Here's what’s open in McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast today. A great way to support local. With current restrictions in place, please check individual websites for their current COVID safe practices.

Fishing Blog - Winter 2021

A WINTER OF OPPORTUNITY ON THE MCLAREN VALE & FLEURIEU COAST

Winter doesn’t spell the end to fishing along the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast, rather it brings with it a range of fresh and exciting opportunities, even if you do need to wear a few more layers of clothes on occasions.

With lush countryside and spectacular coastal and inland environments at your disposal, holidaying at any of the idyllic locations in the area, from Port Noarlunga in the north through to Sellicks Beach in the south, will be sure to leave you with lasting memories this Winter. A mother and calf southern right whale have been prominent in the area so far this cooler season, so you just never know what your next photo shoot may entail when spending time near the water in these parts.

From multi-night caravanning or camping, hotel and bed and breakfast accommodation, through to an easy day trip, however you choose to stay in the region you’ll find yourself in the thick of quality cool season fishing options, some of which are quite unique to the area like the phenomenal Port Noarlunga Jetty salmon run.

Below is our guide to Winter fishing success on the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast.

HOT SCENARIOS & SPECIES

One of the notable advantages of fishing in the area is the diverse options, and even when Mother Nature tries her best to dampen your enthusiasm there’s still somewhere you can sneak a line in where the winds will be comfortable and you stand a realistic chance at catching your tea if you wish. So with all this said, what are the most likely places and tricks for a great day out this Winter in this fish-rich area?

Boating

Many people don’t associate regular boating sessions with this period of the year, however there are some notable advantages to it along the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast. Firstly there’s no sea-breeze to contend with, so if the day starts calm you could well be in for a full day of mild weather. Secondly, a lack of general boat traffic means you can have areas to yourself, giving you more options to try on any given day and generally reduced fishing pressure on popular squid and whiting grounds for example.

The best bet for easy launching over these months is from the O’Sullivan Beach boat ramp. Weed and big tides can sometimes hamper beach launching efforts at usual places like Sellicks Beach, Silver Sands, Aldinga and Moana, but it’s still doable if you’re well versed in the local conditions and as always, pay close attention to the weather forecast.

Winter boating targets in the area will be headlined by the King George whiting, arguably SA’s favourite fish, which is reflected in the price they fetch on the market, sometimes close to $100 per kilogram - that’s enough motivation to catch them yourself! Locations like Aldinga and Moana are popular for boaties, while the fishing continues further south of here also. North of O’Sullivan Beach both Marino and Hallett Cove are reliable and can be accessed via O’Sullivan Beach boat ramp. Again pay attention to expected weather if venturing too far from the ramp.

King George whiting success is reliant on finding the schools of fish. Try drifting along in your boat at various depths, using a weight or a drogue (sea anchor) to slow your movement when there’s a bit of wind on. When you start catching fish you can then anchor up and berley in the area or simply keep drifting to accumulate a catch. Otherwise anchoring over a combination bottom of sand and weed, or sand and low reef and using a steady berley trail is your best chance of finding them. Also try when the tide is running, as the saying goes “no run, no fun!”

If you can time your fishing when the sea has had a chance to settle and the water clears a touch, you’ll stand a good chance of squid, snook, garfish, tommies, salmon, sand crabs and many others along much of the coastline. Bring a mixture of tackle with you to cover this variety of species, and generally speaking you’ll come home with a mixed catch at the end of the day.

A low-fuss tactic to score a spread of different species includes trolling lures, like 10-12cm hard-body diving minnows or small 5-20 gram metal slices. Cruising slowly along with these out the back driving over any weed beds, near reefs or other points of interest should see you find a few snook, tommies and even locate a patch of salmon. Over Winter always keep your eyes open for diving birds, ripples on the water surface or jumping fish that could signify a salmon school. Otherwise dropping your anchor and getting an oil and bran berley trail going should see gar, tommies, and other larger predators come to you if you’re patient enough.

Fishing in McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast

Onkaparinga River

The Onkaparinga River is always a failsafe option over Winter when inclement conditions may rule out other likely fishing locations along the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast. Kayak anglers will also appreciate the sheltered conditions.

While the river may experience flood events that will see large volumes of cold fresh water flush down its length, big winter tides will encourage fish to enter the system and provide anglers with reliable bream, salmon trout, mullet, flathead, the odd mulloway and other species. The best part is fishing the river is virtually an all-weather option, and it’s hard to miss out!  

The river fishing over Winter will be guided by rains. If the water is dirty try fishing down lower in the more tidal sections towards the mouth and the Foot Bridge where there’s usually plenty of mullet, salmon trout, bream and others to play with. A basic Paternoster rig, consisting of two size 6 hooks above a small pyramid sinker, will be fine for the mullet and salmon. If chasing bream it’s best to use a running rig, with a sliding ball sinker and a size 2-4 hook. Bring a rod holder if chasing bream, set your bait out well away from the bank and wait for your line to scream off. Easy, relaxing fishing, until a fish jumps on that is!

Big bream enter the river over these months in the lead up to their breeding season, and it’s possible to get shiny, silver, sea-run fish coming inside the Onkaparinga. These can be targeted virtually anywhere from the mouth to above the South Road Bridge, including Perry’s Bend. A variety of baits including prawns, fish pieces, pilchards and more work well, as do soft plastic grubs or small hard-body minnows. Have a chat to one of the local tackle shops about the best lure colours and baits that are working at the time and you’ll soon get your confidence up with this fishing, and fall in love with the Onk’ at the same time.  

Fishing Onkaparinga River National Park

Beaches

The McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast beaches are at their productive best over Winter. Don’t let the lack of crowds fool you, there’s some great fishing to be had from the sand!

Schools of ravenous Australian salmon are a major drawcard to the area, and this coast is arguably one of the most productive stretches within easy reach of metro anglers after quality salmon fishing. Two local tackle stores hold annual salmon competitions over Winter where you can enter your catch and try for some great prizes if you need more incentive to chase these sublime sportfish.

Moana, Southport, Maslin Beach and Port Willunga are noted salmon producers, but fish have tails and you can encounter them anywhere from Sellicks Beach right through to Southport Beach over these months.

Another perennial favourite fish from the sand is the yellow-eye mullet, and these can be caught from most beaches with a two-hook Paternoster rig and cockle (pipi) or squid for bait all you need. Use some bread and oil for berley and you should attract them to your area, especially if fishing a rising tide. Mullet will also eat small soft plastics, and can be targeted with 2-3 inch grub-style plastics slowly worked along the bottom.

Other likely Winter beach catches includes flathead, with the chance of mulloway and sharks as we get late in the season closer to Spring.

Sunset Fishing in McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast

Port Noarlunga Jetty

This is the season the Port Noarlunga Jetty really shines as one of SA’s top fishing platforms, as it plays host to throngs of anglers chasing salmon, mullet, squid and others.

Salmon are the talk of the town however, and it’s usually in the most mediocre of sea conditions the jetty provides scintillating action as the fish come inside the Port Noarlunga Reef and raid the jetty, with fish 1-2kg common but much bigger at times also. The rougher the better for this fishing, as the extra wave action seems too fire up the fish, although even on the calmer days it’s possible to catch them still. A hot tip is to try neighbouring beach areas, as the salmon can sometimes be biting better off the beach than the jetty and vice versa. The southern side of the O’Sullivan Beach breakwater is also a productive place for salmon for the more adventurous, and should only be fished in calmer conditions.  

Milder weather is the time to try for squid at dusk or dawn, with mullet in the shallows, or garfish and tommies regulars for those float fishing and using a berley trail. Throwing a crab net from the jetty can yield succulent sand crabs over Winter, which will add nicely to your seafood basket. Convenient and generally productive, the Port Noarlunga Jetty is a family favourite, and popular with the more salt encrusted anglers out there also. Being so close to shops you can easily sneak away for a hot meal and coffee too if things get a bit chilly!

Fishing at Port Noarlunga Jetty in McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast

FOCUS FISH – AUSTRALIAN SALMON

Australian salmon are the icon of Winter fishing along the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast. These fish can be encountered from all of the area’s beaches, and the breakwater, jetty and river, putting them within reach of everyone.

Salmon form large schools that will often be dark black and circular in shape in deeper water, or can be more irregular shapes in the shallows and a lighter colour. These schools are frequently spotted cruising close to shore along the coast, and represent a great opportunity for the angler who has a lure tied on and is ready to grasp the chance at short notice. Try spot the salmon schools from a height where it’s much easier to see them (keep binoculars in your car to help with this). If there’s no obvious schools don’t worry, you still have options up your sleeve!

If you can set a pilchard bait into a nice deep bit of water on any of the beaches you stand a good chance of a salmon encounter over Winter. Look for gutters or holes, which provide areas of deeper water surrounded by shallower water, and these are usually focal points for fish activity. Use some chopped up pilchard pieces as berley and get a steady trail going to draw in any stray fish from the area, or even attract a whole school to your location.

From the Port Noarlunga Jetty the fishing can be shoulder to shoulder when the salmon are running, so you’ll need to show common courtesy to other anglers. Both lures and baits work from here, with bait fishing arguably more user-friendly when there’s a lot of people fishing, although ultimately the choice is up to you.

Try fishing on a rising tide and fish through the high tide say a couple of hours or so into the outgoing tide, and you’ll usually see the best of the fishing. Otherwise dawn and dusk are times the salmon can be active. This applies to beaches, the jetty, river and breakwater.

For bait fishing from the beach you’ll want a 9ft rod, 3000-5000 sized reel running 15-20lb braid, or a slightly heavier outfit if the wind and sea conditions are more adverse. This is a good all-round setup for heavier lure casting duties also, and will work fine off the jetty.

The secondary outfit you’ll want to take and that will provide more fun when the salmon are really biting, is based on a 7ft rod, 3000 to compact 5000 threadline and 12-20lb braid.This setup is perfect for throwing smaller lures and enjoying each jump and run from these hard fighting fish. Be conscious of not fishing too light on the jetty as you may struggle to lift fish up and control them if surrounded by people. Salmon in the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast is the gift that keeps on giving, and so far this winter has delivered great results.

Fishing for Salmon in McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast

COOK YOUR CATCH – THAI FISH PATTIES

While the area provides a multitude of first-class table fish for you to enjoy, there’s many ways to utilise less popular eating species like salmon for example, that are prolific over winter, yet benefit greatly from adding flavour to them.

We’ve previously covered fish smoking in this space, but another extremely tasty alternative is using your salmon as the basis for fish cakes and patties, and they’re the perfect fish for this super easy and tasty meal.

If you’re looking to branch away from more standard fish patties, and add a bit more flavour in the mix, then try our take on Thai fish cakes. Ingredients for this recipe include 500g of salmon, uncooked; 3 tsp red Thai curry paste; 1/2 cup fresh coriander; 1 small red chilli chopped; 10 green beans sliced or half a cup of peas; 2 spring onions chopped; 1 tbs canola oil; 1 egg beaten; 3 tbs cornflour; 1 tbs fish sauce and 200ml sweet chilli sauce to serve.

The method involves first processing the boneless fish fillets in a food processor to a rough consistency. Note that leftover cooked fish can also be used in this recipe, simply reduce cooking time accordingly. Then add the egg, cornflour, fish sauce, curry paste, chilli and coriander, and process until combined.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the peas (or beans) and spring onions. Mix well. Form the mixture into patties using a spoon or wet hands. Heat the oil in a large frying pan to medium heat, and fry the patties, turning when golden brown. Remove when cooked and put on paper towel to drain excess oil, and serve with sweet chilli sauce for a fresh take on an old favourite, and all made with locally caught salmon.

Thai Fish Cake Recipe

TOP TIPS FOR SUCCESS – COMFORT IS THE KEY

Being comfortable is the key to more enjoyable and prolonged fishing efforts over these cooler months on the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast. While sunny, mild days aren’t out of the question, and there’s been more than a few already this season, the crisp edge of Winter, and the mixed conditions that can eventuate, need to be taken into consideration when planning a day out near the water.

Luckily in this area there’s such great fishing close to facilities. You can literally take a break from fishing in many locations and get a coffee or hit up the bakery and recharge for another round later in the day if you wish. That’s a great luxury to have.

Bringing the appropriate clothing is probably a hinge factor to enjoying your time outside. Always bring a windproof jacket and ideally waterproof, so you can remain warm and dry. If you’re fishing the Port Noarlunga Jetty salmon run then many people opt for full wet weather gear including waterproof pants, and will stand in some rather extreme conditions to catch fish. While it’s not for everyone, it’s made possible thanks to forward planning and dressing for the worst case scenario.

Those walking the banks of the Onkaparinga River should pack rubber boots as it can get a bit muddy in places, while beach anglers may choose to wear waders and a rain jacket to create a protective shell from the elements. Oh, a nice beanie, warm gloves and thermos of hot coffee won’t go astray on the more bitter days either! While conditions aren’t always inclement, having the protective gear on hand will mean you can keep fishing and enjoy every minute of it.

On a final note, if you’re showing off your catches or time spent in the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast on social media please remember to tag #valeandcoastfishing and share your great times with us!

Fishing at Port Noarlunga Jetty in McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast

 

Get social

Share your photos of McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast using #ValeandCoast

 

Subscribe

for upcoming events, news and offers