Winter holidays make for great family fishing
  |  First Published: June 2017

It would appear that the autumn fishing, like the weather this season, is late with some of the best fishing conditions over the recent weeks. Fine weather, school holidays and public holidays usually mean one thing – plenty of kids fishing. That has certainly been the case. Over this period dad becomes the bait man and of course the pocket money ATM, but it’s money well spent.

Over the last few years there are more and more young anglers coming in that are well educated in the ways of fishing and more than capable of putting it into practice. Things have changed over the years and our customers are made up of far more dads and daughters now. We recently ran a fishing competition for charity and the girls took out all the major prizes with quality fish that the adult anglers were envious of.

It’s great to see the kids out on the jetties and in the boats in the fresh air having a go. This should be encouraged as much as possible.

Patience was something needed by all over the last few months with the odds stacked in the favour of the fish and not those chasing them. It has nothing to do with a lack of fish in the bay, but rather the complete opposite. There’s an abundance of fish and the largest species are of the baitfish varieties.

There are more baitfish in the bay now than most can remember, from schools of very small bluebait fish to slimeys, yakkas and even bay trout – something that hasn’t been seen for a while. Anglers are catching fish that are full of these baitfish with gummies and bigger snapper full of shellfish. While this is an excellent sign for the bay, showing just how healthy it is, it means anglers must use a little more thought and planning.

With so much for the fish in the bay to eat, the condition of those being caught is excellent and customers are telling me they are getting a decent meal out of a 45cm whiting. Only catching 10 or so fish turns into a good day’s fishing.

All the usual areas have been productive at one stage or another, but it has been hard work. The best reports from the Cowes/Ventnor areas have come from my kayak customers fishing along the edge of the weed beds on the last of the run-in tide. At San Remo the boats have faired better fishing below the bridge on the run-out and above on the run-in. This changed when large schools of couta moved in below the bridge and the whiting became very timid.

Great reports also came from kayak customers working around the Bass River entrance and up past the Magi Shoal peg. The key has been to move often, but not far, and berley lightly with quality product. Pilchards are the best and cocktail baits with a combination of pipis, squid and pilchard fillet are great. The best we have seen recently was a 55cm fish that weighed in at 935g. The average is closer to 40cm.

Calamari are continuing to frustrate both land and boat fishers. Little has changed since Christmas. A promising amount of reports have come in recently of huge schools of small calamari, looking more like a patch of cloudy water until they come close. They grow so quickly it won’t be long before they are attacking jigs and become bait or food.

San Remo Jetty, normally the best jetty for calamari has seen a few caught. They haven’t been in the numbers expected and the fishing for them has been all over the place, and not at the normal change of light. The best reports have come from kayak anglers fishing weed beds off the boat ramp at Cowes and in Cleeland Bight.

One of the better jetties has been at Rhyll. This is slowly becoming another major area to target them. Night time is the best. As the water gets a bit colder and less clear, more baited jigs are working, especially if there is a bit of weed around, because a very small piece of weed on an artificial jig will turn away a squid.

With so many squid off the Rhyll Jetty it’s no real surprise that several gummies have been caught recently. The reports from the Rhyll Jetty have been better than any of the other land-based areas for gummies and even better than some of the popular boating spots. There have been plenty of other fresh baits around the jetty with mullet and small salmon. Boats have produced mixed results with plenty of undersize gummies and schoolies in the bay. There aren’t a lot of bigger keepers.

Offshore the swell has been too big to get to the gummies. I still get a couple of reports from those chasing flathead off Woolamai. With the water cooling down there have been plenty of seven-gill sharks both in the bay and offshore. Every year we see several hammerhead pups in the bay. Recently I have seen larger ones around the 1.5m mark.

There have been a lot of anglers complaining about being bitten off, which could be several species. After a big bronze whaler was hooked and almost made it back to the boat before it wore through the leader, many think it probably has something to do with the lost rigs.

To continue the strange season there has also been a small great white reported several times now around in the bay, especially around the top light of the main channel at San Remo. It hasn’t been hooked, but has been seen jumping and has wandered up to the back of a few boats. It’s said to be around 8ft long.

The waders and rain coats have been well and truly dusted off or washed off by now. The hardened land-based fishers are out and about. It can be cold and wet standing on a jetty or a beach through winter. If you’re prepared with good wet weather gear it can be rewarding as well. Generally, you don’t have the crowds on the jetties, which makes it a bit easier to fish the strong currents. For those who fish the beaches, a 2-3km walk up and down the beach can be a great winter workout. Grab a beach spinning outfit and a long but light rod and casting reel. Then all you need is a handful of lures.

Boats shouldn’t be forgotten during winter. Now is a great time for bait collecting, trying out new toys you might have fitted to your boat, giving the older kids driving practise and making sure they know how to start or drive the boat if something happened to you.

While it’s quiet at the boat ramps, if you are new to boating it is also a great time to sharpen your launch and retrieval. Then when the season comes around you are ready to go. The other thing to do during winter is take your time getting to where you are going and sound around looking for new fishing areas.

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