We had several calls during the week from people coming down for the Australia day weekend, mostly from around Melbourne, asking if it’s safe to come down for the long weekend, our answer the same as it would normally be, it’s as safe as any other weekend. Even when people got here they were asking if the water is safe to drink, because they have seen on social media that the smoke is making the water un-drinkable. There was another that asked is there plenty of CFA people here if a fire breaks out on the island and is there plans to get people off by boat if necessary. I must admit I thought a few of these calls were prank calls but sadly the longer I spoke to them the more I realised they were serious. That’s only a few calls we received you have to wonder how many think the same way and just don’t go anywhere, the same is no doubt happening in the areas that the fires were.
There is plenty of money being donated and it’s a staggering amount when you add it all up and all we can hope is it gets distributed to the right places as soon as possible. A couple of the business owners we have been speaking to said while they appreciate all that has been donated and it is really making a difference there is no substitute real for people. They were telling us plenty of businesses wont or don’t qualify for the money that’s being donated or can’t really afford to take advantage of the money being offered as a loan and aren’t necessarily in the centre of where the fires were but surrounding towns. They also made a good point telling us that the towns need people in them to make them seem alive and to help people get started again. Speaking to others there are some positive sign that bookings are coming in for the March long weekend and Easter, the problem is there are just as many cancellations. Maybe you have a few days off over the March long weekend, Easter or the school holidays and are looking for somewhere to go, even a day or weekend trip, I am sure the people in these towns would appreciate a visit.
The long weekend was a welcome relief from the ordinary weather of the last week and the mornings were almost perfect. Those who got out of bed early and were home around lunchtime had much better reports than those who slept in a did the midday fish. The rest of the better reports came from the other end of the day but because the wind had picked up a bit you didn’t always get to fish where you wanted to. The reports came from all areas, boating and land based and while we did get some good reports many reported that it was a frustrating at times and plenty of moves and patients was needed. There was also a little skill and experience needed for those who headed offshore chasing kingfish that were plenty in numbers on the sounder but a bit more difficult to get into the boat.
Surf was patchy and Kilcunda was difficult at times with the very windy weather of the week before pushing a lot of weed in. those staying in Kilcunda and didn’t want to travel persevered and found clean sections of the beach and managed some good salmon, nothing big but reasonable size and ok numbers as one customer described. Because of the weed it took out the areas you would target other species and salmon was about the only choice at Kilcunda. The surf beaches at the island were better as far as the weed goes but there was a competition between the surfers and fishermen for space. those who didn’t try and compete and found a quieter corner found some good fish as well. We had some good reports from those fishing off the rocks on the low tide at smiths and Sunderland bay and a large variety of fish species. We don’t get large numbers reported but those who told us about catches managed to go home with whiting, pinkies and trevally all in the one session. We had another small kingfish reported from the rocks at the old quarry and plenty of wrasse from the same area.
There was plenty of calamari reported from the lad based anglers and more than the boats over the weekend, probably due to the boats not really chasing them but heading out looking for other fish. The calamari from San Remo were very good at times but not that many were landed due to an unwanted visitor in the form of a very big seal that would hide under the jetty then as you went to lift the calamari from the water would help himself. It was better over at Cleeland Bight off the beach and we had several reports from Ventnor beach also. Not many reported from Newhaven but several from Rhyll jetty and a handful from Cowes.
Boating reports were very good over the weekend and finally consecutive days of favourable offshore conditions. In the bay nothing changed, and it was difficult to get a pattern and the best place to go. One day you would go to an area and catch quality whiting then the next day, same place, same tide catch either nothing or a totally different fish. For as many quality whiting reports we got we had just as many that didn’t even see a fish but had enough reports and enough photos to suggest the numbers are good. the only thing that remained consistent was the better whiting came from deeper water.
Offshore generally fires up slowly over a month or six weeks from mid-November but with this year’s weather all over the place stopping people from heading out and the water temperature lower than normal and taking forever to warm its only now we have finally had some favourable conditions making it seem like the fish have just arrived. Over the weekend just from offshore we had, flathead, salmon, yakkas, couta, arrow squid, calamari, octopus, cuttlefish, silver whiting, mackerel, gummies, school shark, seven gills, mako sharks, snapper, Kingfish and those fishing the flinders cape shank areas landed a few Bluefin Tuna. Like the bay, with the exception of the kingfish and tuna the reports were very widespread and not always where you would expect. The only thing almost all the reports had in common was they were inside 50m of water. I don’t have a lot of information on the bluefin other than they came from towards Cape Shank. The kingfish came from Pyramid rock to seal rocks and around the Woolamai cape. The difference this year has been the lack of smaller live bait many have been forced to use strips of calamari and mackerel. Sounding up the fish and dropping a lightly weighted rig down with a fresh strip of bait has done the trick. We have also have several reports of kingfish on lures, mostly jigs of some type. So if you are heading offshore for a look be prepared for anything.