Hit The Reefs For Some Fun

With winter approaching so are the colder waters. This doesn’t mean we have to put away the fishing gear. According to Peter Le Blang this means get out to the reefs and have a whole lot of fun.

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With the warm water starting to disappear along our coast it’s time to start thinking about fishing deeper water. The offshore reefs along our part of the coast are a great place to target a variety of species using a variety of techniques. All you have to do is work out what species you would like to target which can be a problem in itself.

Unfortunately when you go reef fishing it is not as simple as being able to drop your lines over the side and start to wind up fish. There are a few things that need to be considered before a line is dropped over the side.

When I approach a new area to start reef fishing I judge how strong the current is, the strength of the wind and which way we will drift. I also watch the sounder intently looking for patches of baitfish and arches, which are larger fish, usually close by.

Having a decent sounder that you can trust is invaluable when you are reef fishing not only to locate baitfish and predators but to locate structure and identify what type of bottom you are fishing over. By reading your sounder correctly and identifying what the ocean floor is made up of it can dictate how you fish the area and the best rigs to use.

If the structure or bottom you are fishing resembles rubble on the bottom, you can quite often drift over the area once baitfish have been found.

It is always a good idea to use your plotter function on your GPS/sounder so if you do find a hot bite you can always double back over the area.

If the area that you’re going to fish is a very rough reef quite often most of the fish are found at the edge of these reefs, where the reef meets the sand or gravel. If you are going to fish over the top of the rough reef be prepared to use heavy sinkers so that your lines are not laying on a 45° angle as you drift along. If there is too much line let out, instead of catching fish your two hooks will more than likely be hooking up to Australia.

If you decide to anchor it is always better to anchor up current of the reef and fish back towards the reef. It is also important to burly whilst at anchor.

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When fishing at anchor it is always preferable to have your lines slowly drifting down with just enough weight to overcome the current and allow the bait to drift with the burly towards the bottom. You can also fish directly underneath your boat at anchor but I find that you need to burly at depths to gain the best results.

There are products out such as a burly bomb that allow you to fill the plastic canister full of burly, send it to the bottom and as you pull it back towards the surface its contents spills out right near the bottom. You can also simply drill holes in a bucket with a tight fitting lid attach a rope and some weights and then you can use your home-made burly bucket to make a burly trail on the bottom right where the fish are. If you are going to use a home-made burly bucket can I suggest that you attach it towards the front of the boat. This will help keep it out of the way of fishing lines and fish being fought.

So as you can see the current can have a huge effect on how you fish the reefs. Sometimes you need to cover ground, other times the fish require some burly, anchoring and some patience. The great thing about fishing offshore reefs is you can have a particular species in mind to catch but really, it can be a lucky dip.

Over the last few years we have had many new lures and soft plastics come onto the market that allow you to target species in deep water around reefs. Micro jigs and Lucanus jigs have been a blessing to the snapper fishermen and reef fishermen. These jigs can be worked actively almost violently and produce a bite but they also have the ability to be placed in a rod holder to let the boat do all the work. I am amazed at how effective these lures actually are.

If you are a person that likes to be active whilst fishing, can I suggest you try the micro jigs. When using these micro jigs they are meant to be used with soft rods and fine diameter lines. The technique is usually a slow lift and drop so that the jigs are allowed to fall through the water column. This method is very successful on a lot of different reef fish and pelagic species but I have found a technique that can trigger the fish into a bite if they are not responding to other methods.

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My technique involves using stiffer rods, 20 or 30 lb braid, fluorocarbon leaders and upgraded hooks on the micro jigs. I allow the jigs to sink all the way to the bottom and then wind the line so that when I drop the tip of the rod to the top of the water that jigs just hits the bottom. I violently lift the rod tip to waist height and then drop the rod tip and whilst there is slack line I violently lift the rod tip two or three times more. This makes of thunk sound which I believe attracts the fish toward your lures. Then allow the lure to hit the bottom for a rest of 2 or 3 seconds before repeating the process.

I am not sure what it is with these lures that attracts so many fish. It could be the metal body and the way it flutters or the imitation squid that are above the assist hooks. Frankly I don’t really care which it is as long as it just keeps working and catching the great variety of fish offshore and along our rivers.

If you prefer to use bait it’s all about covering your bases. There is nothing better than using fresh caught bait but you can get away with using frozen bait.

One of the better baits to use whilst offshore is your humble frozen pillie. Pilchards being an oily baitfish can be used whole or as pieces depending on what target you are trying to catch. When using whole pilchards it is better to cut off the tail before you send it down to the depths. By cutting off the tail you are effectively stopping the bait from trying to spin on the hook and therefore you should have fewer tangled lines. The other reason I cut the tails off pilchards is so that it sends out a scent trail as you drift along. If you are using pillie halves, place the hook once through the narrowest part of the bait.

Squid and cuttlefish are also dynamite baits to use when fishing offshore. You can use frozen squid bought from the tackle shops and it is quite an effective bait to use but if the fishing is hard you want the freshest baits possible. With this in mind it can be better to travel down to your local seafood shop or the markets and pick up a few fresh southern calamari squid if you don’t have the time to catch some before heading offshore.

Unless your squid are very small you are better off cutting up the squid into strips. I like to make my strips a triangular shape and on the bottom feather the edges making eight or nine little fingers. This allows some movement of the bait which of course sends vibration through the water hopefully attracting the attention of predators close by.

A handful of prawns can be handy to take with you as well. Sometimes when all else fails you can put on a large prawn and you will be amazed at what will eat it. Morwong are particularly fond of eating the odd prawn and so are small snapper.

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Fresh bait that is caught while you are fishing on the offshore reefs is also worth looking at. Sometimes the baitfish will be almost impossible to catch especially if they are under attack from other predators. But sometimes you do get lucky though and will find a patch of baitfish mid water and these can be caught using is a Sabriki jig. Yellowtail and slimy mackerel are both awesome baits to use especially if butterflied or used live. Striped tuna would have to be my favourite bait to use in strips.

All the baits that I use offshore except for prawns are only hooked through the bait once with the hook, not sewn through the bait two or three times. By hooking your bait only once it allows your baits to spin less and are presented more naturally to the fish. Decent fish will not sit around your hook and bait and take small bites, they will inhale your offerings in one go and you will have a better chance for a positive hook up.

The better rig to use offshore whilst drifting or whilst fishing in strong current is your simple Paternoster rig. This rig allows you to use two hooks so you can vary your baits and find out what they’re biting on. Paternoster rigs also allow you to quickly change the sinkers so if the current or wind picks up, within seconds you can attach a heavier sinker and keep on fishing.

You can buy paternoster rigs at most tackle shops already tied but to be honest, learning how to tie these rigs is important if you wish to go reef fishing. When you learn how to tie these rigs you not only save money but you can also put lumo beads above the hooks to attract fish to your baits. Both pink and fluorescent green are available from tackle stores but my preference for deep water over the 50 m mark are the pink ones. Researchers have found that in the deep water predatory fish can see red but baitfish cannot. So by placing a pink limo bead above one your hooks you have a more visual attraction for deep water predatory fish.

When you do search for information on how to tie paternoster rigs, search for the twisted loop ones. The twisted loops present your baits away from your mainline and give a more natural appearance. They are a little harder to tie but it’s well worth the effort.

I hope this information helps you on your next venture offshore and remember if you can find baitfish before you start fishing your chances of catching decent fish greatly increase.

Best wishes Peter Le Blang Harbour & Estuary Fishing Charters www.estuaryfishingcharters.com.au 0410 633 351 plfishfingers@bigpond.com

Peter LeBlang

About Peter LeBlang

I have had a passion for fishing since the tender age of 3 when I caught my first mackerel with my father and grandfather. I never liked to eat fish back then and still don’t now! Since then I have been lucky enough to catch massive dogtooth tuna in Vanuatu, big Gt’s at Fiji, Barra, Mackerel, Jacks and Queenies at the top end of Australia just to mention a few. Now days I love to target and show people how to catch big kingfish, jewfish, snapper and flathead with a variety of techniques. My favourite fish to catch are kingfish using live bait on downriggers. I am lucky enough to be based on Pittwater in Sydney. I own and operate Harbour & Estuary Fishing Charters and this has led me into article writing and reporting for wonderful outlets such as Kaydo Fishing World. I also do fishing reports on radio for ABC Big Fish programme, 2CCC (Central Coast) on Saturday mornings. My biggest love in life are my kids, wife and family. Remember that fishing is only fishing when alone but when you can share it with someone, then it becomes an adventure. Peter.

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