Tips for holiday anglers

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FISHING can be a true test of patience and youngsters will soon tire of sitting around waiting vainly for a bite. STEVE COOPER provides some shortcuts to keeping the kids happy and providing plenty of fish to fry:

IT’S THE festive season and for many folks that means holidays somewhere, and, of course, that means packing the fishing tackle. That’s the easy part, it’s finding fish that can make life hard. More so if you have some young anglers on board who not only want to catch fish, but expect you to produce fish on demand for them. Here are a few tips that may make your life a little easier:

What kids do on holidays, at least those not addicted to electronic games.
What kids do on holidays, at least those not addicted to electronic games.

The first thing to realise is that fish are attracted to areas that offer both protection and a food source. Wherever small fish swim, big fish follow. In the salt-water, estuaries offer the most consistent and productive fishing opportunities, and here you need to look for structure: weed beds, reefs and jetties are the easiest places to start fishing.

Bream is an estuary favourite and can be caught in most Victorian estuaries including the Yarra and Maribyrnong Rivers within cooee of Melbourne CBD.
Bream is an estuary favourite and can be caught in most Victorian estuaries including the Yarra and Maribyrnong Rivers within cooee of Melbourne CBD.

Bays are a little harder, although as long as there is a pier handy there will always be a chance of fish. Pier pilings attract growths of weed and molluscs such as mussels. The weed that clings to these pilings offers cover and hosts small invertebrates that in turn attract small fish, which in turn are a magnet for larger fish.

Families like to fish together at places like the pier at Corinella.
Families like to fish together at places like the pier at Corinella.

To increase your chances of success in both scenarios you should use berley. A mix of chook pellets, bread and tuna oil is a good start. I like to cut up pilchards or fish to mix into the berley. Small plastic berley pots can be purchased for less than $20. This can either be sat on the bottom or left suspended in mid-water.

Flathead are plentiful in bays and estuaries.
Flathead are plentiful in bays and estuaries.

Remember that for berley to work well it must disperse, and that means it needs current. Keep the berley to a fine mist, as you don’t want to feed the fish, just give them the scent to wet their appetites. If you don’t want to mix up a berley, buy yourself a few cans of el cheapo cat food, the one with the pilchards mixed in. It is a ready-made berley in a can, not as messy but a more expensive option.

In the fresh water there are plenty of opportunities for both trout and native fish. As far as trout go, hot weather will keep them down in the cooler areas of a river or lake. Consequently, the best times to fish are early morning, when the surface water is coolest, or just as the sun is going down and the light fading.

Rainbow trout are common in most Victorian lakes and impoundments.
Rainbow trout are common in most Victorian lakes and impoundments.

In rivers or streams, trout will tend to stay along an overhanging bank, preferably in deeper holes. If the day is overcast and not too hot, and an insect hatch occurs, then you will find trout feeding along the edges of current lanes, or at the bottom of riffles or runs. If there is a boulder or large rock in the river, chances are a trout will settle in to the front or behind the boulder as water tends to disperse around it and insects are often washed into the vortex.

For native fish such as Murray cod and yellowbelly, heat is not a big factor. After all, unlike trout, this is their environment. Murray cod and yellowbelly are best sought out in areas providing cover for protection and ambush. This means fishing around the extremities of snags, or in those areas where there is an indentation in the bank.

If you intend fishing with bait, the first rule is that it must be fresh for the best results. Trout love a fresh scrubworm, mudeye or minnow. Artificial bait like Powerbait catches trout, but it will never replace the wriggles, smells or reaction of fresh bait. Native fish find fresh bardi grub or shrimp difficult to resist, and a bunch of scrubworms is about as good a bait as there is for yellowbelly. In recent years, anglers fishing for Murray cod have found cheese, chicken and even salami a successful substitute for natural bait.

In the festive season it is common for families to fish together.
In the festive season it is common for families to fish together.

In the salt-water try and source fresh bait before you go in and buy the frozen types. Hermetically sealed, snap frozen bait is not in the same class as fresh bait.

Locally sourced fresh bait is always the first option for the serious angler. There are restrictions on bait gathering these days so make sure you are aware of Fisheries regulations in regard to the area you are staying before you start pumping worms and yabbies, or collecting mussels from pilings.

Fish such as salmon and mullet are excellent for bait, as are squid, and there is always a chance of a squid around a pier so make sure you have a squid jig ready just in case.

Small snapper or pinkies are caught in good numbers from piers and breakwalls
Small snapper or pinkies are caught in good numbers from piers and breakwalls

If you prefer lures, then in the saltwater I would suggest soft plastics, preferably those with a scent additive. Plastics made from protein-based materials, are the flavour of the month for species like bream and estuary perch; metal lures such as Lasers or Halco Twisties do well on fish like salmon and barracouta. Top freshwater lures include small-bibbed minnows or No 1 and No 2 Celtas for trout, StumpJumpers, Oargees and spinnerbaits.

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Author: Steve Cooper

STEVE COOPER won two Walkley Awards for investigative journalism but his great love is fishing and he is renowned as one of Australia’s foremost writers and broadcasters on the subject.

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