Wallaga weekend #2

I spent the March long weekend at Wallaga Lake, on the beautiful NSW south coast. After three or four years fishing this system, I’m starting to get a good feel for it and have been getting consistent and more varied catches. The primary target species are flathead, tailor and bream, but I’ve recently started targeting a few other prevalent species such as mullet and garfish. I have heard (and seen photos of) a number of jewfish finding their way into the system, so am keen to target these more seriously in future.

First cast and mum pulls in this lovely little gurnard!

The best session this weekend was the first one, which is a nice change as it usually takes me a bit of looking around to find where the fish are feeding. On Sunday morning, I took mumsy out for a spin on the boat. We went straight to my new favourite spot, which is a relatively shallow (1.5-2.5m) channel, adjacent to some weedbeds and a deeper hole where the main channel runs into the main basin. It’s got everything going for it. On this occasion the water was a muddy, brown colour due to two inches of rain the day before. First cast, and mum hooked up (typical!). Anticipating a flathead, I was delighted to see a gurnard come into the net. The irridescent blue dots on the fins of these fish are incredible, and after a few quick snaps we released the grunting fish to get bigger and hopefully provide lots more gurnards in the future. I’ve heard they’re pretty good eating but have never tried them before.

After a few more casts it became apparent that the leatherjacket and chopper tailor were there in numbers, as I was losing bits and pieces of my soft plastics almost every cast. I pulled in a small flathead, but mum suggested we try somewhere else. It was clear this spot wasn’t going to fire. I think there were fish there, as there was a lot of debris and food in the water, but getting through the pickers down to the better fish was proving too difficult. Added to this, the flatties seem to have trouble seeing the lure in murky water sometimes, so a move was had.

We headed across the bay, past the spectacular Merriman’s Island, towards the National Park. I haven’t fished the ‘back’ of the lake much, and when I have I haven’t had much success. However, on this occasion, instinct paid off because mum and I caught about 20 flathead in 30 casts. I also scored a beautiful bream of around a kilo. Most of the flathead were just on or under-size, but we kept about 3 that were between 38-40cm. We were fishing a rocky, north facing peninsula, which sloped gently into deeper water. After we drifted off this spot, the bite slowed dramatically. Due to the intensity of the sun (which may have started to impact the morning’s fishing), mum decided she’d had enough and I dropped her back at the ramp.

This bream took a liking to a green squidgy fish. As is often the case, this fish smashed the lure on the drop, shortly after the lure had hit the surface

I decided to continue fishing, and went across the bay to another one of my favourite spots, almost exactly opposite the Beauty Point boat ramp. There’s a series of bays and rocky outcrops that consistently hold fish. When they’re on, it’s not uncommon to catch 15 flatties in an hour, in an area the size of a few house-blocks. There’s also a resident eagle that provides a nice show on most occasions, eyeing off the fish and making those strange calls that don’t seem to match the bird they’re coming from. Depsite the conditions being right, the fish just weren’t congregating here on this occasion. I decided to go back to where we’d started. After motoring across the bay, I noticed that the incoming tide had cleared the water, and it was that nice ‘estuary green’ colour that looks so fishy. I got the odd fish here, but it wasn’t ‘hot’, so decided to have a look around the front of the system.

As I motored slowly across the shallow water, I saw a number of fish taking off from under the boat. I decided to anchor up adjacent to the channel and try to berley up some mullet. I had bought some doughy white bread with me, and the plan was to throw back bits and pieces on an unweighted long shank hook. After a few minutes, the garfish found the trail and I was getting bites left, right and centre. After a few more minutes the mullet found the trail and the fun began. Over the next hour I landed 7 mullet and two garfish, which doesn’t sound like ‘hot’ fishing, but I lost about double that to pulled hooks and fish acrobatics. An interesting observation that I wanted to share was that the mullet responded much better to a heavier trail. If I threw back the odd bit of bread here and there, it was mostly garfish in the trail, but if I threw back three or four pieces of bread the mullet seemed to materialise and go nuts. I also saw a few bigger fish in the trail – presumably trevalley and bream, but couldn’t keep bread on the hook long enough to tempt them. After a while, the tidfe started to turn and the water got a bit discoloured, which is when the fishing slowed down and I decided to call it a day.

Garfish and mullet going silly in the berley trail

A nice mixed bag after a few hours’ fishing

Back at home I decided to smoke the mullet in Dad’s mini webber, which works a treat. I soaked the fish in brine for about an hour, before getting the heat beads going and placing a combination of fine and coarse sawdust and woodchips over them. It smoked for about half an hour before the fish turned that amazing brown colour. Needless to say, they were delicious!

Fish in the smoker

I had a few other sessions here and there, with one that produced about four flatties in half an hour and another session of the beach for one small salmon and one small tailor, but I didn’t have any other ‘serious’ sessions. Can’t wait to get down there again!

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