By Craig Edmonds of Jim’s Bait and Tackle, San Remo

Steve with more of the spoils from recent night fishing expeditions.

An office hours fish paid off for Will, with a good snapper and a few pinkies.

Night fishing this season has been slow but still worth the effort if the conditions are fine, as demonstrated by Steve.

Richard, with one of the many genuine 20lb snapper seen around the bays this year.

IT IS rock lobster time, or crayfish as most will call them, but there are a few changes of which you must be aware if you are going to be taking them this season.
All the exact information can be found in the fisheries book or on the fisheries website, with the biggest change being the introduction of tags: you must go to the website in the book, www.vic.gov.au/lobstertag, where you will need to register and apply for tags, 20 of which will be sent out to you free of charge. These tags must be attached to every cray that you catch, and while I haven’t seen the tags as yet, I would assume they are a single-use tag. I am being told that there will be a certain amount of leniency given to people while the system is introduced, but I am also being told they won’t be quite so forgiving if you are caught a second time after being given a warning and you still haven’t registered. I would also suggest that if you have tags the, “Sorry but I forgot to bring them with me” line might not work either, especially as they have the ability to look it all up on a computer. They say this is to help with the management of the fishery and could be a snapshot into the future of other fisheries like shark and tuna will be managed. Let’s hope that once these type of systems are put in place the next step isn’t having to hand over more money each year to purchase these tags or a greater restriction on the recreational angler. Time will tell, I guess.
The last week has been by far the best week of the season to date, especially over the weekend. We didn’t get anything really big but we did get plenty of quality fish for the table. Apart from the species that don’t live here, there weren’t too many types of fish that weren’t reported, and I could easily fill two pages this week. The reports were good, both from in the bay and offshore, and it was one of those times of the year when not only the fish played their part but the weather lined up as well. You could fish morning in the bay on the reds, head offshore around lunch time for the flathead, and then come back in the bay and fish for the whiting in the evening.
The best of the snapper reports came from very early morning, and it wasn’t too uncommon for customers to tell us they bagged outr. The best time was just before sun up until around 8.00am, at which time they seemed to switch off. The deeper water seemed to work better earlier in the day as well, and most of those reports came from Rhyll/ Silverleaves, and up towards Elizabeth island. We didn’t see or have too many monsters reported, but there were plenty around the 5kg mark. We also had a lot of smaller pinkies around the 30cm to 40cm reported with most of those reports during office hours, as the saying goes, and from shallower water. That was the pattern for those who went out late or stayed out most of the day. As the day went on the snapper started moving around and the bigger ones became hard to find whereas the pinkies seem to wake up and were much easier to catch. Across the corals and around some of the shallower edges of the channels were the places to target the pinkies. The occasional larger snapper was caught during the day with no one spot any better than any other.
The numbers of calamari caught in the boats were nothing special but that’s normal for this time of the year, with most people heading down into the bight to get a couple and then ending up chasing something else with the fresh bait. Those who did stay, which were probably more likely to be kayak customers, managed their bag without too many problems. The beach reports were up and down with the reports and it was as if the calamari were acting more like salmon than squid. Some people didn’t manage to see a single calamari, whereas others almost bagged out. Customers said they came on the bite for no particular reason and only stayed around for a short time. One customer told me he had been on the beach for almost two hours with a baited jig under a float while casting an artificial around the place, when the float went under. Before he could bring it in he hooked one on the artificial one, dropped it on the beach, quickly landed the one under the float and cast the artificial back in a few more times, dropping them on the beach as fast as he could until eventually they stopped as fast as they’d started. He managed eight in about five minutes. He then stayed for another hour going home, taking only the eight as he didn’t see another one for the whole remaining time.
The jetties were a bit more difficult and towards the end of the tides a lot of weed would turn up making it more frustrating because you could see the calamari in the water, but the weed was faster than them at getting onto your jig. For the rest of the tide the calamari were caught, but they were caught slowly, and the size was only average also. Perseverance paid off for most.
Whiting reports were steady while only the very few managed to bag out. Most customers told us that they only managed double figures at best, but were more than happy with that because of the quality of the fish they were pulling in. Like most of the fishing in the bay the bookends of the day were the best, better in the evening with a bit of a struggle during the middle of the day, not necessarily to find them but to get them to bite. Some of the best reports this week and a pattern we are seeing more and more is the whiting being targeted and caught after the sun goes down, and it also seems to be where the bigger whiting are more active. Cleeland Bight in the morning and the top end towards the Bass river, Dickies Bay later in the day. Those targeting whiting from the land are yet to have much luck and we have only had a handful reported over the last couple of weeks.
Offshore we have had some picture-perfect mornings over the last week. It has been especially good for anybody who was heading out of the eastern entrance as the sun was coming up, and it doesn’t get much better with the early morning sun on the glassy calm ocean. When it is that nice out on the water the fishing is just a bonus, but it was reportedly very good, making the day even better, and there weren’t too many that came home without at least a feed of flathead with them.
As I said earlier we had plenty of reports this week and some of the other reports were: a 40kg bronze whaler shark caught off Rhyll; an estimated 70kg Mako shark lost at the boat off the windmills; two gummies over 12kg off Kilcunda; plenty of flathead offshore; pinkies on some of the rough ground offshore towards Kilcunda; pike; couta; salmon; seven gill sharks; and some arrow squid offshore as well. In the bay we had three genuine 20lb snapper reported this week, and we are starting to see plenty of flathead, including ones that are worth keeping, and two gummies only a few grams under 10kg, plus some other respectable 8kg ones.
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