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Fishing Blog - Summer 2022

FUN IN THE SUMMER SUN ON THE MCLAREN VALE & FLEURIEU COAST

Summer is fishing time on the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast, with a full species list on offer, including some of the tastiest angling targets swimming in our State’s waters. When you combine this with a picturesque backdrop, ample facilities and varied accommodation options, it’s easy to see why going south is on the must-do list for many people this holiday season!

Adding to attraction of the area is the range of environments so close to each other, ensuring no two days of your time in the region have to be the same. One day you might like a day at the beach swimming and fishing, through to more tranquil sessions at the Onkaparinga River, or walking the planks of the local jetty - it can be quite varied if you wish. Whether camping, caravanning or taking advantage of the many other holiday accommodation options, it’s the place to be this summer!

HOT LOCATIONS & SPECIES

Below we’ve outlined some of the more popular options to explore when you’re visiting.

Boating

Boating options abound over Summer in the area, and with numerous launching sites, and hopefully mild weather, there’s nothing stopping you from hitting the water.

Boaties can launch from the O’Sullivan Beach boat ramp, or beach launch at numerous locations down the coast such as Sellicks Beach, Silver Sands, Aldinga and Moana. This stretch of water is well-known for its King George whiting, squid, garfish, snook, sand crabs and much more.

Summer is noted for providing clear water conditions, which squid love and they will be a popular catch. You don’t need to go far to catch these either, with grounds directly out from O’Sullivan Beach boat ramp productive, through to Moana and Aldinga. Kayak anglers will equally be in the running for calamari rings for tea in these waters, as you really don’t have to go far to catch them.

Garfish will be another ‘easy feed’ option, with Aldinga, Moana and virtually all inshore waters providing opportunities on these. Tommies will usually be in the same areas and are great for your smoke box, or they can be filleted and fried up as well – small but tasty!

Snook will be close to the garfish schools, with trolling hard-bodied lures or metal lures in a few metres of water over weedy or reefy bottom will soon find these fish. If you get a few trolling, try stopping your boat and throwing soft plastic lures or pilchard baits around in the immediate area, as often there will be plenty more nearby.

King George whiting can be caught and will require you to regularly shift around looking for the schools, which can be a bit more patchy over the warmer months. Mix up your depths and bottom type and try drift fishing if the standard ‘anchor and berley’ approach isn’t delivering results. You can always drop a crab net onto the sand holes close to where you’re fishing and pick up some sumptuous sand crabs if you need a back-up plan!

Fish caught in McLaren Vale Fleurieu Coast

Onkaparinga River

If it’s a bit windy or you’re looking to mix up your McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast fishing experience, then the Onkaparinga River is deserving of your attention. It’s also the perfect calm water family friendly fishing location.

Kayak and land-based anglers are well catered for here over Summer, with an impressive hit list of mulloway, bream, yellowfin whiting, flathead and more possible. Bream are now targetable in the whole length of the river with the lifting of the ban above South Road Bridge. These fish will reside around the holes and structure and respond to the typical tactics of small 2-3 inch soft plastics and hard-body lures, through to a range of fish and prawn baits. The Foot Bridge, Perry’s Bend and above South Road will be reliable starting points for them.

The prize of the Onk’ however is the mighty mulloway, and now is the time to catch them. These fish will test your patience but the wait will be worth it. Lure and bait anglers have equal chances of success. Dead fish and squid baits work well, while live tommies, mullet and trumpeter are an irresistible alternative. These fish are quite mobile, putting in long hours in the one place is required if using bait, while lure anglers can be more active searching them out.

Snakes are a genuine hazard to be mindful of if fishing here. Usual precautions apply, by avoiding long grass and thick vegetation, and always keep an eye out where you’re putting your feet.

Fishing in mclaren vale and fleurieu coast

Beaches

The beaches of the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast have great people pulling power over these months, with their multifaceted appeal. Swim, sunbake, have a picnic, fish – it’s all possible in these idyllic locations.

Sellicks, Silver Sands, Aldinga, Maslins and Moana are the pick of the bunch if you’re after some quality fishing, with the chance to dip your toes in the water as well. These mild watered beaches are something special on warm days. While you can get blinded by the beauty of these beaches and the possibility of jumping in for a swim to cool off, there’s some quality fishing to be had too!

A fish that peaks over these months is the yellowfin whiting, one of our leading table fish and super fun to catch in only a few feet of water. Schools of yellowfin regularly patrol the beaches of the area, sometimes cruising hard against the shoreline. The mouth of the Onkaparinga River is a hot spot, but many of the beaches are the places to catch them right down to Sellicks Beach. Silver Sands is worth a special mention and can be quite reliable, but they can literally be on any of the beaches of the area.

Salmon, some of decent size, have stayed around longer than normal this year, and you could well bump into quite large fish right through these months. Look for black circular schools of fish, or try soaking baits in gutters to encounter them.

Smaller salmon, the odd mullet, flathead, tommies and others will regularly eat baits fished on any of these beaches. Predators such as mulloway and sharks will never be far away either, and it can be worth fishing a larger bait during low light period to chase them. Please be mindful of sharking restrictions and always respect other water users.

Fish caught in McLaren Vale Fleurieu Coast

Port Noarlunga Jetty

Simple Summer sessions don’t get any easier than fishing from the Port Noarlunga Jetty. This reliable structure will serve up some great action ranging from snook, squid, garfish, sand and blue crabs, sharks and more. If it’s variety you want, then this place has it!

Fishing at night will be reliable for tommies, garfish, squid, snook and others near the lights, while daytime sessions will produce all species also.

A great general approach to the jetty is to dangle a plastic berley bucket in the water, with oil and bread or bran inside and keep a berley trail going. Small fish will soon be attracted, which in turn can bring in larger predators.

Lure anglers will get regular results chasing squid from the structure, especially during low light, with smaller profile 2-3 jigs best when they’re fussy. Bright colours in low light and darker natural colours in sunny conditions is generally the best policy for selecting squid jigs. Those throwing soft plastics or small hard-body lures will also encounter salmon, snook, tommies, and may even run into the elusive rat kingfish.  

Port Noarlunga Jetty in McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast

FOCUS FISH – GREAT GARFISH

Warming waters over the coming months bring with them some great inshore opportunities for anglers on the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast, and easy ways to load up on some prime seafood with minimal effort. One of these scenarios is target garfish, as numbers of these sleek profiled fish snowball, as they push in close to shorelines and within easy reach of land-based anglers and small boat owners alike. Right up and down this coastline is perfect garfish habit in only a few metres of water at most, from O’Sullivan Beach right down to Sellicks Beach.

An easy way to catch them from your boat is to anchor over a combination of weed and sand, usually at a depth you can still see the bottom. Then establish a continuous berley trail of oil and bran and soon enough these fish will show up, usually announcing themselves with small splashes on the surface as they scoop up your berley.  

A bunch of Sheldon’s gents rigged on a fine gauge size 10-12 long shank or short shank hook is a time proven way to tempt garfish. Small pieces of cockle are a suitable substitute when the fish are on the job. One of the best ways to get a bite is to slowly move your bait to catch their attention. Some sessions have turned into almost cast and retrieve efforts, as floats are slowly wound in and when you see a gar grab it a momentary pause of your retrieve will usually see them scoff it. Otherwise it’s a case of studying your float and looking for irregular movements. Sometimes in super shallow water they can be a touch cagey so be prepared to mix up presentations to get the bite.

Berley, and how you use it, is undoubtedly the cornerstone of your garfish technique, and if you can’t keep the fish interested for a long period of time, you’ll find this fishing hard going. Having a bottle of fish oil on you makes it easy to introduce some into the water every so often or add it to your berley which goes in your float. The new Tassie Salmon Fish Oil works well, as does tried and proven tuna oil.  Bran, bread and other ingredients are perfect for your berley, with a touch of oil thrown in. It’s all about keeping them in your area when you’ve done the hard work to attract a school.

Garfish are easily caught from the shore from the Port Noarlunga Jetty, or wading from sheltered shores is also an option.

Learning how to butterfly fillet garfish is a bit of an art-form, but is a skill well worth mastering. With finicky bones it’s truly the best way to get maximum flesh from these slender, yet amazingly sweet tasting fish.

Fishing  on the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast

COOK YOUR CATCH – CRAB TACOS!

Having a feed of blue crabs at the end of a toasty Summer day is one of the iconic rituals of this time of year. Blue swimmers are particularly versatile, and the meat can be eaten on its own with dipping sauce, pickled or used as filler in countless recipes. Here’s a fresh take on an old favourite we’ve found is a real crowd pleaser – blue crab tacos. The recipe is fresh and full of flavour and is sure to be a family favourite during crab season and the hot summer months. It is also perfect for leftover crab meat!

Firstly for super fresh and tasty crab meat, cook your crabs in salted boiling water for around 6-8 minutes depending on the size, then remove immediately and submerge into a saltwater ice bath to cool rapidly. Once the crabs are cool, pick the meat out of the shell using crab pickers for best results, and set aside in the fridge until you are ready to serve the tacos.

To prepare the pickled vegetables, place sliced onion and sliced radish into a shallow bowl and cover with red wine vinegar. Sprinkle brown sugar over the vegetables and stir ingredients until sugar is dissolved and vegetables are coated in vinegar. Leave for at least 20 minutes, stirring a few times. Strain vegetables when ready to use. Mix lettuce, carrot, cabbage and strained pickled onions and radish together in a serving bowl and set aside until ready to serve.

The best way to enjoy tacos is to heat the soft tortillas, and put all the fillings on the table and let everyone help themselves. Fill tacos with salad mix, fresh crab meat, taco sauce and a squeeze of lemon or lime and enjoy with your favourite cold beverage!

Crab Tacos

TOP TIPS FOR SUCCESS – CATCH CARE

Fish storage and handling is one of the major hinge factors between having a great seafood meal, and being served one you’d rather forget that tastes like a wet sock. This is amplified over the Summer months where hot days and nights will exposure poor fish handling and storage practices even further, and result in your hard-won fish from the area being subpar on the dinner plate, and worst-case, potentially hazardous to eat.

Simple steps will equal big results when it comes to getting the most from your catch. Many fish can be kept alive on boats in live wells or live bait tanks and this will keep them in prime shape to put on ice when you’re back on shore. Otherwise try to have a bucket or cooler with you that provides some barrier from direct sunlight and ideally keep your catch submerged in cool sea water, on ice, or ideally in an ice slurry.

Fish should always be cleaned as soon as practically possible at the end of the session. Gut and gills are a major source of bacteria in a fish, and if left in your catch for any length of time will accelerate the degradation of the fish and the flesh. As a minimum at the end of the session it pays to remove both the gut and gills if you don’t have the time to fillet your catch straight away. Ideally however you’ll remove your chilled down fish and scale and fillet them soon after you’ve stopped fishing, again keeping the flesh out of direct sunlight as much as possible. A good tip is to use sea water to clean your fillets to help retain their flavour. A little effort keeping your catch away from the elements will put smiles on faces at the dinner table, over what is undoubtedly the seafood season here in SA!

Finally, we’d love to know about your fishy exploits along the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast, please tag #valeandcoastfishing when sharing on social media. Good luck and happy fishing this holiday season!

Fishing  on the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast

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