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Fishing Blog - Spring 2021

SPRING INTO IT ON THE MCLAREN VALE& FLEURIEU COAST

Spring is in the air on the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast, and that can only mean one thing if you’re an avid angler - the ‘fishing season’ is here!

With mild temperatures intermingled with glorious sunny days, with the added benefit of a lack of crowds compared to Summer, Spring really is a top time to plan a trip to the area. Be it a day sojourn or an extended getaway to any of the picture-perfect locations on offer, heading south has a lot going for it!

Further facilitating your fishing and holidaying in the area, is the multitude of accommodation options on offer from Port Noarlunga down to Sellicks Beach. Every place has its own unique fishing experience to offer, but to help narrow down where to best spend your time with a line in the water we’ve outlined a range of likely Spring angling locations and target species below.

HOT SCENARIOS & SPECIES

Moderate Spring weather will allow anglers greater access to the full gamut of fishing options in the area, with beach, river, boat and jetty all giving up enjoyable sessions, and all going well, your next seafood feast!

Boating

This is generally the time to dust off your boat and spend more days exploring the area’s productive inshore grounds for a range of high quality table fish and some great light tackle fun. Read further down for more on getting your boat and tackle ready for the new season ahead.

One of the many joys of boating over Spring is the lack of crowds on the water and at the boat ramp, and more notably an absence of the strong sea breezes of Summer. The McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast provides a range of boat bounty to chase when you launch, headlined by squid, garfish, tommies, snook, whiting and more. Needless to say, mixed bag sessions are common which equates to a varied seafood banquet.

Squid are endearing favourites, and Spring is arguably the better time of the year to be chasing them, especially if you're after the jumbo specimens. After the extreme weather of Winter, calmer conditions will mean clearer water and prime conditions to be chasing squid in the area, that can be schooled up given it’s their breeding season.

Try and focus efforts on areas of low reef and weed, or thicker weed beds where they'll likely be laying their eggs, otherwise drifting and working a combination bottom of sand and weed will usually see you come across packs of hungry squid. Try different depths until you discover a bite pattern. A combined approach of flicking squid jigs and using real fish teasers like tommies, is a great way to fish that's bound to get you squid rings for tea and keep your bait freezer well stocked also. Grounds near Moana, Aldinga and Myponga are productive, although they are quite widespread.

Garfish are perfect targets for boaties when the weather is calm, and they can be drawn in with a steady berley trail of oil and bran, with gents the best bait. Usually joining them in your berley trail are tommies as a handy bonus. Aldinga, Moana, Christies Beach and Marino are all likely locations that can be reached from the area’s various boat launching sites.

Snook are a toothy inshore predator that show up in increasing numbers over these months and are a lot of fun and great tucker also. These fish love eating garfish and expect them to loiter around the same areas you’re catching gar. Probably the most efficient way to rustle a few snook is to troll metal or diving lures around in a few metres of water, mostly over weed or low structures, and you’ll soon find a few or a lot of them. Once found you can then drift and throw soft plastics or any number of lures or baits around to catch them. A lightly weighted pilchard, whitebait or frogmouth pilchard works a treat, as does a fresh garfish fillet.

KG whiting begin to taper off later in Spring, although you can still find pockets of nice fish. Moana and Aldinga are popular, or you can run north to Hallett Cove if you don’t mind the extra travel distance from the ramp.

Beach launching will start to become more popular as the weather improves with Sellicks Beach, Silver Sands, Aldinga and Moana options when conditions are conducive. The O’Sullivan Beach boat ramp will however continue to be the most popular option.

Fishing in mclaren vale and fleurieu coast

Onkaparinga River

The Onkaparinga River really starts to shine through Spring as a prominent go-to location on the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast. Whether kayaking or fishing from the banks, a low-fuss family outing or a serious sportfishing mission, this river appeals to a large cross-section of people and delivers the fishy goods more times than not.

With heavy rains abating flood events will become less common down the river, meaning more consistent fishing and a greater variety of species on offer. Bream and mulloway will headline the species list. Bream (tactics detailed down lower) will be finishing up their breeding duties later in Spring, and to give them some protection in the river there’s a bream closure from the 1 September to 30 November inclusive in the Onkaparinga River upstream of the Main South Road Bridge at Old Noarlunga. There’s still plenty of water to catch these fish, and it’s a great time to get an above average sized bream from the system. Catch and release is encouraged over these months given they are in breeding mode.

Later in Spring the real prize of the south, the mulloway, begin to build in numbers and push into the Onkaparinga, where they become a frontline target for anglers pretty much right through until Winter the following year.

Many of the mulloway you’ll catch in the Onkaparinga are in the 40-80cm size range, with the odd better model up to and over a metre. These fish can be found throughout the whole system, between Old Noarlunga and the mouth at Port Noarlunga. They can be caught day or night, with a notable increase in chances during low light periods and into the night, but some big fish get caught even during office hours here.

Best baits include pilchards, saury, mullet, live striped trumpeter, squid and others. Lure wise they can be caught on 4-6 inch soft plastics or hard-bodied minnows.

Flathead numbers only seem to increase through Spring here as well, with fish caught up to the Commercial Road Bridge. Yellowfin whiting are a new season arrival that tend to start to show up later in Spring, with the lower reaches most productive. Try using live or dead worm baits for best success, and expect to hook bream and other species while chasing them. Salmon trout, the odd mullet and even blue crab can be caught in the river as well to keep you guessing.

A word of warning when walking the banks of the river is to watch out for snakes, as the onset of warmer weather can see them become more active and a little cranky. Stick to fishing more open areas and you should comfortably avoid any encounters, but always be mindful that they are about.

Fishing in mclaren vale and fleurieu coast

Beaches

The beaches of the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast are the jewel in the region’s crown, and with the sun making a more regular appearance now is the time to start exploring and enjoying these picturesque locations. From a fishing and holidaying perspective their attraction is multifaceted, as you can swim, fish, sunbake or just relax and absorb the surrounds if you wish.

Yellowfin whiting will likely be on the move this Spring from the beaches. These tasty fish will feed close to the shore along many of the sheltered/semi-sheltered beaches of the area, right down to Sellicks Beach. Silver Sands and Sellicks Beach tend to be great locations later in Spring as the water heats up more and the fish travel down lower, while higher up is worth the extra time early on.

Australian salmon will continue to provide thrills and spills for anglers, and cooler temperatures so far this Spring have meant they’ve remained a popular catch. Port Willunga, Maslin Beach, South Port and Moana are all capable of providing hot salmon fishing. Look for schools of fish even over these months, which are best targeted by throwing lures into the frenzy. Otherwise bait fishing in deeper gutters remains productive.

Mullet, salmon trout, flathead and others will linger on for a while, although will start to taper off as we get late into the season. This is more than compensated for by the arrival of mulloway and sharks along the coast. Both of these free-roaming predators can be caught from virtually any beach in the area. Moana, Port Willunga, Southport, Maslin and Sellicks beaches are all capable of giving you a big hook-up. Fresh bait is the key to catching both consistently, as is putting in healthy hours around peak bite times of low light, or two hours either side of high tide.

Fishing in mclaren vale and fleurieu coast

Port Noarlunga Jetty

The Port Noarlunga Jetty is at its productive best over Spring, with an increase in garfish, tommies, snook, crab and squid numbers pleasing those who like to walk the planks. If you’re after a family friendly fishing location on the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast then this is it.

Salmon will continue to be caught from the structure, particularly during and just after rough weather. So far Spring has provided some great action on these fish here. Warm clothes (and a thermos of coffee!) and robust tackle capable of lifting solid salmon up the jetty side are prerequisites. Soft plastics, metal lures and pilchards are the predominate offerings used. If conditions look good and the jetty isn’t producing then try the nearby Southport Beach as the salmon aren’t usually far away.

Warm evenings and nights are perfect for snook. These fish can be spotted jumping clear of the water when harassing baitfish, and are responsive to pilchard or fish strip baits, and a range of artificial lures like soft plastics and diving hard-body minnows.

Garfish and tommies are great ‘bread and butter’ targets, and are generally reliable if you can establish a berley trail. Try using gent baits under floats or if the fish are fussy then drift your bait down to them. Try a crab net on the bottom for sand crabs and the odd legal blue swimmer – a great adjunct to your seafood basket!

The jetty is perfectly situated where you can spend the day fishing and checking out the neighbouring shops while grabbing a bite to eat while in Port Noarlunga. With the river and beach nearby you’re surrounded by close handy fishing options to prospect at your leisure – it all sounds like relaxing fun doesn’t it!?

Port Noarlunga Jetty Fishing

FOCUS FISH – BLACK BREAM

A perennial light tackle favourite, the black bream will be snapped from their Winter slumber by the increasing air and water temperature and looking to school up to breed at this time of year. Usually by late Spring they’ve completed their breeding duties. Springtime bream can be decidedly easier to catch than is normally the case, with their breeding duties somewhat reducing their usual caution towards eating lures and baits, and they can be really aggressive and tightly schooled.

Lure and bait anglers are in the running for hot sessions in the Onkaparinga River, and also stand a chance of open water fish from the Port Noarlunga Jetty, and neighbouring beaches and shorelines. In the Onk’ the fish are widespread, and excluding the bream closure area mentioned above, anywhere from the mouth and Foot Bridge, Perry’s Bend and near any structure and holes will be the places to try. Kayak anglers are utilising cutting-edge sounder technology to better track down the schools of fish, and the results speak for themselves.

Soft plastics in the 2-3 inch size, such as grub and minnow patterns, are arguably the number one lure option for bream in the Onkaparinga, with natural greens and browns always solid performers. Hard-bodied minnows can be equally as deadly at times, and again experiment with colours until you find a winning option. What works one day may not work the next.

Using bait for bream is the epitome of relaxing fishing, as you cast out and kick back in your deck chair waiting for a fish to scream off with your line. Perfect family fishing, with only simple gear requirements. Ideally baits of prawns, pilchards, or fish flesh are used, and these are fished on a running style rig consisting of a sliding ball sinker running down to a size 2-6 hook. Again set baits in the same areas you’d target them with lures, and don’t be surprised if you encounter the odd mulloway either doing this.

Fishing in mclaren vale and fleurieu coast

COOK YOUR CATCH – Cheese and Herb Crusted Flathead


Flathead don’t require an introduction to those who love their seafood, and they’re on just about every pub menu in SA to back up their reputation. These fish offer a chunky bone-white flesh that is versatile to cook with, and can be used in curries through to more standard ‘coat and cook’ methods.

A super tasty and easy way to utilising any flathead you’ve caught from the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast region is to create a cheese and herb crust that will add considerably more flavour to the fish than other more standard coating methods.

Ingredients to make up four servings of cheese and herb crusted flathead include, 800g of fillets; 4 tbsp cornflour or plain flour; 1 egg; 1tsp water; 1 cup grated tasty cheese; 1 cup breadcrumbs; chopped soft green herbs such as coriander, parsley, mint or chives; and finally your preferred oil for shallow frying.

To begin with cut the flathead into 3-4cm wide strips and lightly coat in flour. Mix egg with a fork in a small bowl and add about a teaspoon of water. Combine tasty cheese, chopped soft herbs and breadcrumbs in a bowl. Dip fillets in egg wash ensuring all sides are covered and then transfer to bread crumb mixture, and press generous amounts of the mixture on to the fillets.

Use a deep fry pan or a wok for shallow frying and set on medium temperature.  Gently transfer the fillets into the pan and cook for 2 minutes on one side and then turn and cook for 1-2 minutes or until a nice golden colour is achieved.

Simply serve your cheese and herb crusted flathead with your favourite salad for an easy, light meal this Spring that’s sure to keep your dinner guests happy.

Cheese and Herb Crusted Flathead

TOP TIPS FOR SUCCESS – DUSTING OFF YOUR GEAR

With the ‘serious’ fishing months now here it’s time to ensure your gear is up to speed to make the most of opportunities as they present themselves.

Boats are one item often neglected over the ‘off season’ and you can’t cut corners when it comes to the safety of yourself and your family on the water. If your trailer or motor hasn’t been serviced for a while take it to your preferred marine dealer so they can give it some TLC and provide you with peace of mind. Besides removing the dust and spiders yourself, you can charge up batteries, get some fresh fuel in, check oil levels if required, and check all the lights etc. are working as intended. You should also go over all safety gear to ensure it hasn’t expired and is in working order.

Your fishing gear may also need some attention. Any reels or rods in disrepair can be taken into your local tackle store for repair or even general maintenance. Fishing lures can have rusty hooks replaced, and you may want to invest in tackle storage systems while you’re at it, to further organise any nitty-gritty items. Good organisation makes ‘grab and go’ fishing sessions so much easier and more low fuss.

If you’d like to show off your catch or your adventures in the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast on social media please remember to tag #valeandcoastfishing and share your Spring fishing memories with us!

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