something (Pun intended!)

Derek 'Paffoh' Steele

Catch Rob on Twitter:

July 2, 2014

Who or what is Iki jime? A quick and humane way to dispatch fish
By Graham Fifield and Hamish Webb

Have you been into a Japanese restaurant and noticed the incredible attention to detail that goes into each dish? Perfect bite-sized sushi rolls filled with vegetables and salmon. Small rectangles of rice with a piece of raw tuna delicately draped on top. This level of care extends well beyond the presentation however. It includes how the fish is caught, killed and stored. So maybe raw fish sashimi isn't your thing and you prefer your fish after they have visited a fry pan or BBQ. The Japanese technique of Iki jime can still dramatically improve the eating and keeping qualities of our Aussie fish.

Iki jime, pronounced "icky Jimmy", is a method for inserting a metal object into the fish's brain, killing it instantly. OK, so it sounds a little gruesome. But if done correctly it is very quick and effective. The fins will stand up and then the fish will go completely limp. It is much more humane than letting a fish suffocate in a bucket or in the bottom of a boat. Ethics aside, the fish will taste much sweeter, as a fish that flaps around produces lactic acid which in turn makes the flesh taste sour. Lactic acid also reduces the length of time the fillets will last in the fridge.

The tool can be a screw driver, a sharp narrow knife, a specialised Iki jime spike or even an 'Iki-gun'. Fish have a brain the size of a pea, or so the saying goes, so knowing where the brain is located is very important. To find out, head to the website There you can see colour photos and X-rays of the most common freshwater, estuary and offshore species. Better still, download the app for your smart phone and carry all the images with you on the bank or in the boat. Each picture, like the flathead shown here, has a clear indicator of where to insert the spike.

For pelagic fish that need to be bled such as tuna, salmon, tailor and bonito, insert the spike according to the picture, wiggle it around and then cut the main artery through the neck with a knife. In 2014, letting a fish gasp and bleed to death without first spiking it isn't really acceptable.

Many anglers use the tried and tested, break-the-neck technique. This severs the main artery and spine, bleeding the fish and killing it instantly. To do this, turn the fish upside down and insert your thumb and first finger under the gills. While holding the belly with your other hand, pull the head firmly backwards until it nearly touches the fish's back. While this works well for some smaller fish, say under two kilograms, the amount of force required for larger fish will be beyond most people. You also need to be very careful of fish that have sharp gill plates or rakers. A swift blow to the head with a wooden club, affectionately known as a priest, is an alternative but judging by the anglers I've seen have several whacks at one hapless fish, it may be less reliable. After a few weeks trialling the technique, I reckon Iki jime might be the best and safest option of them all.

Regardless of how you dispatch a fish, it is critical to get it on ice as quickly as possible. An esky with two parts ice and one part water from where you caught the fish is ideal. Placing a fish into an ice slurry without stunning or killing it first isn't a particularly good option for the NSW South Coast and inland waterways. Our cold-tolerant fish will suffer slowly and may splash about – see lactic acid.

So there you have it, Iki jime, hard to spell, easy to do, quick and humane. Impress your friends with your very own sashimi or just enjoy the best tasting fish and chips you've ever had.

See you on the flats.

Graham Fifield and Hamish Webb, Flick & Fly journal

Catch Rob on Twitter:

June 25, 2014
A nice yellowfin caught on Top Cat Charters
Rob's weekly fishing southern NSW report 0809a

Hi folks! I hope everybody has bought their thermals by now and are putting them to good use. The last thing you want is a pesky flu or virus; they eat into valuable fishing time! And if you haven't fished in a winter's morning without them, you don't know what comfort you are missing; clothing layers have nothing on a full body thermal. Most good tackle stores stock fishing specific thermals; once you realize how warm they keep you, you'll never miss an early morning snapper bite again!

Speaking of Snapper, they are still on the chew in close and with the cuttlefish now moving in they will stay this way for a while yet. With this in mind cuttlefish makes a great bait at this time of year. If your into lure fishing try casting a lighter jighead, say 1/8 oz with a white plastic at a cuttlefish if you see one floating around; you never know what big reds could be under it; especially if the birds have been picking at it and making a nice berley trail.

Offshore the water is cooling down and at this stage there's a lot of 6 to 8kg yellowfin. Most of the larger yellowfin so far has been around 20 to 25kg with only a handful of 50kg plus fish being caught that I know of. The commercial boats started to see the bluefin mid June with some 100 to 120kg ones coming in. These front runners tend to have big heads, but slender bodies. The bigger barrels shouldn't be far away and as you read this I expect the recreational boats to be having a crack at them if they swing in close enough, as has happened in recent years.

This year there is a lot of bait just over the shelf and it is looking good for tuna feeding in closer. Bluefin can be fussy and tend to swim in good clean nutrient rich water. Yellowfin are very likely to be found in the same water, but you can also find them in poorer water quality as well. There has been some nice albacore but not in amazing numbers as yet. There's also some massive schools of striped tuna getting round, so despite the late start it looks like to be shaping up into a great tuna season. And with a warmer than usual eddy still down our way don't be surprised if you hook up to a Marlin or Dolphin Fish as has happened to a few lucky anglers.

Off the rocks the Drummer are biting and the traditional techniques are working well. Something a bit different if anything is more customers are coming in and using small circle hooks on these fish with great success. Salmon are swimming by as are the tailor. Interestingly the tailor are probably out doing the Salmon at this stage of winter with some good schools and good sizes getting around.

The ocean facing bays are still producing snapper, mulloway and sharks at night. It seems like the bronze whalers are all up and down the coast. There's still a lot of garfish getting rounded up in these bays by predators such as salmon, tailor, kingfish. One afternoon the garfish got pushed up into the rock pools of South Broulee in masses and people could catch a feed by hand!

The estuary is still fishing very well at this time off the year. Everybody seems to be getting good flathead and some crackers as well over that 80cm mark. Bream are also playing the game and the illusive mulloway that don't seem so illusive when you got fishing legends like Layton Brant, Joel Taylor, Jem Abbot, Daniel Dowley and Coen Davis on their tails. These guys are starting to put in Wade Eaton hours and are coming up with some thumpers. Layton has the lead so far with a 28 kilo beast. But the other boys have caught some crackers now also. Good to see our Clyde becoming the Mulloway capital. Good seeing a lot of these fish being tagged and released for research and future growth in numbers. Let's keep the fishery a healthy one.

Well that's a bit of a run down on what's biting, now go put the jug on and warm yourself up before heading out for a fish in your new thermals! I'm telling you, they are toasty to fish in; go get some and get into it!

Anthony Stokeman

Complete Angler Batemans Bay

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June 18, 2014

Holed up for the winter
By Graham Fifield

The rolling grassy hills of the high country are living up to their name: it's finally snowing in the Snowy Mountains. The well-trodden banks along the alpine rivers get a rest now, with the trout fishing season closed until October. Anglers who spent their weekends seeking trophy-sized trout may be thinking that it's time to dust off the skis and head to the resorts, or book that overseas holiday, or prepare a groove in the couch and settle in. So what are the fishing options for the middle of winter?

You may have low expectations (especially given the variable weather) but the fishing is still good along the South Coast estuaries and surrounding beaches. Both bait and lure anglers are crossing paths with small hunting packs of tailor as they patrol the surf gutters and holes. Salmon are also around and if you're lucky enough to encounter a school you can catch a fish a cast. But if standing motionless in a cold wind with a surf rod and bait doesn't appeal, a great alternative is walking along the sand hurling 20-40 gram metal lures into likely looking water. You'll soon warm up, especially once you connect with one of these magnificent sport fish on light spin tackle.

At Wallaga lake, we found that the action around the lake mouth was frantic towards the top of the tide. Bream were hitting poppers and in the distance they could be heard 'sipping' prawns off the surface. The razor gang of big tailor were also in town – you'll need to hang on when they take a bait or lure in shallow water. Timing is important though: we returned to the mouth on a falling tide and there wasn't a fish to be seen.

It's worth noting that sea surface temperatures are currently 20-22 degrees along the South Coast and the incoming tide is bringing warm water into the lower reaches of the rivers and estuaries. There has also been widespread and consistent rain at the top of the catchment, pushing saltier water further down the river. This saltier water is heavier than the fresh, and as the salt water sinks deeper it often seems that the fish sink down too: the most consistent spots at Wallaga are 3-6 metres deep. There are plenty of nice-sized flathead, the occasional bream, and even gurnard, which were a surprise catch on small metal vibes. Baby snapper around 10-15 centimetres are prolific and there are some beautiful fish up to 30-40 centimetres among them. Slowly hopping narrow-profile prawn and minnow style soft plastics worked well.

At Tuross lake, the spots etched in our mind from successful trips in summer and autumn now looked dull and lifeless — and the fishing was similar. Instead, we again found that the deeper holes and channels in the lower reaches were much more fruitful. In one patch it was nearly a flathead a cast with half a dozen smaller (possibly male) fish reaching the boat, before we finally caught a bigger female of 63 centimetres. I've heard of this phenomenon before, but assumed it would be during the spawning season from November to March. Perhaps they were just cuddled up to stay warm?

Speaking of staying warm, judging by the lack of crowds on the coast we may be braver than some, but warm dinners of homemade fish and chips proved we are not foolish. Yes, there will be days when the lure of the couch will win out over the cold aluminium hull of the tinny. But there are still plenty of good fishing options available. Thanks to the rain and warm ocean currents, the fish seem to be holed up in the deeper sections of the beaches and lakes, which means you don't need to be holed up for the winter.

See you on the flats.

Graham Fifield, Flick & Fly journal

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June 3, 2014

Lake Burley Griffin serves up a frightful meal of carp
By Graham Fifield

"Wow, this tastes surprisingly good for carp. It's actually quite nice. Wait - it didn't come from Lake Burley Griffin did it!?"

Earlier this year I wrote a column describing how to prepare carp, based on a method by Keith Bell of K&C Fisheries. I think I managed to convert a few people to the idea of eating this much-maligned fish — but to be honest, the response was mixed. Comments ranged from "Yuk!" to "I'd rather eat my rod, reel, tackle box, boat and trailer". Another common response was "I wouldn't eat anything from Lake Burley Griffin".

Local artist Michael Ashley produced a great piece, with the simple name "Carp". It shows a person sitting in a hired paddle boat peddling frantically — presumably he is about to be swallowed whole by a gigantic carp lurking underneath. I think it perfectly captures the feelings Canberrans have for both carp and the lake. But are the fears about eating fish from Lake Burley Griffin justified?

Heavy metals

'The lake' and the Molonglo river do have a chequered history. A dam collapse at the gold, lead and zinc mine upstream at Captains Flat was blamed for killing all the native fish in the 1940's. Water with dissolved metals has continued to trickle out of the mine despite its closure in 1962 and remedial works in 1976, although it has slowed. A 1992 study led by Maher sampled carp, the only large fish they caught, from Lake Burley Griffin and found the levels of zinc were extremely low. The National Capital Authority (NCA) says fish from the lake comply with all relevant food standards. Maher did however find moderate levels of zinc in the lake's sediments, vegetation, algae, mosquito fish and invertebrates. So while (mostly) vegetarian fish like carp should be okay to eat, these findings do raise questions about eating predatory fish, such as redfin, yellowbelly and particularly Murray cod, which would concentrate metals up the food chain. I haven't been able to find any studies on these fish, but I think it's probably another good reason to let the big cod go.

Blue-green algae and sewerage

The 'fragrant' blue-green algae that has returned is another concern when it comes to eating fish from Canberra's lakes. But health advice suggests that it's actually fine to eat fish caught during an outbreak, as long as you wash the fish thoroughly in clean water, and dispose of the organs (because that's where any toxins will accumulate). Anglers should still keep an eye on advice from the NCA, as direct contact with water during a blue-green algae outbreak can make you sick.

Another part of the 'eww' response when it comes to eating fish from Lake Burley Griffin is the thought of bacterial contamination or sewerage spills. Again, if you wash your fish with clean water and make sure it's properly cooked, this isn't a problem. However, Burley Griffin Carp Sashimi is probably not a dish you should be serving your family.

Not all carp are created equal

Not all of the responses to the previous column were negative. A few anglers lent their support and added "carp from a clean clear river are surprisingly good". It might just be hearsay, but carp caught from rivers do seem to smell and taste better than carp from lakes. I went ahead and tried the Keith Bell method for preparing carp a couple of weeks ago and the reaction from the family was entirely positive. I have to admit though, I caught it in the Murrumbidgee river and not Lake Burley Griffin.

So we are assured that eating fish, or at least carp, from Lake Burley Griffin is not something to be afraid of. And an afternoon of fishing in the local lakes is an easy alternative to the coast or mountains. But if you're targeting something for Sunday dinner, there are sweeter waters not far away.

See you on the flats.

Graham Fifield, Flick & Fly journal

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May 28, 2014

Paffohs Clyde River
By Derek 'Paffoh' Steele

Who am I?

Whilst my surrounding township was named earlier on April 22nd 1770 by James Cook I was later mysteriously confused with much smaller focal features by a well known explorer George Bass. According to tales during an expedition in December 1797 confusion began over islands and rocks bearing similar appearance , well documented in whaleboat records. This classic mistake was only discovered after further investigation revealed confusion set in over similar headlands close by.

I was discovered whilst looking for rivers entering the sea south of Jervis Bay. An inlet was perceived running through a bar with a depth of 9 feet to six fathoms upon opening. On the second day of observations a stony ford upstream put a halt to further expedition. It was at this stage I was recommended as a settlement based on founding forestry principals with low sloping banks and the availability of constant communication with a passable bar.

I went on to become a timber shipping locale, home of a steam navigation company, with timber ship manufacturing and brick production nearby. Further development of the region was only successful after the 1851 alluvial gold rush, establishing mining rights in nearby Araluen/Mogo. Such was the success of timber cultivation by the 1880's the area was dotted with mills producing hardwood sleepers. By the turn of the 19th cleared areas of vegetation was abundant due to timber felling and quality grazing/vegetable production flourished.

After initial investigations pre WW2, In the late 1940's construction of a bridge began over my width; being completed in November 1956. Speeding up travel by as much as 15 minutes over the past ferry vehicular system. Due to a lack of railroads in the area the highway bearing the paralleling oceans name was the only avenue of communication apart from my navigable bearings.

Additional industry like commercial fishing began in the 19th century but supporting documents state Oyster harvesting beginning as early as 1870. Cultivation methods ranged from dredging to diving with clear winter water the key. By the 1930's Quarries in the area began supplying stacked slate in droves to grow Oysters via tray methods.

With past slower methods behind them the regions Oyster farmers are now the third highest produces of Sydney Rock Oysters in NSW, with some locals still growing and harvesting native flat shelled varieties. Noted for my extreme purity, after years of previous industry and now being protected in National Parks/State Forests I am subject to low pollutants.

During 2006 the NSW Government established zoning of a Marine Park in my waters. Its goal was to protect key habitats for threatened and endangered species by adopting a new approach to marine management. Commercial fishing including trawling, netting was banned with a reduction in overfishing depleted areas hoped. Sanctuary Zones were also developed alongside habitat protection zonings.

History shows during tougher times my upper reaches reduce to no more than a trickle. However with an entire length estimated at 125kms, stemming from deep mountain ranges, twisting and turning towards the Ocean I will always be bountiful. Being one of the only eastern rivers in NSW not to be dammed I have platypus at one end and Mulloway at the next.

After almost 10 years of protection I'm back baby and my waterway is thriving with recreational fishing more popular than ever. I'm a gateway to the continental shelf, a spawning ground for native fish and a recreational fishing haven based on the present; not the past. Featuring offshoots such as Nelligen, Cyne Mallows, Portegan, Cockwhy and Currowan Creek I also have a number of islands known as Big, Little and Bud.

[Drum roll] Located 284km from Sydney, 150kms from I am also known by my Aboriginal name 'Bhundoo', and was named after the famous River in Scotland.

I am... The mighty Clyde.

Derek 'Paffoh' Steele

May 21, 2014

Things that go boof in the night
By Graham Fifield

If you've seen and heard a murray cod engulf a surface lure, you've witnessed one of the most exciting and heart-stopping fishing experiences our region has to offer. There is a time somewhere between 'afternoon' and 'evening' when the sun is setting and you can no longer quite see into the water. You cast out a lure and wind it back towards your feet with a gentle plop – plop – plop across the surface. The retrieve is almost finished and you are about to lift the lure out of water. Without warning the water erupts with a BOOF! Stunned and excited, you recoil slightly. Somehow the massive fish failed to connect with the hooks and you are now wet from head to toe. THIS is cod fishing with surface lures.

Locally, the murray cod are feeding up, filling their bellies before it gets cold and prey becomes scarce. To cross paths with these mighty fish, you don't need to travel far – head down to lakes Burley Griffin, Tuggeranong, Yerrabi or Ginninderra. Or try some of the regional reservoirs like Googong, Burrunjuck and Blowering, to name but a few.

Surface luring for cod is only really an option during low light conditions. When the sun is bright, more traditional offerings like spinnerbaits, crankbaits and deep diving lures can tempt any cod waiting in ambush. During the day cod generally sit under the cover of a snag, cave or hollow log. A well placed cast, generally on or near the bottom, is required to get a bite. A stubbornly territorial fish, sometimes a dozen casts over a likely looking structure is required to elicit a response.

But as the sun begins to dip below the horizon, that's when the real fun can start. Crawlers, poppers and fizzers are fair game for a hungry cod during the last hour of sunlight and the first hour of darkness. Persistence, dedication and a strong resolve are important traits for a cod angler though, a great session might mean you catch a couple of fish - a slow session can be very quiet indeed.

The technique is relatively straight forward. From the bank, cast out near fallen trees or rocks. If you have the option, cast out parallel to the bank, rather than out into the featureless deep water. Retrieve the lure slowly, then pause for a few seconds just before you run out of line. It's amazing how often a fish will follow the lure for several metres before striking. Once the lure has stopped, hang on tight and try to maintain your self-control if a cod inhales your lure from underneath. On a calm and quiet evening, it's absolutely frightening. If nothing happens – cast out again!

Murray cod are an Aussie icon and can grow beyond a metre in length, so it's important to be well prepared. Arm yourself with a 3-6 or 4-8kg rod and a minimum of 20lb main line. Ben Broadhurst (pictured) was understandably delighted with this 103cm murray cod he caught on a surface lure at night. It had two attempts at the lure before it finally connected. As I said – this type of fishing is not for the faint hearted!

Native fish are notoriously temperamental so it pays to keep half an eye on the weather, particularly air pressure. At this time of year a rising or high barometer seems to be when the fish are most active. You might like to keep a fishing diary, so you can start to develop your own theories about cod behaviour.

Just a reminder that these legendary fish are still recovering from commercial fishing and changes to river flow and habitat. Please use barbless hooks, release any wild fish and respect the September 1 to November 30 closed season. The population of cod in the lakes are bolstered with hatchery raised fish and are a better option - and closer to home! Enough said, grab a head torch and give it a go. The boofs can be few and far between, but are absolutely guaranteed to send the heart racing when you experience one.

See you on the flats.

Graham Fifield, Flick & Fly journal

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May 14, 2014

One more cast is all that's needed for a fish of a lifetime
By Graham Fifield

To the wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends and children of anglers, I'm sorry. The following tale may inspire your beloved to stay out longer than they promised, leaving you waiting at home while they stand beside a river or lake somewhere muttering to themselves "one more cast, just one more cast".

First some context and a brief fishing report from a recent weekend at Tuross Lake on the South Coast. The temperature might be dropping but the estuaries are still fishing pretty well. Whiting are launching the occasional raid on surface poppers, especially from the cover of slightly deeper water next to sand flats, and the bite-sized Storm Gomoku popper has been attracting more than its fair share of strikes. Bream are biting on curly-tailed soft plastics fished around fallen timber, especially in areas with tidal flow in 1 to 3 metres of water. The bigger bream, as is often the case, can be caught on shallow diving lures.

Flathead of all sizes are still active. Over the weekend we regularly caught flathead while targeting whiting and bream, but we were disappointed to lose two big fish. The first smacked a popper only to chew through the light leader line intended for a whiting. The second took a more conventional offering of a 70-100mm paddle-tailed soft plastic. Despite steady and constant pressure on the line, the hook came out and so it will remain the stuff of legends.

Wondering what had gone wrong, I retrieved the line and tested the hook by dragging it along my fingernail – a trick Rob Paxevanos taught me in his book. It immediately dug in: it was razor sharp. So why did the fish get off? On light outfits (4-6lb) popular for estuary lure fishing it can be difficult to apply enough pressure to insert the hook to the bend in the hard mouth of larger flathead. Striking hard risks breaking the line. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, it takes far less pressure to set a barbless hook than one with a barb, so the next step was obvious: I squashed down the barb with pliers and cast out again.

On the Saturday we had decided not to keep any fish, but with partners back home enquiring about fresh fish for dinner we agreed to keep a few on Sunday. I should know by now that this is a great way to jinx yourself. Sure enough, we struggled to catch anything on Sunday and after several hours had managed just five modest flathead between three anglers. One more fish, we all agreed, would be enough. Ten minutes before 'home time' I had a reasonable tug on the line. I started to reel it in and half way back to the boat it got off. It was definitely one of those days.

"One more cast" was announced.

There was another subtle tap on the line and as I lifted the rod, the startled fish swam off towards the cover of nearby trees. It was big and heavy and powerful; I struggled to slow it down. Was it another big flathead? After a couple of long minutes, a flash of silver and yellow appeared beneath the boat. A mulloway!

We slipped the net under the fish and whooped and hollered like school kids. I grabbed the soft plastic lure and the hook slipped straight out. It was the barbless hook from the day before – and it did its job perfectly. After a couple of quick photos and with no thoughts of keeping this fish, we returned it to the water and it disappeared back into the depths. Wow!

I've since wondered; if the much smaller fish had stayed on the line would we have called it a day? Would I have missed the mulloway? Possibly. But in all likelihood we would still have had one more cast. That's the great thing about having 'one more cast', you've got to have a few of them to make sure the fish of a lifetime isn't just around the corner.

See you on the flats.

Graham Fifield, Flick & Fly journal

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May 7, 2014
ARRRGGHHH! Wade Eaton and Joel Taylor with the MASSIVE Jewfish caught near the Princess Highway Bridge at Batemans Bay
Rob's weekly fishing southern NSW report 0804

Off the back of a very busy autumn looking after tourists, some south coast charter boat operators are looking forward to winter when things quite down and they can so a little fishing for themselves. Anthony Stokman from the Complete Angler in Batemans Bay is one such person.

Anthony is looking forward to the possibility of another good Bluefin Tuna season, but in the meantime reports warm weather species are there for the taking.

You see the east Australian current continues to push down so it's looking like the warm waters are going to hang around through winter like they did last year last year. Sure there will still be that inshore drop down to 14 or 15 degrees, but the offshore water may stay quite warm. Last year marlin were being caught in June and a massive blue marlin being was weighed in at Bermi in August…don't be surprised if we see this again this year.

Mewan while some decent kingfish have finally made an appearance, but they are hit or miss. Good spots to include Durras, Moruya, Ulladulla and Jervis Bay. A good strategy is to chase snapper and flattys until the kings turn up…it's an each way bet.

Stand out species end of summmer and throughout this Autumn is definitely the dolphin fish. The FADS up and down the coast have been holding large numbers and plenty of fish mostly around the 80 to 90cm, but with some little rats and a few bulls amongst them.

With the FAD's fishing so well Anthony was keen to remind anglers about FAD etiquette. He remembers the days when he rushed out to a FAD with only lures in tow. Two other boats already there were setting up for a session with livies, so he thought he would do a couple of quick passes, try his luck and move on.

This obviously this didn't make the guys very happy and for good reason; he spooked their fish, and had he caught a couple they would've been more upset. First in is first served.. But karma got him back immediately because when he returned with livies he picked up two dollies quickly before another boat came and did what he did earlier and the fish shut down immediately.

The problem with motoring passed with lures is that it can push the fish down if they are a bit shy. There's days they are on the bite big time and motoring by with lures out the back can produce fish, pass after pass. But if the fish have been holding there for a few days or more and have been getting a lot of traffic they tend to get pushed down by the engines. So If you arrive at a FAD and people are quietly drifting by and catching fish with livies and you dont have any livies or bait-think before trolling!

The best approach is to find the direction of drift and park well away from the FAD and drift by it. Berley can be very helpful in raising fish and livies are always going to be your best option. Other options include jigging lures or hard bodies. This can be a lot of fun on light gear. Just don't be the clown dragging lures through 5 to 10 boats who are drifting quietly by. They are not going to be impressed and nobody will be catching fish.

The other thing to remember is once you do a drift by the FAD and you are some distance away from it don't be surprised if you hook up. When things are going smoothly and people are quiet the fish can be up and on the bite for some area around the FAD. But when you feel you have drifted out of the action. Start your engine and motor queitly out and well around the FAD and start the drift again. So slow and take your time and be quiet and everybody will catch fish instead of none.

There are still striped marlin getting around and there have been some great days in the last three weeks.

There has been some tuna poking around as well, including some sightings of what would be long tail tuna by diver; so now is the time where you could get one of these tasty speedsters from the deeper rock platforms.

Snapper have continued to stay in close over the last few months delighting expoerienced Rock fisherman. Boats fishing the shallows out to 15m's depth have also succeeded in resonable catches of snapper using light gear, especially on the last bit of the high tide when it co-incides with dawn and dusk.

In the estuary the big news of late is the giant jewfish Wade Eaton put Joel Taylor into. Wade and friends have been putting some serious hours into catching these fish, with good success, but nothing so far has matched the beast they caught near the Princess Highway Bridge. Their signature grunt 'Arrggghh' will be sounding for some time yet.

See you on the water...
Rob Paxevanos

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April 16, 2014
Digi Art Carp? Yes these fish deserve a little photo shop time too, as Derek Steel is happy to illustrate.
Rob's weekly fishing southern NSW report 0802

Were heading towards that time of year where many a best laid fishing plan unfortunately can come undone. The welcoming warmth of a doona and a sleep in has resulted in many an avid fisho reaching for the snooze button. Cooler months can be a real burden on local anglers, for many it seems like our only real fishing options are early first light hauls dodging Kangaroos for an Alpine Trout fix or day trip sorties chasing South Coast Snapper.

What if I told you (Nay, reminded you) that some of the best sports fishing action is a little closer to home, still gets he blood pumping and by participating you would be doing the world a favour and in turn yourself. To prepare your mindset it's time to reflect on the days of old, horrible hand me down fishing gear and the humble can of corn... And yes, sure you can substitute the corn for a rusty hook, oversized sinker and some Tiger Worms.

Known by the scientific name Cyprinus Carpio, Carp are often regarded as the world's most common Freshwater fish, and unfortunately the cause of many of our waterways concerns. Numbers are still in plague proportions Australia wide and locally appear in far greater numbers than when I was tackle rat. While that old Monaro Trout stream you spent trophy years on has well and truly dried up the Carp are still here where you left them on that picnic in 1985 all those years ago... And yes, you can target them on Fly, ultra finesse gear or the old battle winch.

With the advent of the modern rod and reel fishing for Carp has become more enjoyable than ever. Two piece rods are no longer frowned on and small quality reels can quite easily handle up to 7kg of drag pressure. No longer are beach fishing outfits with 12000 sized reels the norm, in fact it's quite the opposite. Some of the best Carp I have landed have been on lightweight gear, I might not be pumping and winding or reaching for the gaff but my angling skills are still being pushed to the limit the entire time. Dare to go down a line class or two and the action intensifies but techniques you used as a kid still apply... and yes, they still pull very hard.

So with all these references to a high quality sport where does 'Doing yourself a favour' come into it?

It's at this stage I would like readers to look beyond the fight and focus on the disposal. Don't worry I'm not about to go off on some tangent defending these pests, more the positive by-products of targeting said fish as an individual angler. While technically it's not illegal in the ACT and NSW to return Carp to the water once caught many clued up anglers actually target them for a purpose. Some fillet them up for Snapper bait: scale first and then fillet. Freeze the fillets for bait, keep the frame for fertilizer.

Some also quite happily eat them (Recent recipes look very tempting) but many just end up in a bin away from the water's edge... And yes, they stink to high heaven.

There is a healthy alternative to disposal that myself and friends have adopted. Using the same golden age philosophies such as planting a passionfruit vine on top of a liver (Or Ox Heart) we have been burying the whole fish or the frame in our Vegetable plots.

After several months results have shown Carp completely breakdown (Including bones), and its during this process that your plants and seedlings see ultimate benefits. Since we have employed this technique the results have been absolutely outstanding. Not only is it adding valuable nutrients to the soil but its only costing us a few cans of corn a year and very little of our precious free time... And yes, I'm sure some gardeners are plugging their noses!

Derek 'Paffoh' Steele -

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April 9, 2014
Grahame Fifield snuck into Meroo Lake to sample the excellent bream fishing on offer.
Rob's weekly fishing southern NSW report 0801

Flooding rain brings crocodiles to the surface and sends bream down deep

The South Coast has been drenched in recent weeks. During March, Batemans Bay received 160mm, Merimbula 175mm, Ulladulla 223mm, and Jervis Bay a whopping 376mm of rain. These volumes of freshwater flowing into your favourite fishing spot will certainly affect how and where you can catch a fish. But as reports of some big flathead as well as tailor and bream trickle in, it is clear that the fish are still around. Where to find them just seems to vary whether the system is open or closed to the ocean.

Closed lakes & estuaries

I was lucky enough to explore a renowned bream hotspot, Lake Meroo, recently. Less fortunate was that I arrived just a day after 200mm of rain had fallen and it was still coming down. The lake remained stubbornly closed to the ocean and the result was that the car park and vegetation fringing the lake were partially flooded.

My apprehension eased though, and not for the first time I might add, once I launched the Hobie. The lake was stunning, the vegetation mirrored on the water's surface and it was full of birdlife. I tasted the water on top, it was fresh. That was evidence enough to pedal towards the front in search of deeper, and hopefully saltier, water.

The theory goes that as freshwater floods in from the catchment above, the saltwater is pushed down towards the 'front'. As saltwater is heavier than fresh it will settle below, attracting fish like flathead, bream and tailor into the deeper water.

The theory seemed to work. I crossed paths with a few of the bream that Lake Meroo is famous for, all caught in 2.5 to 5 metres of water. The best technique was hopping small soft plastics slowly across the bottom on a light jig head - around 1/16th ounce (1.8 grams). Even fishing slowly, a smear with a scent attractant seemed to really help the fish find the lure. My guess is that they were relying more on smell and taste than visual cues in the murky water. Bait fisherman should do well in this scenario.

Open lakes, estuaries and rivers

On the same weekend, Canberra angler Liam Curtis was fishing at Lake Conjola near Ulladulla. In contrast to Lake Meroo, Conjola had just been opened to the sea with an excavator to allow the same 200mm deluge to escape. Wading in the shallows around the new entrance Liam landed a 92cm flathead in just 30cms of water. It walloped a small surface popper intended for a whiting. Big flathead like this are affectionately known as 'crocodiles' as their heads are roughly the same size.

He landed five more flathead in the shallows ranging from 50-75cm on a well-chosen Rapala XR6. Three other 'crocodiles' around a meter long took off in front of him as he (carefully) waded along. Clearly there were fish everywhere!

In systems that are open to the ocean, the tide can have a dramatic effect on water clarity and fish movement after heavy rains. On an outgoing tide, fish will generally head towards the entrance and even out onto adjacent beaches and headlands seeking respite from the discoloured fresh water.

Or as Liam discovered, as the tide turns and comes back in, cleaner saltwater from the ocean will fill the lower parts of the estuary bringing fish back in with it. If you get the chance, try fishing the line between the discoloured and clean water. Baitfish will hide in the safety of the murky water and predators are sure to be in hot pursuit. Did I mention Liam also caught a tailor on nearly every cast for half an hour?

With more rain forecast, focus your fishing on the lower reaches of the lakes and rivers. Fish in the deeper holes in closed lakes or around the entrance for the open ones. Try fishing slowly with scented lures or with bait - despite appearances there's still some great fish around.

See you on the flats.

Graham Fifield, Flick & Fly journal

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April 2, 2014
One of Rob Blacks nice Murray Cod from the Yass River
Rob's weekly fishing southern NSW report 0800

Yass River a surprisingly good local option by Rob Black

Having never fished the Yass River before, I was imagining all sorts of fishing wonderlands in my head as I drove down the Hume Highway with the Yak humming to me on top.

I wasn't disappointed; the opening stretch of river was dotted with logs crying out to be peppered with spinner-baits. Upon arrival at the Morton Avenue Bridge I realized launching would not be a problem but getting the Yak back out was going to be a difficult task with a rocky maze presenting itself from the road to the river at a nice steep angle. But with the early morning sun just poking up its head and lighting up the river, that was a problem I left for future me to worry about.

After gathering my array of weapons I ventured upstream in my little Hobie with the picturesque fog dancing off the water's surface and the sun gradually burning its way through. I was welcomed into the rural surrounds of the Yass river by a herd of cattle grabbing a morning drink, no doubt preparing for a big day of moo-ing and what not.

There were so many fishy spots I didn't know where to put my first cast: sunken logs, overhanging willow branches piercing the water, undercut banks and the odd boulder or rocky section just for good measure. You have to be careful not to get ahead of yourself which I found myself doing frequently. In trying to make each cast perfect I was thinking of my next cast before the current one had even landed. So adopting the principle of methodically working over the best and most fishy spots, I let my Spinner-bait slowly work its way through the murky water.

The further upstream I went the more structure there seemed to be in the middle of the river which was good as the structure on the bank was in relatively shallow water. But as I criss-crossed each snag with casts I was still yet to lure a green monster from its lair.

After bombarding snags for the first session with no joy, I was greeted with some very inviting sunken logs, one which was like an upside down dinner table with four legs pointing skyward.

I lobbed out in front of the snag and my lure started its slow decent into the sticky depths. WHACK. "Noooooooo" I screamed in my head (and likely out loud), I'd missed the hook up! In frustration I rushed the retrieve and with hands shaking, I duffed my next cast which was a sloppy flick to nowhere. The next cast was pin-point right where the first one landed. WHACK! WHACK! This was crazy - still no hook up! I twitched the rod tip to bring the spinner-bait back to life and as it shot up and then fluttered back down…WHACK! And yet, there was still no hook up! I knew that there was something down in the depths of that snag that wanted my lure big time!

The third cast was put back in the zone and like the times before I waited in anticipation for the strike. On queue there it was - WHACK! YES! It stuck! Never have I been so happy over a hook up (except when I first got together with my girlfriend Milly)! After a short wrestle out of the sticky jungle I had no problems bringing the green monster Yak-side! Well at 68cm he was hardly a monster but a Murray Cod none the less. After a quick measure and a few pics I watched him cruise back into the deep to tell his friends of his adventure.

The further I went the better snags got, and as I came around a bend of the river I was greeted with what looked like a dead tree highway.

On the next hookup a beast turned his head, kicked his huge paddle tail into top gear and had my 30lb braid streaking off the reel. I stood my ground (as best you can when sitting 30cm above the water in a kayak) and with a few clicks on the drag, a few lifts of the rod and some short sharp winds of the handle I was back dictating the terms of this battle.

A with a quick measure (86cm) and it was time for us to go our separate ways.

With the cool autumn air rolling in as the sun started to creep its way towards the hills, it was time to head home. As I peddled past the snags that I had done battle on earlier it was nice to know that I would be back one day to do it all again. Getting the Yak back onto the roof racks proved difficult as expected, but it was all worth it!

Rob Black

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March 26, 2014
Derek 'Paffoh' Steel with a fine brace of Clyde River Estuary Perch
Rob's weekly fishing southern NSW report 0799

Autumn is a great time of the year to ditch the rigours of work and get out and on the water; summer crowds begin to dwindle, the water gets a little cooler and some fish just seem to get hungrier.

I recently spent a few days travelling down the coast as far as Eden visiting friends, family…and fishing hard. And sure while not all species were enjoying the respite from the heat as much as I was, the ones I found obviously agreed it is a great time to inhabit the area.

While Kingfish have been off the menu at many spots, there has been some good numbers at times at Montague Island. At other two other hotspots I checked: Mowarry Point and Green Cape, the kings have slowed due to baitfish moving out to the shelf.

The far south coast has also been a little quite for marlin, there is enough for locals to target, buut if you have the choice between Jervis Bay and Brush Island is the hot spot at the moment.

In the estuaries and my experience is that Merimbula top lake and Pambula Lake fish very well on an outgoing tide, especially if your chasing a feed of Flathead or Trevally. This trip was no different; the 'Old Man' and I struggled at the start with worm styled plastics on light and heavy jigheads, but when the tide started to run out that the fish came on the chew. We found vibration lures like 'Blades' in bright gold/Yellow colours accounting for some great Flathead. Healthy smatterings of fishing scents were applied to all lures resulting in one particular session on Pambula becaming 'a fish a cast scenario' for hours on end.

From all reports Clyde River Jewfish have been about for those anglers putting in a good number of tide changes with live or fresh bait. Myself and fellow angler Beau Inkpen took my new bass boat to Nelligen for a shakedown but we were chasing species a little more bread and butter. With the tide up high I was keen to head as far up the system as the sandbar depths would allow. We fished the falling tide at Currowan Creek and found plenty of Bream and Tailor ripping and sipping surface amongst the rocks.

The highlight of the tip and real surprise was the abundance of big Estuary Perch. The sight of a decent EP on the way back to the boat with his mates in tow was a real eye opener. Right place, right tide we managed over a dozen large specimens off the surface using 40mm poppers and 65mm stickbaits. All were released except one for the tooth.

The trick was to use a light leader, cast as tight to structure as possible, countdown a long pause and work back as slow as possible.

Upon my return home to Canberra I received a tip off that small soft plastics fished around the National Museum walls were producing dozens of quality Redfin with a couple of 45 cm stonkers landed.

The National Museum envelopes the edge of the West Basin and is quite deep in areas but it's just around the corner on the shoreline towards the paddle boat hire and Ferry terminal that always fishes well for me. Featuring strewn rockbars cascading the whole length of the shore out into deeper water its like something out of an estuary reef system.

Schools of Goldfish and Carp have been spotted from the new Nishi building within casting distance over the last few days mid morning and afternoon…a great scenario to go polaroiding with lure and fly.

Finally all readers should note the 2014 Canberra Carp Out is on Sunday the 30th March. Run by the Canberra Fishermans Club, the event is a great chance for family members to get out on our iconic Lake Burley Griffin and educate our youngsters on the impacts that European Carp and Redfin have on our waterways.

Derek 'Paffoh' Steele

Derek owns and runs 'Import Tackle' in Canberra.

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March 19, 2014
YOU LITTLE WINNER! Jake Mikolic caught the biggest bream, beating many older more experienced anglers in the process.
Rob's weekly fishing southern NSW report 0798

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 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% of anglers recorded a legal-sized flathead and only 49 or 20% 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% 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.

See you on the flats.

Graham Fifield, Flick & Fly journal.

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March 12, 2014
Scott Thortons Mulloway caught in Batemans Bay with a vibe lure.
Rob's weekly fishing southern NSW report 0797

On the March for good fishing, by Anthony Stokman

What a difference a week makes, the cold upwelling has dissipated and the water temperatures are back up; you can now kick your shoes off and run into the water like its summer again!

More importantly for us anglers the previously strong current offshore has decreased significantly. We now have good amounts of bait holding and there's more game fish stopping to feed on some of these bait schools.

Since the last report quite a few marlin have been caught. A 180kg Blue Marlin was caught on the boat 'Square Meters', while a 133kg Blue Marlin was caught aboard 'Tania B' on the same day. Jem Abbot caught his first Striped Marlin and quite a few others have been tagged and released in the last week or so.

The Dolphin fish are still around but not quite as thick as a few weeks ago. However there was a still nice 15kg plus specimen caught off Bermagui.

Another species to be on the lookout for is Yellowfin Tuna; with all the different bodies of water out there creating current lines and temp breaks these prized fish are starting to become a little more common of late.

Much of the game is about getting out there and having a go to see what happens; one of my customers trolled in from The Continental Shelf the other day and as he reached a snapper mark in 60 meters of water he caught two 12kg yellowfin! The week before in the he trolled up a 75 kilo striped marlin in about the same area!

This indicates the game fish are well spread out and this is largely thanks to quality warm blue water now covering much of the coast.

The previous cooler water brought some salmon and tailor onto our beaches. These fish have remained for now, along with some whiting.

Good size snapper still seem to be in the shallow water, which has kept the odd one in reach for the rock fisherman; Stuart Ward caught himself a nice one last weekend.

For inshore boaties and kayakers fishing first light has been the key advantage to catching snapper in the shallows; anglers using soft plastics casting from the boats seem to be doing best during the dawn period. Interestingly we are seeing more hard bodies used on snapper with great success. A sinking vibe weighing between 17g and 30g is ideal depending on the depth and current. The Rapala Clackin Rap and Ripping Rap vibes are good examples, and I know friend Rob Paxevanos is a big fan of these lures for South Coast Snapper.

A lot of these fish are being caught in 4 to 8m of water. If you get up later and miss the dawn, then fret not, anglers are finding the odd snapper in 15 to 20m of water later on the same lures later in the morning. Or target dusk, this is another prime snapper bite time, but just bear in mind dawn has been slightly better in recent weeks.

There have also been some large mowies being caught in 15 meters of water and deeper, and if you miss out on snapper and movwies you can always drift and jig your lures or baits on the bottom in 20 to 40 meters for a typically reliable feed of flatties. One last thing on this scene; there's some tackle thieving leatherjackets getting around as well, so if you start losing lots of gear to bites offs it's best to move spots.

There is no real sign of good kingfish action locally just yet; just lots of people coming into the shop and asking where are they are! It goes to show how much people love catching these fish. There are a few kings further south at Montague Island and few up north at Jervis Bay. Only time will tell if these magnificent creatures get busy around our reefs, headlands and pinnacles around Batemans Bay.

Between the Christmas and Easter period is a popular time to target the elusive daytime Mulloway on lures, and you can now add vibes your plastic and bait fishing arsenal; they have worked just as well at times.

Sharks in the Clyde have have slowed up but the occasional small ones has been caught on fresh squid aimed at Mulloway at night.

For anglers seeking a tree change in the bush, the bass are still going great in the upper reaches of our coastal rivers. A small diving dark hard body has been getting these natives fired up, but there's also surface lure and spinnerbaits action in the right conditions.

So there you have it; plenty of options and I can't say it enough, pick one of the above species and target correctly to give yourself the best chance of going home happier.

Anthony Stokman

Anthony runs the Compleat Angler in Batemans Bay

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March 5, 2014
Southern NSW and ACT Anglers have a HUGE variety of fishing right on their doorsteps.
Rob's weekly fishing southern NSW report 0796

Spoilt for choice: fishing options around the capital region, by Graham Fifield

For recreational anglers, the capital region is an amazing place to live. Within a two-hour drive we have over 20 species of fish that we can catch on lures, flies and bait – and that's not counting the offshore possibilities.

Why am I telling a local audience how great the capital region is? I've been living in Hanoi for the past three months and one of the great things about traveling is coming back and seeing your home town with fresh eyes. Vietnam helped me to appreciate things I take for granted in Australia.

In Hanoi, the angling options are largely restricted to two possibilities. First, there are the freshwater lakes scattered across the city. These act much like Canberra's 'pollution control ponds'- only with 6.5 million people contributing to the pollution. The second option is the vast and imposing Red River which, as the name suggests, carries coloured silt down from the mountains. I missed the clear waters of home, and wanted to rediscover the many wonderful fisheries on our doorstep as quickly as possible. So last week I set out with my fishing buddy (and fellow 'Flick and Fly Journal' blogger) Lee Georgeson, to see what array of fish we could catch in just three days.

The adventure started solo on Lake Burley Griffin. I launched the kayak at dawn and peppered lures into the nooks and darkest underwater caves in search of the mighty Australian Murray Cod, or possibly a Golden Perch. Unfortunately the big storms we had a few weeks ago have left the water discoloured and the visibility poor. Not even the hordes of introduced English Perch could find the lures. So it was on to plan B, which was to fish a bait of sweet corn in the shallow sections of the lake favoured by European Carp. It wasn't long before one was tempted and within 60 minutes I had two more, the largest measuring 61 centimetres and weighing around four kilograms. A good start and great fun!

Lee and I then drove down the highway to one of the many trout streams in the Monaro region south of Canberra. As the sun set on a gorgeous tussock-lined river, I cast my lure upstream. A bow-wave erupted near my feet and a large fish took off up the river to investigate. Moments later my little lure connected with nearly 50 centimetres of brightly-coloured Brown trout. Wow.

We crossed the mountain range the next morning and descended towards the coast in search of the mysterious Australian Bass. After two hours of wading up a coastal river we were ecstatic to hook three and land two of these beautiful fish. As expected, they sat tightly in the cover of fallen trees but accurate casts with a bass-coloured lipless crankbait was enough to tempt them to leave home.

Grinning from ear to ear, we continued to the South Coast beaches. The tide and the sun were dropping but there were nice gutters to focus our casts. We were targeting predatory Australian salmon on lures. We could see fish everywhere, a large school of mullet, which showed their disinterest in us by swimming freely in the breaking waves. It didn't matter, the sun was shining, the sand was golden and the water crystal clear.

On the final day we launched a small tinnie and fished Wallaga lake. Typical of all South Coast estuaries, Wallaga can produce enough varieties of fish to fill an aquarium. Over the course of a few hours, we caught a dozen flathead, three small tailor, two baby snapper, a leatherjacket and a garfish on an array of soft plastic and hard-bodied lures. At times it felt like we had the whole lake to ourselves.

So in just three days, we were able to catch eight different fish from five unique fishing environments. Some of the fishing was world-class and nearly all of it was in a spectacular landscape. Importantly, there were fish that were 'easy' to catch and others that were much more challenging.

So whether you just got your first fishing rod for Christmas, or are looking for the next frontier in sports fishing, there is something here for you. It's good to be home, I can't wait to discover what else the region has to offer. We really are spoiled for choice.

See you on the flats.

Graham Fifield, Flick & Fly journal.

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February 26, 2014
(L to R) Tim Stewart and Charlie Jabbour with one of the spectacular and tasty Mahi Mahi that are in excellent numbers along the south coast.
Rob's weekly fishing southern NSW report 0795


Pic Caption: (L to R) Tim Stewart and Charlie Jabbour with one of the spectacular and tasty Mahi Mahi that are in excellent numbers along the south coast.
If you've dipped your toes on a South Coast beach this summer you will have felt the reach of a huge upwelling of cold water on our coastline, which in places dropped the temp to 16 degrees or less. This along with a strong offshore current has had a significant impact on saltwater fishing.

The swift Australian current has not allowed bait to hold on our continental shelf and so game fish have not been holding either, rather they are just travelling past swiftly with the flow. This means luck has been a big part in crossing paths with striped Marlin, which are usually more reliable, especially once they hold up and you can pinpoint them.

One thing that has been consistent is the temp breaks and water quality. Inshore waters have been quite murky, then halfway to the shelf it has been green and 19 degrees, followed by brilliant blue 22 degree plus water on the shelf.

It has been along this green to blue water line that there has been particularly good fishing for Mahi Mahi.

These fish love schooling around the floating debris which the current brings through; spot this and you will often find big numbers of these colorful and tasty fish. Many have been small, but there's some good ones in the mix.

Topcat Charters got a stunning 10 kilo Mahi Mahi and there have been some even bigger ones caught all up and down the South Coast. Most have been caught on trolled small to medium size skirts-pick a bright or flashy one to get them fired up.

The currents as expected have brought better numbers of small Black Marlin than previous years, mostly around the 30 to 40 kilo mark, but there's some good ones amongst them. For example amongst the typically small ones caught off the rocks at Jervis Bay earlier this year one well above 160kg was landed!

Striped Tuna have been out beyond the shelf and there is the odd big Blue Marlin feeding on these. Amongst the black marlin I've dropped 2 big blues and another busted me off in spectacular fashion. Meanwhile charter boat Aspro has an estimated 250 kilo blue straighten the hook at the boat. The occasional Wahoo or Spanish Mackerel has also been landed as the water temperatures peak.

The current has eased over the last few days and the striped marlin fishing has already picked up a gear as you read this, hopefully this trend continues as the striped marline are always more reliable than their strong current loving black and blue cousins.

Inshore, the combination of a lot of current and cold water pushing up against our coast is probably a contributing factor to why we are experiencing a lot of shark activity in our bays and river systems. It is not uncommon for the sharks to come into these systems to have their pups, but we have noticed a massive influx. Mostly Gummy Sharks, Bronze Whalers and Bull Sharks but also the odd Hammerhead and some sand shark species.

If you want a Gummy, which are a good table fish, anchor in a deeper part of the Clyde River and put a fresh squid down. Tide changes at dawn, dusk or night are best, and you might get a Mulloway along the way. Don't forget the Mulloway size limit is now 70cm.

If it's Snapper you're looking for then just offshore is the go. Topcat charters has found nice snapper up to 3 kilo's in approximately 10 to 20 meters of water. Even inside the bay has seen better than usual snapper fishing than usual with a few fish to 3kg, and lots of small kingfish at times.

Smokin' Drags, Anthony Stockman

Anthony Stockman runs the Complete Angler Tackle Store at Batemans Bay

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February 19, 2014
Carp are great fun on light tackle or on the fly rod, as Hamish Webb demonstrates.  Why not take one home for dinner?
Rob's weekly fishing southern NSW report 0794

Carp - If you can't beat em, eat em!

Growing up and fishing around Canberra the first carp recipe I ever heard was as follows. Place a fresh carp fillet in a pot of simmering water. Add a small round stone from the river and simmer for 10 minutes or until the fish is cooked. Remove the carp from the pot and discard. Serve the hot stone. Since then, I've heard a similar joke involving a plank of wood. Needless to say many Australians don't think much of carp as a table fish. A couple of recent experiences however suggests that we've been far too quick to dismiss carp as a dinner option.

A favorite amongst Vietnamese Australians, carp are enthusiastically fished and farmed in Vietnam. I've just returned from an extended stay in Hanoi and every afternoon the ladies at our local markets sold fresh carp steaks. Seafood restaurants had aquarium tanks full of carp where you could choose the fish you wanted to eat for dinner. The steaks were plunged into a simmering hotpot of rich tomato soup and spices. Served with some wilted greens and noodles, I'm happy to admit it was quite nice, although the soft texture and small bones detracted from the experience. I guess it's an acquired taste.

There is another method of preparing carp though, one which guarantees a great tasting meal. At a recent carp fishing competition in Boorowa, Keith Bell, of K&C fisheries, cooked up some carp for hungry anglers. Keith didn't hide the fish in a rich curry sauce or strongly flavoured soup. Instead, he rolled small pieces of carp in flour, salt and pepper, and fried them. As the locals tried it, eye brows were raised and jaws dropped. They were delicious. Before long, he couldn't keep up with the line of young children asking for second and third helpings.

The way Keith prepares the fish is really important, starting with respect for the fish. Once caught, immediately plunge the fish into an ice slurry to euthanize it and prevent the build-up of histamines and other stress-response chemicals. Similar to tuna, these chemicals cause a strong and unpleasant taste.

Back at home, fillet the fish as you would any other 'round' fish like a salmon, cutting around the rib cage. Skin the fillets and then carefully remove the white flesh that covered the rib cage and belly. A second piece of white flesh can be cut from across the shoulders. The white flesh has no bones and a mild pleasant taste, lending itself to dozens of recipes. If the strongly flavoured and bony red meat doesn't appeal to you, I'm sure the family cat will happily scoff it down. You'll save a few dollars on tinned cat food and keep a handful of pilchards swimming in the ocean.

Carp now make up 70-90% of the total weight of fish in most of our freshwater rivers and lakes. The good news is that two average-sized carp, prepared as above, can feed a family of four. If we all ate fish for dinner just once per week, we could take an estimated 600 million carp out of our waterways each year. Who knows, a concerted fishing effort in one stretch of river might just tip the balance back in favour of our native fish.

If you can't be convinced to eat carp just yet, take them home for bait, cat food, or fertiliser. Please don't leave them on the bank. After a day or two in the hot sun they smell terrible and ruin the spot for everyone else. But if you're a tiny bit adventurous, give the preparation techniques above a go. Or even better, try serving carp at your next BBQ - just don't tell your friends what type of fish it is until they're asking for a second serve.

See you on the flats!

Flick & Fly Journal

Acknowledgment: If you can't beat em, eat em! was the title used by the Lachlan Catchment Management Authority for their community awareness and carp recipe competition. Detailed filleting instructions with photos can be found on Keith's website: and a video is available by searching "how to catch, prepare and cook carp" on Youtube.

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February 5, 2014
A big bream on Soft Plastics, like this ripper caught at Wallaga Lake by Lee Georgeson, is a milestone for any angler.
Rob's weekly fishing southern NSW report 0782

Master South Coast Bream on Plastics and the rest is easy…by Graham Fifield

In this corner of Australia Trophy bream on soft plastic lures are the holy grail for weekend and competition anglers. There's a saying that if you can catch bream on soft plastics, you can catch anything that swims. This is because bream can be difficult to catch on lures and require a good grounding in all the basic skills for weekend anglers.  The big old fish also have a reputation for cunning and make a fine adversary for experienced competition anglers. Whether your motivation is to catch your first big bream, or to claim top honours at an upcoming competition, with these five tips you'll be well on your way.

Bream love hiding near hard structures, especially fallen trees, oyster leases, moored boats, bridge pylons and rock walls.  They don't like to stray far from home to chase a lure though, so tip 1 is to cast accurately.  The best bream anglers regularly land their lure less than two metres from the structure.

Bream are timid and will often sit in the shadows just underneath a submerged log or moored boat, or beside a vertical rock wall or bridge pylon.  So tip 2 is to pick the correct weight of jig head for the conditions. If the head is too heavy, the lure will sink straight past the fish's nose. Too light and the fish might be looking up at your lure in bewilderment. As a rule, stray on the lighter side and allow time for the lure to sink slowly in a more natural fashion.  One to two grams (1/16 – 1/24 oz) is a good starting point, but be willing to go heavier or lighter as conditions dictate.  Have two or three different weights prepared - experimenting is half the fun. Bream have small mouths so keep the hook size down to #1 or #2.

Tip 3 is to use a soft plastic that is the right size and shape.  The most popular plastics for bream are curly-tailed grubs, 2-3 inches long, in transparent pink, red, silver or brown.  Once you've settled on a jig head and plastic combination, the next challenge is the retrieve. Tip 4 is to perfect the 'twitch-pause retrieve' that is synonymous with bream fishing.  It keeps the lure near to the structure and is vital to attract a bite.  Cast into a likely spot and let the lure sink.  Twitch the rod tip upwards just a few inches and let the lure slowly sink again.  Maintain contact with the lure by winding in the slack as you drop the rod tip. Keeping the line taut is important because a bream will usually suck in the lure as it is sinking and you will need to react quickly before it spits it out.  If you're in doubt how long to wait between twitches, let the lure sink to the bottom each time.

Tip 5 is to ensure you've got the right gear.  Experienced tournament anglers are adamant that bream bite less often on heavy fishing lines.  Too light however, and you risk snapping the line while trying to keep the fish away from rocks or timber.  Six pound line - either as monofilament main line or as a rod length of leader - is a good place to start.  If the fish are shy, try downsizing to 4lb.  Non-stretch braided main lines in the 4-6lb class are popular, matched with 1000-2500 sized reels and 1-4kg rods.  Light set ups are required to accurately cast these small lures.

Tuross bream and flathead competition, March 8 & 9 Once you're comfortable with these techniques, why not test your skills against other anglers for the ultimate bragging rights in the annual Tuross bream and flathead competition?  This catch-and-release tournament has $5,000 worth of prizes and the chance to win $50,000.  Prizes will be given for the longest bream, the longest flathead, and the longest total length for two of each species.  Entry forms and further details can be found at

At first you might find it hard to catch bream on soft plastics but stick with it. The first fish will be supremely satisfying and as you learn how to fish different structures by perfecting your casting accuracy, jig head, plastic and line choice, you'll become a much better angler. You might even take home a trophy!

See you on the flats.

Graham Fifield, Flick & Fly journal.

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January 15, 2014
South Coast visitor Stuart Smith with a superb South Coast Female Flathead, carefully handled and replaced to make more little flathead.
Rob's weekly fishing southern NSW report 0782

Great fun to be had in the shallows on the south coast, 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.

See you on the flats.

Graham Fifield, Flick & Fly journal.

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