No matter what time of year your holidays happen to fall in, there's somewhere to fish. Steve 'Starlo' Starling shares his top spots and target species for every month in the calendar.
JANUARY: Every man and his dog is on holidays and our waterways are busy, but it’s a great time of the year to go fishing! It can pay to get up early to avoid both the crowds and the sea breezes, the effort is worth it. Coffin Bay, in the west of South Australia, is a wonderful summer destination for boat fishers, and at this time of the year it offers everything from prolific garfish, tommy rough and King George whiting in the shallows to kingfish and snapper further out. Bring the squid jigs, too.
FEBRUARY: Bluewater game and sport fishing along the south-eastern seaboard really begins to hit its straps in February. Water temperatures are consistently high and the cobalt currents flowing along the continental shelf now carry all manner of tropical visitors; from marlin and tuna to wahoo and even mahi-mahi (dolphin fish). Port Stephens, on the mid-north coast of NSW, is the place to be, and this port plays host to several major fishing tournaments in February and March.
MARCH: Exmouth, in the north of Western Australia, is a real angler’s town, and represents a wonderful destination for the footloose fisher. March can be one of the best months for a variety of species off Exmouth: both in the Indian Ocean and inside the Gulf. The annual GAMEX Tournament takes place late in the month and typically sees records broken on everything from billfish to trevally and queenfish.
APRIL: This month sees the weather settling into more predictable patterns in southern seas, and with those settled conditions comes some of the best fishing of the year. Southern bluefin tuna stocks have bounced back spectacularly over the past decade, and there are few better places to target these exciting sportfish than the blue waters off Eaglehawk Neck and Tasman Island on Tasmania’s south-east coast. Both school-sized fish and heavyweight jumbo tuna will be taken in numbers here right through April and into May.
MAY: As the weather cools down south, many footloose fishers begin to look north, and with good reason. May is a productive month for targeting barramundi in the tropics. The run-off may have finished, but the water is still warm and the barra are hungry. Iconic waterways such as beautiful Corroboree Billabong, an easy drive south east of Darwin, provide not only great fishing, but memorable wildlife watching at this time of year.
JUNE: Daytime deep-dropping for broadbill swordfish has revolutionised the pursuit of these most highly-prized of all the ocean’s predators. From Coffs Harbour in northern NSW to the southern tip of Tasmania, keen anglers will be braving the cold this month to seek some of the largest swordfish of the year. Bermagui and Eden, on the far south coast of NSW, are two ports that will see their fair share of deep-dropping action in June.
JULY: Whenever a decent lull in the south easterly trade winds allows for it, this time of year provides excellent fishing action along the inner and outer Great Barrier Reef off far northern Queensland. From juvenile black marlin and sailfish to Spanish mackerel and demersal species such as red emperor and coral trout, just about everything is on the chew! Mission Beach, south of Cairns, makes a great stepping-off point for keen boaties.
AUGUST: It may be cold, but the black bream are starting to bite well at this time of year in the rivers flowing into Victoria’s Gippsland Lakes. The big three rivers (Tambo, Nicholson and Mitchell) all provide excellent catches on bait and lures, and Metung is a great place to base yourself for the pre-spring bream run. Rug up and get out there!
SEPTEMBER: Impoundment (dam) fishing for Australian bass and golden perch (yellowbelly) in south eastern Queensland is firing well this month, and some of the biggest bass available anywhere in the country will be encountered at Somerset Dam, near Esk, just a couple of hours west of Brisbane. Look for schooling fish on your depth sounder in eight to 20 metres of water and target them using jigs, spoons or deep-trolled hard-bodied lures. Don’t forget the red claw yabby traps, either.
OCTOBER: With the footy seasons finally wrapped up, southern fishers turn their passions to the snapper that are now beginning to bite much more freely in our big bays and gulfs. Snapper catches in Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay have rebounded dramatically in recent years. Early in the season, boaties will concentrate their efforts towards the lower end of the Bay, but as the weeks pass, snapper schools will range further and further north, towards the city waterfront itself.
NOVEMBER: If you’ve always wanted to tick a seriously large dusky flathead off your personal bucket list, November is a great month to do it. From south-eastern Queensland to Victoria’s Gippsland, mega-flathead are on the chew in our estuaries now, and perhaps the most consistent venue of all for them is St Georges Basin near Sussex Inlet, a couple of hours’ drive south of Sydney. But remember that the big ones are all female breeders: so, let ’em go, let ’em grow.
DECEMBER: Mallacoota, in the far east of Victoria, is a dream destination for keen boat fishers, and December is a terrific month to target dusky flathead, whiting, bream, estuary perch, garfish and tailor in the vast inlet, while offshore the snapper, sand flathead and even a few yellowtail kingfish should be biting well.