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NIGHT FISHING WITH LURES

Cameron Cronin

As lure fishing of all types grows more and more popular, we are always on the lookout for that gun fishing method that will get us ahead of the pack and catching more fish. One hot summer's night, a year or so back, me and a friend were returning home from a session on the flats a bit later than usual. We decided to have a quick flick at a spot that usually isn't too productive, however, under the cover of darkness the spot suddenly came to life and in under thirty minutes we had landed around five estuary perch each and a handful of quality flatties. This session made me realise just how productive night fishing could be and not long after this introduction I had taught myself to consistently land numbers of fish and quality fish that simply were not possible during the daylight hours.

So, why is night fishing so effective? It is my belief that in the heavily urbanised waterways that typify Sydney, fish can quickly shut down due to boat traffic and other interference, especially in shallow water. Also, fish that hunt during the daytime are often more at risk of being preyed upon by waterbirds, such as eagles, pelicans and cormorants. At night however, the vast majority of these 'threats' disappear, causing many fish species to feed much more aggressively. Night fishing is also a great way for people with daytime commitments, like work and school, to get a fish in and it is very time efficient, as you will generally spend much less time flicking in between landing fish. Though you can catch any species at night, there are a few certain species that seem to really fire up once the sun goes down. In my local area, these species are:

Flathead

Despite the flathead's popularity as a species, I am constantly surprised at the number of people that believe flathead become dormant at night. This is definitely not the case as flathead are an extremely viable night time target and in my opinion flathead actually become much more active under the cover of darkness. While night fishing for flatties I tend to use plastics that are slightly larger than those used during the day, with my all-time favourite lure being the ZMan 4" SwimmerZ in the Red Shad colour. This colour casts a great silhouette in the darkness and its larger body and deadly roll at slow speeds really lends itself to being crunched by some true croc-sized flatties.

Other lures to consider are the ZMan 3" MinnowZ, ZMan 4" StreakZ Curly TailZ and the ZMan 3" Scented ShrimpZ, as well as the ever popular TT Lures Switchblade in sizes from 1/8 to 1/2oz. When I target flathead at night I use the lowered visibility to my advantage and beef up my leaders, with a good starting point being 12lb fluorocarbon and work up from there.

Areas to fish for nocturnal flatties vary slightly to those fished during the day and I find that probably the most successful locations are those lit up by artificial light. This includes the type of light found on bridges and roads fringing the water's edge. Once you are rigged up, cast your offering along shadow lines, drop offs, weed edges and rock bars in your target area, keeping the lure close to the bottom and employing a variety of fast and slow rips with the rod tip. Most hits will occur within two metres of the bottom, so by keeping the lure in this zone you will minimise wasted time and maximise the amount of hits and hook-ups.

Estuary Perch

Probably one of my favourite saltwater species, estuary perch, can be commonly found in a variety of estuarine environments, from snaggy freshwater creeks in the upper reaches, right down to the crystal clear saltwater weed flats and drop-offs near the ocean. Estuary perch are one of those species that are really well designed to hunt in low light conditions, using their large eyes to track down prey before dashing in and inhaling it with their large bucket-like mouth.

By far the best way to target perch at night is by casting at fixed bridge pylons. I have also had some insane sessions though, in recent times, fishing small plastics and blades through deep holes near the entrance of my local system. When I rig up for perch I usually employ a rod length of 6-8lb fluorocarbon leader, attaching this to 3-6lb braid, depending on the structure. Because of the perch's cavernous mouth, they are able to gulp down a variety of lures, both large and small, although finding the right lure can mean the difference between catching 50+ fish or coming home with a doughnut.

When fish are schooled up near pylons or hunting in shadow lines, flicking a lightly weighted ZMan 2.5" GrubZ or 3" Scented ShrimpZ through the strike zone can pay dividends, especially when the perch are actively feeding off the surface. When the fish are holding deep however, slowly working deeper holes with blades, such as the TT Switchblade and Ghostblade, can result in some cricket score catches, even when the fish are inactive. Because blades are small and extremely noisy, perch will often swipe at or eat them out of pure aggression, even when they are not actively hunting for food. This means that a lot of the time fish are hooked outside of the mouth, so care is advised while fighting your adversary to prevent pulled hooks and lost opportunities.

Jewfish (mulloway)

Last, but definitely not least, is the mighty mulloway. For many years specialist jewfish (mulloway) anglers have spent countless long nights casting lures and baits for their ultimate prize and it is without a doubt that some of the biggest jewfish ever landed have been caught at night. If the Australian fishing community were to compare the amount of hours spent chasing mulloway, to the amount of fish actually landed, I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if jewfish came out as the hardest fish to catch of any species. The simple fact of the matter is that jewfish are an extremely hard fish to crack and so if you want to target them, you need to be prepared to put in the hard yards. You can increase your chances however, by focusing your efforts on the most likely holding locations in your area. These usually take the form of a deep hole or a steep drop off that offers cover, in either natural or manmade forms.

When rigging up I use a minimum of 15lb braid, with breaking strains of up to 50lb not out of the question where big fish and heavy structure are expected to mix. To this I attach a hard 20-40lb fluorocarbon leader that then is connected to a super heavy duty TT Lures HeadlockZ HD jighead to match the water depth and chosen plastic. When selecting a plastic, my favourite personal choice is once again the ZMan 4" SwimmerZ, although recently I had it handed to me by a big fish while using the ZMan 5" Grass KickerZ off the rocks, just before dawn. When working the lure I prefer to aggressively flick the plastic up off the bottom, before giving the lure time to sink again and then repeating. Most hits are received on the drop, so it pays to constantly keep your finger on your braided line, ready to strike at even the faintest of hits.

So as you can see, night fishing offers some extremely productive angling options and the best bit is that anybody can get out there and do it, no matter how busy their daytime schedule may be. So what are you waiting for, get out there and give it a go. You never know, after your first session under the stars, you may find yourself wishing you had ventured out after dark a long time ago!

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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2017