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Fishing Blog - Autumn 2021

TIPS FOR AUTUMN FISHING IN THE MCLAREN VALE & FLEURIEU COAST  

Autumn has well and truly arrived, bringing with it a host of fishing options for those who like to casually throw a line with family and friends, through to the more dedicated angler looking to put pictures of special catches in their photo album – the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast caters for all! 

This period of the year is undoubtedly one of the most comfortable to be out and about and exploring the region, fishing and spending time on or near the water. Fought with mild days and nights, Autumn also offers a great array of fish species, with a crossover of Winter and Summer fish, setting the scene for some fun times.  

With Easter now over for another year, it’s the perfect time to plan a camping and caravanning stay in the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast region with reduced crowds and perfect weather often bringing with it, your very own little piece of fishing paradise all to yourself as a bonus!   

The McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast is bursting with fishing possibilities, from jetty, beach and boat, through to rocks, enabling you a varied experience if you wish, and there’s always somewhere to soak a line and hook a fish.  

Here’s our top tips on how to make your area and fish selection easier, and hopefully some great catches when you are here! 

BOATING

A real treat of the Autumn period is the lack of afternoon ‘sea breezes’ compared to Summer, which means you can fish for longer and don’t need to come home soaked by rough water if boating. Likewise from the shore, it will result in prolonged stints and hopefully more fillets for the fry pan at the end of the day. 

Typical calmer Autumn days are made for on-water activities, and sampling the sublime boating right along this coast, including the use of kayaks, is easily done by launching from the semi-sheltered beaches along the coast, including Moana, Aldinga, Silver Sands and Sellicks Beach. Alternatively you can use the O’Sullivan Beach boat ramp. All the launching points will provide you access to King George whiting, salmon, flathead, sand crabs, garfis,  tommies, and much more over these months.  

An easy way to get a mixed bag boating along the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast is simply to anchor over a weedy/sandy bottom type, or near reef and start a berley trail. Dedicated berley pellets, or bread/bran and oil put in a cheap plastic berley bucket and tied to your boat will soon attract tommies and garfish. If you use crushed cockles (AKA pipis) and pilchards in your berley mix you’ll get more salmon, whiting and trevally around. Usually bigger predators like snook, flathead, rat kingfish, squid and even sharks can be drawn in by the commotion also, making it a productive and low-fuss approach.  

If you prefer lure fishing, keeping active by drifting along and casting and covering ground, or trolling and covering ground, is usually the best means to both locate fish and hopefully get a catch. When you find your target species with ‘searching’ methods like drifting and trolling, you can then focus effort in one area.  

ONKAPARINGA RIVER

The Onkaparinga River will benefit from large Autumn tides that will push a range of fish into the river for anglers. The beauty of Autumn is that many Summer species will linger on, such as mulloway, which are the prized species in the Onk’, while other cool water specialist species will also arrive. 

The mid to higher reaches of the system will provide best luck on mulloway, with baits such as pilchard and saury preferred, but even better is live bait. Lure anglers can try 3-5 inch hard-bodies or soft plastics, usually in natural baitfish colours. Try the low light periods of morning and late afternoon into night if you want to catch these elusive fish. 

Mullet and salmon trout are a popular duo that are probably the most common species caught in the system over this period and will be pushing into the river in droves. The mouth and Foot Bridge areas are popular, but they will be spread right throughout the waterway up to the South Road Bridge and beyond.  

Bream also start to enter the river for their annual cool season run, and it can be a good time of year to start catching above average sized fish that are more silver in appearance compared to the darker coloured resident fish. Try any man-made or natural structure, or the deeper holes and bends. Small lures (hard or soft) or prawn and fish baits will account for them. While smaller bream will bite at any time of the day, be prepared to work the tides and prime bite periods of low light if you want to consistently get a better class of bream from the river.  

Fishing in mclaren vale and fleurieu coast

BEACHES  

The McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast is blessed with fantastic beaches and now is a great time to make the most of them before conditions get a little chilly. 

Sellicks, Silver Sands, Aldinga, Maslins and Moana are popular, many of which are drive-on and offer the convenience of being able to swim or fish near where you’ve parked your car.  

Mullet have started to arrive and will soon be on offer from all the beaches, end to end, along the coastline. These will patrol the close-in gutters just past the shore break and you don’t need to cast far to catch them. (More below in Focus Fish section). 

Salmon trout (juvenile salmon) and larger salmon are also beginning to make more frequent appearances from the sand. These fish are one of the more popular beach targets along the coastline and form large schools that frequent the shallows within reach of shore anglers and they can sometimes be spotted before you even set foot on a beach. They form quite dark, dense schools when they’re bunched up. Predators like sharks and mulloway will still be around so don’t be afraid to use the mullet or salmon as bait when fishing any of the beach areas discussed.  

Southport Beach through to Sellicks Beach is a salmon highway and the schools can move between the areas, while you’ll also get odd fish lurking around even when the schools aren’t present. Metal lures, weighted hard-bodies and soft plastics, poppers and stickbaits and the tried and proven bait of pilchard on ganged hooks will catch them. Fish around the high tide and low light periods again if you want to see the best chance of the action, although the schools can show up at any time of the day, keep your eyes peeled! 

PORT NOARLUNGA JETTY

Calm weather has seen the jetty fishing only continue to shine, and the Port Noarlunga Jetty will produce squid, tommies, mullet, salmon and many others for bait and lure anglers. 

The increasing mullet numbers have already seen more and more of these fish caught from the jetty. Try near the start to the mid-reaches of the jetty, where the mullet normally school and move through the shore beak.  

Salmon trout and larger salmon will also become popular on the rougher days, although odd fish can be encountered even on calm days. Amazingly the roughest of weather will actually trigger the salmon to bite best but bring a beanie and a jacket! Using small lures or soaking a pilchard bait is always best for these.  

Anglers using smaller baits will still catch garfish and tommies, with live gents and cockles reliable options and a steady berley trail is essential. With berley you’ll also bring other species, making mixed bags readily obtainable here and the jetty is always a super convenient place to fish with nearby parking and plenty of eateries close by to grab a meal after or before your fishing trip. 

port noarlunga jetty reef beach swimming mclaren vale fleurieu coast

FOCUS FISH – MULLET MAYHEM 

The cooler months just wouldn’t be the same without the arrival of yellow-eye mullet, which invade the inshore coastal and river waters along this coastline, injecting a wave of fish life into these easily accessed areas. 

Mullet have always had a cult-like following and when they’re running on the beaches it’s common to see keen fishers lined up trying to catch these prolific treats as they stack up in inshore gutters within easy casting range. From the Port Noarlunga Jetty, the Onkaparinga River, through to virtually all the beaches along the coast in the area you’ll find mullet. 

For those starting out after mullet, bread is probably the cheapest base element for your berley mix to which you can add either crushed pilchards or a touch of tuna oil. Having the surface and the sinking elements covers bases. 

Rigs should be kept as lowkey as possible. When you have the mullet massing in front of you and conditions are mild you can fish unweighted or with a single split shot and a size 6-8 fine gauge chemically sharpened hook, or a slightly larger circle hook. If you need, weight the smallest pyramid sinker fished on a Paternoster rig, or a small ball sinker on a running rig is all you’ll need. You can incorporate a berley spring if needed but less is more here, with 3-6kg leader fine for the job. 

Mullet when fresh are also a much-underrated table species, well worth caring for after you catch them and cleaning and eating them as soon as you can. The easiest way to care for your catch is to keep them alive in a bucket of seawater in the shade or get them straight onto ice. If using them whole gut and gill and remove the black stomach lining of the fish, otherwise fillet them up. One of the tastiest ways to use mullet is whole or as fillets in the smoker. Otherwise, they can be fried up as you would whiting fillets and when fresh are mild flavoured. 

COOK YOUR CATCH – PANKO CRUMBED FISH  

Sourcing your own seafood to share for dinner from the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast can be a truly rewarding travel experience to share with your friends and family. Mullet, squid, tommies, salmon, flathead and of course the highly sought-after King George whiting, are all possibilities for your dining table this Autumn. 

Crumbed fish is a real crowd pleaser with young and old, and lends itself to being turned into fish burgers, fish tacos or even ‘chicken nuggets’ for the fussiest of kids and is quite simply delicious on its own with a fresh salad, a squeeze of lemon and a glass of Vermentino from one of the many cellar doors.   

For consistency in cooking time, and to ensure you don’t overcook and dry out the fish, unless all your fillets are the same thickness, we recommend aiming for a fillet thickness of around 1cm.    Smaller fish species are naturally thinner than 1cm, and will cook incredibly quickly, so be prepared with your cooking utensils, paper towels and side dishes before your fish hits the pan! 

To crumb, you’ll need to set up three bowls with cornflour, a beaten egg and the panko breadcrumbs. Start with a light coat of cornflour, shaking off the excess, then dip the fish into the beaten egg ensuring a good coverage, but be sure to let the excess drip off before you transfer the fish into the panko crumbs. You’ll want to coat the fish well with crumbs and set aside until all the fillets are finished before you move to the cooking stage.   

Once all the fillets are crumbed, they can be shallow pan fried or given a light spray with oil and popped in the oven or on the BBQ, which makes them a perfect option for holidays when you don’t necessarily have the creature comforts of home. Cooking time will vary between 3-6 minutes in the pan depending on the thickness of the fish fillets, and a little longer if cooking in the oven. We’re pretty sure no crumbs will be left in sight after this cook up! 

TOP TIPS FOR SUCCESS – WORKING WITH THE WEATHER 

As we enter the cooler months on the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast, the weather can start to influence where you’ll fish and planning out your time on or near the water becomes more vital. Thankfully there’s a spread of options to take advantage of as detailed so far, some offering all-weather fishing, while others are actually reliant on windy conditions. 

The Onkaparinga River is a place you can fish most days of the year, regardless of the conditions, and it’s easy to find a sheltered bank edge to get the wind in your back and have calm water in front of you. Conversely the Port Noarlunga Jetty is noted for its rough weather salmon fishing, which mostly happens when the wind and waves are pumping in, which seems to bring the fish inside the protection of the reef and biting freely.  

Likewise, the nearby Southport Beach also seems to produce better when there’s decent wave action to encourage salmon, mullet and others in close, but not too rough where it becomes dangerous and the water ‘sanded out’ and dirty. The more sheltered beaches down the coast are usually best with offshore winds or lighter onshore conditions. 

Tides are also crucial to success. Autumn features large afternoon high tides, which can mean great fishing during daylight hours. Try fishing 2-3 hours either side of high tide for best results for many inshore species across all areas. Study the weather and the tides and then select your  location based on the expected conditions, and you’ll find the experience more comfortable, and the fish will hopefully bite like there’s no tomorrow! 

If you do have a successful fishing trip please tag us using #valeandcoast when posting your local catches or general angling pictures – we’re keen to see your success!  

 

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