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Top five fish species to target over summer in Australia

by Gary Brown 7 Dec 2019 06:17 UTC
Chris Brown from Wollongong on the south coast of NSW trolled up 77cm kingfish while using live squid on a poor man's downrigger. © Boat Accessories Australia

The summer months see an increase in boating and fishing activity throughout Australia as the heat really kicks in. This coincides with an increase in fish numbers around the country, and the million-dollar question is 'What fish should I be targeting throughout summer?'

To help you out, I have summarised five of my favourite fish species that I would target during the summer months, along with tips on where and how best to catch them.

Yellowtail kingfish

They tend to live inshore and in continental shelf waters where they like reefs, jetties, marker buoys and pylons. Schools of juveniles are generally found in offshore waters. They seem to prefer water temperatures between 18 and 24 degrees Celsius, although they are occasionally found in cooler water.

Yellowtail kingfish can be called kingie, yellowtail, hoodlums or bandits. It doesn't matter what you call them though - they are one tough dirty fighter and I have literally been brought to my knees while wrestling one.

When targeting kingfish your tackle needs to be in tip top condition. Leader material should be a minimum of 20kg, depending on bait and hook size, and up to 80kg. Your swivels and hooks must be strong enough to land these powerful fish. Hook sizes are typically 6/0 to 10/0, depending on bait size.

Whether you are using stickbaits, poppers or soft plastics you may find it necessary to upgrade your spit rings and hooks. I am currently using the Fish Inc 110mm Hooker sinking stickbait with its heavy-duty straight eye, no offset. Use an Owner single hook as it can be worked fast, medium and slow across the surface.

As for poppers, I would recommend considering:

  • 110mm Halco
  • 5 and 7-inch Berkley Gulp Jerk Shads
  • 5 and 7-inch Z-man Scented Jerk ShadZ™
Try downrigging whilst trolling for kingfish, using live or dead squid. I downrig using a large running barrel sinker onto a swivel with about a 1.5m leader. This is called a Poor Man's Downrigger. When either trolling, casting or live baiting I use either overheads or threadlines. You will need to make sure that you keep these maintained. Overhead or good-quality spinning reels with the line capacity and drag performance to handle kingfish can be used.

Flathead

While researching information about flathead a while back I found at least 18 different species throughout Australia. The main ones to target are:

  • Dusky flathead
  • Eastern and Southern blue-spotted flathead
  • Southern and Northern sand flathead
  • Tiger flathead
Flathead rely on their ability to completely camouflage themselves. They will live partially buried in the sand or mud, often along an edge of a weed line or rock wall while facing into the current. Concentrate your efforts:
  • along the edges of mangroves and breakwalls
  • in between and underneath oyster racks
  • at the bottom of marker buoys and poles
  • at the bases of bridge pylons
  • the edges of:
    • rock bars
    • gravel patches
    • mussel and cockle beds
    • sand and mud flats
  • the edges of deep holes
  • on the edges of fast-moving currents
  • offshore gravel patches
  • the edges of close inshore reefs
  • bomboras
Soft plastics would have to be my go-to lure when it comes to targeting flathead, and my preferred size is 3 to 5-inch in either a Paddle or Curl Tail. As there are so many brands on the market, I will leave that choice up to you, although you may like to check out one of the brands that I use.

Z-Man has to be one of the toughest on the market and they have a great selection of colours and sizes. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, I would suggest you read this article on soft plastics colour selection by Justin Wilmer from Tackle Tactics as it explains everything you need to know. This should help you select which brand/s you would like to try out. What I will say is that once you have found something that works for you - stick to it!

Snapper

As a kid, my dad used to take me fishing offshore for snapper over close reefs. It was quite simple; rig up a double-hook paternoster rig, half pilly on one and a strip of slimy mackerel on the other, lower to the bottom and wait for the bite. I'd strike and wind the 10-inch Alvey as quick as I could to get the fish off the bottom.

Much has changed since those early years. I prefer to float lightly-weighted whole pilchards or strips of tuna or mackerel down a berley trail. When not bait-fishing for them I will use weighted soft plastics.

My technique is quite simple. If fishing in 20m of water, I will cast the weighted plastic out about 17m and then place the rod into the rod holder. Wait 3 or so minutes, then repeat with another rod, place it into the rod holder and sit back and wait for the snapper to take it on the drop.

Once the weighted plastic is near the bottom, I will retrieve it slowly back to the boat, then start the drift again and repeat the same process. If after a few drifts I don't get any takes I will move to my next spot.

Tailor

Tailor inhabit coastal waters off all Australian states, starting from the northern tip of Fraser Island in Queensland round to Onslow in WA. Catches of tailor are less common in Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia however.

Tailor are a schooling fish that can grow to over a metre in length. They inhabit estuaries, creeks, bays, washes off the rocks and close inshore reefs. Over the years I have found that the best time to target tailor is usually at dawn, dusk and on overcast days. There are some days in which tailor can be found feeding all throughout the day, but this usually coincides with the change of tides.

Tailor will eat anything just about anything that moves including pilchards, garfish, yellowtail and slimy mackerel. I prefer to chase them with whole pilchards or garfish on a set of ganged hooks. If you are into lure fishing you could try surface poppers, small metal slicers, long slender diving hard-bodied lures and skirts. The next time you are out on the boat, look out for current lines and try trolling along its length. Baitfish will hole up underneath the floating debris for protection.

Trolling or casting into washes or bomboras is also worth a shot as tailor will hole up there feeding and hiding from larger predators.

Bream

Yellowfin bream can be found in the coastal and estuarine waters of eastern Australia from Townsville in Queensland to the Gippsland Lakes in Victoria. Black bream inhabit the estuarine waters from Myall Lake in central NSW to the Murchison River in Western Australia, as well as the islands of Bass Strait and Kangaroo Island. Pikey bream on the other hand can be found from Onslow in WA around the northern coast to central Queensland.

Bream are a very versatile fish species that can be found in an incredibly wide range of areas from the close offshore reefs and gravel patches, tidal and non-tidal coastal rivers, creeks and streams, brackish lakes and bays, harbours, inlets and lagoons throughout Australia.

The majority of anglers bait fishing for bream fish either use lightly or unweighted baits drifted out the back of the boat in a berley trail, or baits that are on a long leader in front of a sinker that runs down onto a swivel.

Bream will eat just about everything; I have even caught one that spewed up a very small seahorse. My favourite bait would have to be the prawn, followed by the pink nipper or bass yabbies and then either strips of mullet, tuna and slimy mackerel. Lure presentations may involve casting, trolling or jigging. They can be suspended, floating, sinking, twitched, jerked, popped and walk the dog.

I have small bibbed minnows that range from 4-10cm in length and are either narrow or fat with tight, medium and moderate swaying actions. As for brands and colours I will leave that up to you, but one suggestion would be to limit the size of your range as it can become confusing. Perhaps limit yourself to about six styles and colours when starting out. Daiwa Double Clutches, Pro Lure and Atomic hard-bodied lures would be worth a look at if you are just starting out lure fishing for bream.

As for soft plastics, my go-to lure is the Z-Man 2.5-inch Grubz in Motor Oil with the second being the Gulp! 2-inch Shrimp in Camo. Both can be easily fished on 1/40th to 1/28th TT HWS or TT 1/20th to 1/6th jig heads.

Boat Accessories Australia are planning on expanding their fishing range in future, but in the meantime check out their range of fishing hardware. You can also subscribe to their Facebook page or follow them on Instagram to keep updated.

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