Look out! We’ve got a floater
  |  First Published: July 2017

There will be pretty much only one thing on most anglers’ minds this month and that is snapper. The cuttlefish will be in full spawning mode and many will die and float to the surface after their big effort, and many more will be predated on by other species and eventually find their way to the top.

This means there will be tonnes of food for all and sundry, and the snapper will be here in numbers to take full advantage of this feeding opportunity, gorging themselves until they can eat no more. Then eating more anyway.

Most mornings will see a west or southwest wind blow at up to 20 knots early before dropping back to between 5-10 knots by mid morning. This makes the close inshore waters very calm, even if there is a little swell about. There are perfect conditions for hunting reds on the surface.

On good mornings you will see them from over a kilometre away thrashing on the surface, throwing spray into the air as they use that massive tail to drive down after grabbing a mouthful of floating cuttlefish.

Being school fish there will usually be a few on the one cuttlie, often taking turns to rip the flesh off in large chunks, and on rare occasions, the ocean under the cuttlefish will be orange with a whole school up under the floater picking up the bits as each one smashes the surface a takes a bite. These times are rare but a sight that will be burnt into your memory if you are lucky enough to see it.

For the most part, these days you will work your way from floater to floater, casting your bait into the wind to land it as close to the spent cuttlie as possible, then drifting away with the bail arm open to allow the bait to sink down as naturally as possible.

From my observations, over the past few years most anglers fishing this method will be lucky to get a bite as the one ingredient needed in this method of fishing is stealth, something that seems to be missing in fishing these days.

The anglers who get consistent good results on big fish move as quietly as possible even between floaters as most fishing is done in less than 10m of water, so the fish are always on edge and take flight at any hint of danger and high revving motors. Even revs slightly above idle mean danger.

Racing from floater to floater pretty much puts all the fish in the area on alert and down on the bottom in a very short time, you may as well go home after that.

Using light line if using mono, or leaders if using braid will also enhance your bites. Around 6kg is the maximum for best results, and as you go higher the bites get less and are halved or even worse once you get to 10kg line. Let’s face it, not many reds will bust a competent angler no matter how big on 6kg tackle with a smooth drag.

The other alternative is to pick your reef, put the anchor down and hit the berley and bring them to you. There are plenty of smaller fish about, and you will pick up the big ones as well as they move about the reef system looking for pieces of cuttlefish. There is always a constant berley stream over many of the breeding reefs as the albatross make short work of most of the floaters as soon as they hit the surface.

Half a dozen albatross fighting over a big cuttlie leaves a lot of pieces drifting down the water column to be picked up by all manner of fish living on the reef.

Snapper are not the only fish nailing the cuttlefish, as just about everything with fins will be looking for bits this month, and it will be the only bait to use, even on the beaches, over the coming weeks.

Kings, groper, Samson fish, big bream, trevally, mulloway and lots and lots of sergeant baker will all be around in numbers mixing it with the snapper on the floaters. Even the odd flathead will get in on the madness if your bait gets too deep near some sandy patches.

You can use plastics for a bit of fun, but when there is so much bait and the fish are tuned in to the cuttlefish, this can get a bit challenging. This is also made hard when the leatherjacket are so thick they destroy most plastics the moment they get close to the bottom.

Leatherjackets will be a nuisance if anchored and make short work of your bait if there are a few in the area. Small long shank hooks and a small sinker will catch heaps if you like them, but for the rest of the time, no weight will be required to keep your bait drifting down through the water column and looking as natural as possible.

The other species that will be on sport and game anglers’ mind will be southern bluefin tuna. They are generally very wide when they hit our area of the coast, but many anglers will be heading east looking for them. With all the technology about these days and social media, the schools are virtually tracked every step of the way as they head up the coast.

Unlike most other fishing, which is all secrets, the first boat to find them on the day calls in every one else as more berley and cubes in the water keep the big schools up and grabbing everything that moves, sometimes all day making for some hectic fishing.

The other tuna, the yellowfin tuna, have been quiet this year with unfavourable water keeping them elsewhere.

Mako sharks, a few blue sharks and the odd albacore has added a little extra on some days.

Back inshore, there are plenty of good salmon about grabbing pillies in the washes and it has been an excellent year for tailor all along the coast, particularly during the evenings around the bommies and islands.

If the snapper don’t find your berley, there are plenty of trevally to keep you busy and bream in the very shallow bays and harbours.

The bottom bouncers are scoring plenty of snapper too, with mowies, pigfish and the odd Samson fish in the mix. The flathead have gone quiet, with a few for those who are really keen to put in the effort.

On the rocks, there are snapper snooping around the deeper ledges and again, cuttlefish is the go-to bait. A few kings have been about on the dawn patrol, but as soon as the sun comes up they are gone.

Salmon are about on most ledges, grabbing pilchards and strip baits, while there are plenty of drummer and a few blackfish in the suds on every rocky outcrop with some good fish to 3kg coming in. Cunjevoi, cabbage weed and royal red prawns fished under a small float will score plenty, or just fish the cunjevoi and prawns unweighted in the wash.

If it gets calm, there will be some groper around the deeper ledges too. They like the cooler water and are a real challenge off the stones. Grab a few crabs and take the chance of hooking one, getting it out will be a different matter.

On the beaches there are still good numbers of solid tailor in the deeper gutters, particularly just after it gets dark. Pilchards, fresh slabs of mackerel or yellowtail are good baits to get them going. There are more salmon than tailor and you will pick them up from just before sundown and from the early hours of the morning until sunrise. There are some big ones to over 4kg about and they go pretty hard on the right tackle.

Mulloway are about as well, with some good fish in the mix with fair numbers of schoolies to keep you interested between big bites. Most beaches with deeper gutters and a few tailor in them are attracting the mulloway.

Bream are still an option, but they are not as thick as they were last month, and five fish for the morning would be a good result, but there are the other species thrown in so there is some reasonable fishing to be had on the beaches.

If you are looking at fishing the lake or Minnamurra, you will do it tough with just a few bream around the weed beds around Primbee, and they will make you work hard. The best option would be feeding peeled prawns into the snags in the feeder streams to tempt a few resident bream.

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