At first blush, Canberra isn’t the obvious city to base yourself if you’re a keen angler.
But this landlocked city has a lot to offer the fishing enthusiast. I’ve lived here for 38 years and can’t think of a better capital city to live in from a fishing perspective.
A lot of Canberrans fish. Some are diehard addicts who eat, sleep and breathe the sport.
Others are casual or weekend anglers, who dangle a line when they can – sometimes just once or twice a year.
One thing’s for certain, though, in the next six weeks or so, more Canberrans are likely to wet a line than at any other time of the year.
The vast majority will make the pilgrimage down the Kings Highway and Clyde Mountain, headed for Batemans Bay or holiday spots to the north and south.
The fishing in this part of the world in summer can be nothing short of sensational. Holidaying anglers are spoilt for choice, too.
There are estuarine rivers and lakes for those with kayaks or children, rocks and beaches for fishers with a sense of adventure, and bountiful offshore reefs for anglers with access to a boat.
Regardless of where you fish, there’s a variety of species on offer.
In the estuaries, bream, flathead and whiting will dominate anglers’ bags over Christmas. All three species can be caught quite easily on baits or lures and all are great on the barbecue.
On the beaches and rocks, hard-fighting tailor and salmon will provide plenty of thrills and spills in the white-water.
While not everyone’s cup of tea in the culinary stakes, both fish are spectacularly fun on the end of a fishing line and will hit a variety of baits and lures with gusto.
Out in the deeper water, those with boats will find lots of snapper, flathead, leatherjacket and other tasty reef fish.
At this time of the year, tongues of warm water also lick areas off the far south coast, bringing with them exciting game fish such as tuna, kingfish and even marlin.
It means a trip offshore on the south coast can be very much like a lucky dip – you often never know what’s going to eat your offering next … and that makes it all the more appealing.
While there are plenty of fish in the sea, if you are going to try your luck on the south coast these holidays, don’t always expect the fishing to be easy.
Crowded waterways, increased boat traffic and anglers lined shoulder-to-shoulder at popular locations, can all make summertime fishing on the coast a real challenge.
People, boats, outboard motors, noise and splashing scare fish – it’s as simple as that. So, this summer, try to make the effort to head off the beaten track a bit – where there are fewer people and more fish.
One of the best ways to avoid the crowds is to grab a kayak or canoe and invest some time and energy into exploring the many secluded south-coast creeks that are off limits to holiday-makers with bigger boats.
This can be a really enjoyable form of fishing – you’ll get some exercise, experience some picture-postcard scenery and, importantly, catch more fish. You will also have greater success if you can time your fishing trips for the very early morning or late evening. Not only will you have the waterways to yourself at this time of the day, it also coincides with the peak period of activity for most fish species.
To fish successfully, you need the right tools for the job.
Judging by what I see every holiday season, fishing with inappropriate tackle – usually in the form of thick lines and heavy sinkers – is where most ”weekend” anglers go wrong. For the most part, fishing with light tackle is the best way to guarantee success on the water this season.
Fish hate feeling anything untoward when they pick up a bait – and a big lump of lead on a heavy line creates resistance that is guaranteed to put fish off the bite.
When it comes to choosing your fishing gear this summer, select the lightest tackle you can get away with.
Don’t be afraid to seek a bit of local knowledge. If you don’t fish the south coast regularly, it can easily take days or weeks to find fish. By this time, the trip could be over.
Seek guidance from tackle shops or hire a charter or fishing guide to show you the ropes.
Alternatively, hook up with a local resident or someone extremely familiar with the area; they can show or teach you in minutes what would otherwise take you days to discover on your own.
Summer is the ideal time to introduce kids to the joys of fishing and the best way to make it a ”joy” is to catch fish – any fish.
Kids getting started in the world of fishing don’t care if it’s a tuna or a toadfish – as long as they catch something.
Bread-and-butter species that are easy to find, easy to hook and easy to wind in are ideal. Whiting, mullet, yellowtail and slimy mackerel spring to mind – but there are plenty more.
Even species we regard as pests, such as toadfish, can bring joy to the face of a junior angler.
Bait fishing is probably the best option for children, as it tends to result in more action, even if it is in the form of tiddlers.
As always, fresh is best. In fact, why not involve kids in the bait-gathering process. You will often find that youngsters enjoy pumping nippers, chasing crabs or trapping poddy mullet as much – if not more – than fishing.
If you’re fishing the NSW south coast you will need a NSW Recreational Fishing Licence. These can be purchased at most tackle shops, Kmart stores or online at dpi.nsw.gov.au.
Fishing licences cost $6 for three days, $12 for a month, $30 for a year or $75 for three years. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, pensioners and under-18s are exempt.
Bear in mind that the areas to the north and south of Batemans Bay are within the Batemans Marine Park, and there are sections within the park that are off limits to all forms of fishing. Maps of the marine park are available from tackle shops.