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Fishing Blog - Autumn 2022

If you’re after an easy fishing escape this Autumn then McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast is for you.

Highly regarded as the best time of the year to go fishing, Autumn has a habit of turning on amazing weather conditions combined with a full list of fish species, meaning it is pretty special, and well worth locking in some local accommodation to experience.

Camping and caravanning in the area will be highly popular over Easter and beyond, and there’s enough area for visitors to spread out and find their own piece of angling paradise between Christies Beach and Sellicks Beach.

Let’s delve into things, and look at where to start when it comes to planning your angling and holidaying adventure.

HOT LOCATIONS & SPECIES

McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast is ready to deliver the fish this Autumn, and if you’re after variety then this area has it. Young or old, experienced or neophyte, now is the time to be making the most of the boat, beach and jetty options of the area.

Below we’ve broken down the angling experience to help guide you in the right direction when you visit.

Boating

Put simply, there’s no better months to go boating and kayaking in the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast area than over Autumn. An absence of sea breezes means extended fishing sessions are possible, and conditions are more predictable when it comes to planning a day out. When you get an oily-calm day, with soft rays of sunshine bathing you and the fish are biting, there’s no place you’d rather be than on the water down south!

King George whiting are one of the most sought-after target by boaties during this period, as they’ll start to school up nicely over these months. Mix up your depths and try drift fishing to find the fish, as it can vary. With the fish schooled up regular shifts are warranted until you strike some action.

Mixed catches are still the norm in the area when you fish a combination bottom consisting of sand/weed/scattered rock. Tommies, garfish, snook, sand and the odd blue crab and flathead possible, to go with the aforementioned KG whiting. Get a constant berley trail in the water and be patient over a likely bottom type, and you’ll start to draw in various fish species, with even squid and others coming in for a look at all the activity.

Squid fishing is still worth all the time you can give it, and the clear and calm water will see them feeding freely and spotting your jigs and teasers with ease. This fishing is so accessible to anyone with a watercraft, and you don’t need to go far out to start drifting around for these tasty treats. Even straight out from O’Sullivan Beach boat ramp and in the immediate area you’ll find them. Again try different depths, deploy a fish teaser or two while actively casting jigs around, and you should find a school of squid to pester. If not, keep moving down the coast prospecting as you go.

Those anglers that prefer their lure fishing will be in for a treat with the arrival of salmon schools to the area. Always keep an eye out for diving birds and dark shadows of fish to give away the location of a patch of salmon. They also frequent larger structures and inshore reefs, which are worth trolling lures near or casting at. Snook will still be around while the water temperature is up, and 10-14cm diving lures, metal slices and soft plastics are reliable lure options on the cast or troll.

Fishing in mclaren vale and fleurieu coast

Onkaparinga River

The Onkaparinga River is a special place to fish over Autumn, with large tides swelling the system and offering plenty of motivation for quality fish to enter both the upper and lower reaches.

Mulloway will continue to be caught over these months, and generally only taper off when the first heavy rains hit and dirty water starts coming down. Otherwise there will be plenty of baitfish to hold the interest of these chrome predators. Anglers soaking live baits like mullet and trumpeter, or using dead baits like pilchard, squid and saury, should continue to get chances on fish upwards of a metre. Lure anglers throwing hard-bodies and upsized soft plastics are also in the running for these great fish.

Sea-run bream will start to enter the river and are characterised by their chrome sides and some quality fish will be mixed in amongst the average ones. Anywhere from the mouth and Footbridge area, through to Perrys Bend and above South Road Bridge will produce these fish. If you’re after more of the silvery coloured bream and regular bycatch like flathead, salmon trout and mullet, then try the lower more tidal impacted sections. Otherwise work the holes and structures of the river with both bait and lures on a moving tide or low light and you should hook a screamer.

Mullet and salmon trout will enter the river in large numbers, and both can be caught by using smaller baits and lures. If you’re after fish for the table this pair is probably the best to keep, and release all the bream if you can, which are a much slower growing and long lived species. Both mullets and salmon trout are great in the smoke box or can be filleted and used fresh.

Call into a local tackle store if you’re after specific bait or lure advice for what’s working in the river, as it can change week to week depending on how much rain we get over these months.

Fishing  on the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast

Beaches

McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast beaches will start to get a little cool for swimming now, but chilling water won’t scare the fish off at all! Sellicks, Silver Sands, Aldinga, Maslins and Moana beaches will be fishing and holidaying hot spots over Autumn, especially on those lazy, sunny days that we all love.

Lingering Summer targets such as yellowfin whiting will remain possible from the area’s beaches, but the action will most likely be dominated by new season arrivals of mullet, flathead, salmon and others. Mulloway and bronze whaler sharks will continue from the beaches as well, with the arrival of salmon and mullet only further encouraging them to stick around, given they’re favourite food sources of these predators. Try fishing a bigger dead or live bait close to dark or on the high tide if you want a big hook-up.

Salmon numbers will only snowball from now on, with solid catches being made already. It’s worth looking for obvious schools of these fish from Southport Beach through to Sellicks Beach. Spotting schools can be as easy as parking your car at a vantage point over a beach and then closely scanning for a black mass of fish.

Bait fishing with whole or half pilchards in a beach gutter is the best way to find the salmon consistently, and if they’re in decent numbers you can flick lures as well. Bait fishing also brings welcome bycatch like flathead, the odd mulloway and shark and others.

Fishing in mclaren vale and fleurieu coast

Port Noarlunga Jetty

The Port Noarlunga Jetty is the place to be over Autumn if you want to tap into a range of inshore favourite fish species from the area.

Mullet are a popular jetty catch over these months, and will be roaming the shallower sections near the shore break, especially on a rising tide or during low light. A bit of bread or pellet berley with a dash of tuna oil should soon have them buzzing around in front of you, with small size 6-10 hooks and little baits the best approach. They will however eat 2-inch soft plastic lures as well.

Salmon of varying sizes will only increase in numbers from now on, and should be in full swing as Winter gets closer. Big blows and high tides will encourage these fish inside the reef and put them within reach of anglers, with metal lures and soft plastics, along with pilchard, whitebait and squid likely offerings to use. Even outside of traditional salmon conditions you could have an encounter here, so come prepared with sturdy gear to swing decent fish up the jetty side. Any fish kept should be immediately bled and stored on ice or in cool seawater if you intend to eat them.

It's that time of year where warmer water fish are still present, which is great for those after a seafood feast. Squid, garfish, tommies, snook and more will continue to be caught from the structure. Fishing small baits under a float and in a berley trail is an easy way to rustle up a few fish during the day or night, with gents and cockle baits the better choices. Tommies and snook will tackle a range of lures as well from the planks.

Port Noarlunga Jetty in McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast

FOCUS FISH – FLATHEAD FUN!

Almost right on the stroke of Autumn, one of SA’s tastiest fish arrives along the coast - the blue-spot flathead. These fish hardly need an introduction when it comes to how great they taste, with beer batter flathead on just about every pub menu in the state, but equally these are a fun species to catch as well.

The McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast provides a bunch of likely flathead locations to try and catch these aggressive fish. The highly tidal mouth area of the Onkaparinga is well-known for holding flathead, as is the nearby Southport Beach. While you’re also a good chance at an encounter anywhere along the shallows from the jetty, through to any of the beaches further south.

Flathead are a regular bycatch species, in that they will show up when you’re chasing other fish, but they’re more than able to be targeted also. One of the more low-fuss ways to have a deliberate flathead session is to use lures, especially 3-5 inch soft plastics rigged on a 1/0 to 3/0 jighead. Lures are great for these fish as you can walk and cast and cover ground to find them.

Bait is also highly effective, with a half or whole pilchard or fish/squid strip working when rigged on a pair of snelled or ganged 2/0-4/0 hooks. Bait can be fished in a cast and retrieve role like a lure if you want to remain proactive and move around, or you can fish it static and set it near a berley trail of chopped pilchards. Flathead are highly receptive to berley.

To maximise your fishing time focus your effort near low reef, gutters, weed beds and other inshore structures. Flathead will use these structures as ambush points to feed. Timing is critical however, with an incoming tide usually seeing the fish push in close to shore and hold on the closer points of interest. Make a lot of casts, be patient, keep mobile, and eventually you’ll have an encounter.

Watch out for their sharp gill spines, and keep your catch cool soon after capture to prevent the flesh going soft. With a bone-white, flaky and mild flavoured meat, the good old flattie is hard to beat from many angles!

Fishing in mclaren vale and fleurieu coast

COOK YOUR CATCH

Pan Fried Orange and Fennel Flathead (Serves 4)

INGREDIENTS

2 Oranges

1tbsp vegetable oil

Fennel seeds

Salt and pepper

600g flathead

½ red onion finely sliced

2 small cucumbers finely sliced

Leafy green lettuce

2 tsp olive oil

METHOD

Zest both oranges until you have about 2tbsp of zest. Mix vegetable oil, fennel seeds and orange zest in flat dish. Place flathead in mixture and coat. Allow to sit for 15-20 minutes.

Peel the orange making sure to remove all the white flesh and cut into segments. Do this over a bowl so you capture all the extra juice as this is part of the dressing. Place the orange segments in the bowl and add finely sliced red onion. Mix together and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes. Add finely sliced cucumber and lettuce and 1 tsp of good olive oil. Mix to allow the orange juice to coat the salad.

Heat griddle or pan to a medium heat, spray lightly with oil. Cook 2-3 minutes on one side and then turn, cooking for 1-2 minutes. Remove and serve with salad. This is a deliciously light and easy meal for any occasion, and a great way to utilise your local Autumn catch!

Pan fried orange and fennel flathead

TOP TIPS FOR SUCCESS – FAMILY FISHING

The next few months on the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast will provide arguably the most pleasant weather conditions of the year, making them perfect for family fishing, and introducing newbie anglers in general to the local angling scene.

Fishing with the family brings with it considerable joys, from spending time outside enjoying this scenic area, through to bonding with your kids and making lifelong memories. Having an enjoyable and productive day out needn’t be challenging, and enhancing the experience is easily done with the few basic tips we’ve outlined below.

Selecting a comfortable fishing location is paramount if you want to keep your kids and other family members enthused. A quick way to reduce the fun factor of your day out is to be battered by weather, or spending time in an environment that isn’t pleasurable, and thankfully the area is blessed with a multitude of easy access and family friendly locations.

The Port Noarlunga Jetty is often the first port of call for families, and a short walk from your car puts you in a prime fishing position. Pack a deck chair, hot coffee and snacks and you can be self-sufficient as you catch fish from this iconic southern structure. The Onkaparinga River is another productive location that only requires a short walk from your car to fish and is super reliable from a fish catching perspective. Avoid any muddy banks after rain, and it’s hard to have a bad time of it here in this tranquil setting.

Timing your fishing around the tides and time of day will also increase your chances of catching fish, and nothing will get your kids keener faster than the delight of winding in a quality catch from the area. As a broad guide try fishing three hours either side of high tide, or during the low light periods of the day, notably dawn and dusk, for best results. Of course, when it comes to spending time with the fam’ any time near the water is well spent!

If you do have a successful fishing trip with your family in the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast please tag #valeandcoastfishing when posting your angling pictures to social media - we’d love to see them!

Fishing in mclaren vale and fleurieu coast

 

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