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Fishing Blog Winter 2022

WINTER OF OPPORTUNITY IN MCLAREN VALE & FLEURIEU COAST

McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast fishing scene is very much online over winter, and if you rug up it’s business as usual if you’re a visiting angler looking for fun times!

With green rolling hills, and stunning coastal vistas at every turn, it really is a great place to have a holiday, fish and soak in the relaxed southern vibe that is so exclusive to this great part of our State. From Sellicks Beach in the south to more northern areas like Port Noarlunga, there’s a hardly a shortage of coast to enjoy when you visit, be it staying a hotel or bed and breakfast, or camping and caravanning in the area – it’s all catered for!

Below is our look at Winter fishing in McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast, and the many unique angling opportunities that present themselves over these months, which you’d be hard-pressed to better!

HOT SCENARIOS & SPECIES

Boating

Boating may not be at the forefront of your mind when visiting McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast over winter, but it probably should be given the amazing seafood on offer, a lack of sea breezes, and a distinct absence of boat traffic which is so prolific over Summer. There’s a lot of positives to it!

The O’Sullivan Beach boat ramp is generally the main launching site in the area, given weed and sizable tides can impact beach launching at traditional areas like Sellicks Beach, Silver Sands, Aldinga and Moana. This said, in the right conditions it’s still possible from these areas, just with reduced regularity over Winter.  

King George whiting are the number one boating target in the area, and Aldinga and Moana are two hot locations to prospect for boat fishos. More northern areas accessible from O’Sullivan Beach such as Marino and Hallett Cove are equally as dependable.  

The same areas you’re chasing whiting, expect a raft of other species to be encountered, including squid, snook, garfish, tommies, salmon, sand crabs and many others along much of the coastline. Winter is a top time for mixed bags, and if you pack a few lures and a mix of bait fishing terminal tackle, you can still accumulate a feed even if your primary target doesn’t play ball.

Sand crabs are a much under-discussed species, that are quite thick over Winter. Setting a few crab traps in your general whiting or squid fishing area for example could yield you a some solid sandies for the table. Despite the lack of press surround them, many people rate sand crabs better than the high profile blue swimmers! Ideally use oily and/or durable baits like salmon, flathead heads and others if you want the best chance of a getting a few.

Salmon aren’t just a beach target over Winter and boaties down south stand a very good chance of having an encounter. Look for diving birds, or disturbances on the water to give away schools of these fish. Or try trolling lures near structure or drop-offs, or anchoring and berlying to bring them in.

Fishing in McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast

Onkaparinga River

When the weather is on the wild side you really come to appreciate the sanctuary that the Onkaparinga River can provide and from the shore or kayak there’s not many days of the year that you can’t successfully fish here in relative comfort.

The Onk’ can be prone to flooding over winter that will impact the upper reaches especially, but so far these Winter conditions have been relatively mild and dry and the fishing in the river has been red-hot as a result.

Big bream are the prize over the cooler months. Black bream enter the river in the lead-up to their spawning time and will be feeding hard. These fish are of above average size and are usually shiny silver in appearance and are full of fight. From the mouth of the system through to the South Road Bridge and beyond you’ll have chances on these fish.

Lures are a highly popular approach, with 2-3 inch soft plastic grubs and small hard-body lures the most popular options to trick these fish. For those looking to relax with bait, setting out a prawn or fish bait into the many holes, or around any structure, will put you in the running for a screamer also, and is a highly productive way to sample the fishing here.

Lower in the river where it’s more tidal around the the Foot Bridge you’ll find mullet, salmon trout, flathead, bream and others when using a  Paternoster rig and pipi (cockle) or squid strips. There’s great variety in here over Winter, try and fish a rising or high tide for best return, or around low light periods in the morning and close to dark for best results.

Onkaparinga River National Park

Beaches

Beach fishing in the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast area over Winter really comes alive. It might be cold, and less people will be swimming and sunbaking on these amazing stretches of sand, but the fish don’t mind one bit!

Australian salmon are the real feature fish of the area, and again this season has started strong with respectable schools of fish cruising up and down the coast, and putting smiles on faces. Let’s Go Fishin and Mid-Coast Fishing Tackle stores both hold salmon fishing competitions over these months, so be sure to call into their shops if you catch a big one and weigh it in for the chance at some great prizes.

Area wise, Moana, Southport, Maslin Beach and Port Willunga are consistent holders of salmon of all sizes, but they can be caught between Southport Beach to Sellicks Beach and beyond.

Salmon aside, yellow-eye mullet, flathead, tommies and others are common. With sharks and mulloway starting to show closer to Spring.

Fishing in McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast

Port Noarlunga Jetty

The Port Noarlunga Jetty is one of SA’s most popular structures over the Winter months, largely thanks to its reliable salmon fishing, but with some other great sideline options as well.

Salmon have again been caught in spades from here this winter so far, and will only continue for a while yet! When the winds blow, and the seas whip into a frenzy, salmon of mixed sizes venture inside the Port Noarlunga Reef to feed, giving jetty anglers easy access to hot fishing action for this iconic species. It doesn’t always have to be overly rough either for the fish to bite, and the best policy is to give it a go!

This whole area is noted for its Winter salmon fishing, and when you visit be sure to check out Southport Beach, the O’Sullivan Beach Breakwater (southern side especially) and the other beaches down the coast. All can deliver red-hot action on these hard fighting fish, which cook up when with a variety of methods, such as smoking, in patties, or filleted and fried up fresh.

In calmer conditions the jetty is noted for its reliable Winter gar fishing, with large ‘redbills’ frequently caught in target worthy amounts. Squid will continue to be taken, especially when the water clears a touch, with tommie ruffs and many others possible as well. There’s many great eateries in the area too if the fish don’t bite or you need a coffee to warm up a touch!

Fishing off Port Noarlunga Jetty

FOCUS FISH – FLATHEAD FUN

Few fish are as tasty and fun to catch as flathead, and along McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast there’s opportunities for these perennial favourites from the beach, jetty and river.

Flathead are a thin-profiled predatory fish that rely on holding near structure to hunt their prey, and from O’Sullivan Beach south there’s no shortage of fish holding areas to target them. Low reef, gutters, weed beds, river flats and much more can all be the scene of your next flathead encounter.

Known for their aggressive feeding antics flathead can be caught on a multitude of baits and lures. The easiest approach is using soft plastic lures from 80-110mm and actively casting and retrieving them around likely zones. For those after a more casual approach, fishing a pilchard bait rigged on a single or double 2/0-4/0 hook works well, especially when fished amongst a berley trail. 2-3kg tackle, with a robust 6-8kg leader is required to combat their fine but raspy sharp teeth.

Be mindful of the spines around their head, and otherwise enjoy what these camouflaged fish have to offer.


COOK YOUR CATCH – FLATHEAD CURRY
In winter, fish tends to drop off some household menus and be replaced by winter soups, stews, and curries using heavier proteins such as beef, lamb, and chicken. However, recently I discovered the pleasure of using flathead in a curry at a cooking school which has completely changed my view on using fish in winter recipes. This flathead yellow curry is a fragrant, mild, and delicious light winter weeknight meal option.

For those with the time and inclination, nothing is more satisfying than making a curry paste from scratch, but for the most part I, and many others, am often time poor and in need of simplistic yet tasty recipes at hand, which is why I’ve opted to use a pre-made curry paste in this recipe. I find the Valcom brand the most authentic in flavour, however you can use which ever brand you prefer.

Heat saucepan on medium heat and add half a jar of yellow curry paste and stir over medium heat until fragrant (2-3 mins). Add sliced vegetables, stirring to coat the vegetables in curry paste then add coconut milk and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10-minutes.

While the curry is cooking, in a shallow pan heat 1 tbsp oil at medium heat. Add flathead fillets and season lightly with salt and cook for a few minutes to lightly brown the outside.  This cooking is all about adding a little bit of colour and flavour to the fish, you don’t want to cook the fish through at this point. Remove from heat once lightly brown.

Add the fish, sugar, and fish sauce (optional) to the curry and simmer for a further 5-minutes or until the fish is cooked through. 

This mild yellow flathead curry is sure to be a hit with the whole family. Serve topped with chopped fresh coriander and a side of basmati rice it’ll keep you warm on the coldest of winter’s nights.

Ingredients

½ jar yellow curry paste

1 tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil

440g coconut cream (tin)

1 tsp palm sugar (or sugar)

1 tsp fish sauce (optional)

400g flathead fillets

Finely sliced vegetables of your choice (carrot, zucchini, baby sweet corn)

Chopped fresh coriander to serve

Flathead fish curry

TOP TIPS FOR SUCCESS – HAVING A GAME PLAN

Getting outdoors over Winter can at times be a challenge, let’s be honest. Walking away from home comforts such as a heater, the couch and tv when it’s a little bleak and chilly outside can be a struggle. However, finding the fun in Winter fishing in the area is easy to do, whether you’re motivated by catching a feed for the table, having a sportfishing orientated day out using lures and light line, or just soaking a bait with the family.

Having a game plan in mind will no doubt make your time outdoors much more enjoyable, and you’ll find it easier to achieve what you set out to do, boosting the fun factor and getting you coming back for more. If you’re after a fresh fish meal, you may want to chase fish like mullet from the shore, or squid in the boat. Low-fuss and reliable targets like these rarely disappoint. While if you’re after a sportfishing challenge, then using small lures and chasing big bream in the Onkaparinga, or salmon on the beaches may be more your thing and should produce.

Factor in the weather, tides and your fishing companions when selecting the best option for you. Whatever your reason for going fishing, and enjoying the region over the cooler months, we’re sure you’ll have no regrets!

Finally, if you’re showing off your catches or time spent in McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast on social media please remember to tag #valeandcoastfishing and share your magic moments with us!

Fishing in McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Coast

 

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