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By Dan Trotter on May 24, 2017 in Sport

Photo: Dan Trotter

With all the crappy weather over the last couple of months, I thought it would be interesting to contemplate openly the difficulty of finding and catching fish consistently in the estuaries when the ocean has been turned chocolate brown and pea green by rough waves and bucket loads of rain. It certainly isn’t the easiest set of conditions to catch a feed in, so here’s what I’ve learnt over the years…

Firstly, remember that saltwater is heavier than freshwater, so the fresh surface layer is going to be separated from the deeper, denser salty layers, unless there’s just been so much rain and runoff that separation isn’t possible. With that in mind, try areas of your local estuary where there are deeper sections. This can at times be a real jackpot, as fish tend to congregate in order to get out of the fresh water.

On the flipside, flicking lightly weighted soft-plastics or working hard-bodied lures where there’s run-off draining into an estuary can pay dividends. Stormwater drains, small creeks or waterfalls all carry food in the form of insects and terrestrial animals. Whilst this may seem strange, fish the world over have been eking out a subsistence diet from ‘drains’ for millennia.

Tidal current lines also provide an excellent moving location to work lures both deep and shallow. To understand this you need to realise that the different salinity and/or temperature levels actually create a physical barrier to smaller baitfish, prawns, etc., because the osmotic pressure in their cells prevents them from moving between the two.

Larger predatory fish can easily withstand these forces due to their larger body size.

Calm spots in turbulent seas can also be a boon. Just as most terrestrial animals seek refuge from storms and wind, so to do fish. If they can escape wild, rough seas they will; if there’s a small pocket along a coastline, or an easy swim into the closest estuary, this is where you will find the fish that can make the journey safely. Take the picture in this month’s article, for instance, of local angler ‘Dylan’ making the best of the bad conditions and catching himself a feed of black drummer. Similarly, there were many stories of good catches of snapper during the recent storms just inside the harbour off the rocks with deep water running nearby.

Finally, areas where you can safely fish the ocean from a boat close to an estuary will often provide a real reward in otherwise unfishable conditions. My mates and I recently headed down to Jervis Bay and had a weekend of murky waters and solid three to four-metre swell, coupled with a 20-30 knot southerly. Rather than stay in bed, we figured we were there to fish, so by the time the sun was shining over the white caps we were as close to the heads as we could get, catching bait and getting ready to anchor where we could comfortably fish the run-out tide on the lee side of Bowen Island. What followed was three-hour session full of laughter, quality snapper, samson fish and large cruising sharks interested to see what we were up to.

Whilst fishing in less than ideal conditions can be testing, the rewards are there if you know where to look.



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