Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter

By Jamie Crawford

Our season is changing down here in South Oz at the moment. We had a sporadic summer, with hot weather fluctuating between wind and storm fronts. We had a lot of rain this past summer too; which is unusual for us in SA. This summer pattern gave way to an unusual Autumn; with less stable weather than what we’d normally see. We had strong west to north west winds fluctuating throughout autumn together with big swell.

These conditions together with some massive tides coincided to create some king tide events which caused havoc along a lot of our coastline with damaged piers and piles of rotting weed now banked up on a lot of beaches. These stronger westerly winds and dropping air temperatures have resulted in dropping water temperatures too, altering the fishing dynamics in our local waters.

Our offshore grounds are starting to become hit-or-miss, with the seasonal run of Bluefin tuna drawing to a close. With the increase in wind and westerly groundswell, accessing these grounds with regularity now becomes an issue.

Our mulloway on our western beaches have slowed, and our inshore blue crabs have all but disappeared into deeper water. But these species have been replaced with some accessible inshore targets, and we’re now starting to see consistent fishing for cooler-water species. These species should only improve over the following few months, so we should be in store for some good winter fishing.

I spent some time on the water the other day, and was happy to see new season species moving into our local bay. I spent some time chasing southern calamari – something I really enjoy doing. I found a tapeweed meadow broken by reef in the 2 to 3m depth range, and started doing a slow drift through the area while casting some Egixile squid jigs in size 3.5. I was casting a Keimura White and also a Keimura Rainbow, and in the bright conditions in the middle of the day, the white was the standout performer, and it didn’t take long to get my limit of 15 squid.

I then moved into slightly deeper water and started looking for schools of King George around the entrance to our bay system. I was fishing in 4 to 6m of water, looking for areas of broken ribbon weed and sand holes. When the water isn’t too dirty, it’s relatively easy to spot these sand holes. By positioning the boat behind a sand hole and using crushed mussels for berley, it soon brought some fish into the area.

There were still some annoying trumpeters on these grounds, but these should start thinning out in numbers now that the water temp is on the decline. I would give each spot around 15 minutes, and if no whiting action, I would up-anchor and shift to another likely spot. On the run in tide late in the afternoon the fish came on the chew and it didn’t take too long to get a bag of whiting. Winter time is the peak time for these tasty shallow water species, and we should experience consistent fishing over the ensuing few months.

Winter is also the peak time for flathead in our local area. We are seeing good numbers of fish move into the shallows now that the water is dropping in temperature. A lot of these fish have been in the 30 to 40cm size range, but we’re starting to see a few bigger females in the 50 to 70cm size range now. We often take a smaller 30 to 40cm fish home for the table, but anything bigger we release.

The stand-out plastic for our flathead so far this season has been the 65mm Squidgy wriggler tail prawn in cloud colour together with a 1/8oz jig head. These plastics have a great in-built action, and being relatively small they suit the shallow flats and beaches perfectly. Most of the areas we have been fishing are under a metre in depth, and we’ve even had some cool visual strikes right at our feet. Aside from the above species, or local salmon are schooling-up along our southern beaches and some big black bream are moving into the estuary systems in our local area. 

Although a lot of the big-name species move on at the end of the warmer weather, there are plenty of winter targets to get excited about, and if anything they’re more accessible. I love fishing in winter, and can’t wait for the rest of the cool-water species to kick into gear.