January is gone and with it, hopefully, the heat wave that has taken KZN by storm. The heat may be uncomfortable but it certainly seems to turn on our estuarine angling species on the east coast.
Anglers often ask me my favourite time of year to fish the estuaries. Although I generally say that the September/October period, before the summer rains and just when the water starts to warm up, provides at times some really frenetic action, March, April and May can also produce the goods, especially if the summer rains start to tap off and few spring tides start pushing cleaner salt water into the systems.
Whereas in early summer the main bite is kingfish, sea pike, etc, late summer sees the river roman, perch, bigger kingfish and even kob starting to appear. In this article I will explore four of my favourite species to target at this time of year and a few of my absolute favourite lures for catching them.
The river roman (aka in this area as rock salmon or NkuluNkulu) is without a doubt my all-time No 1 favourite estuarine angling species. A dirty, dogged fighter, this fish has a never-surrender attitude that commands respect and dictates the use of stronger tackle, braids and leader, especially when you are targeting them in amongst the structure they so love to frequent.
The way this fish screams off with the bait or how hard it smashes an artificial cannot be aptly described – one needs to hear the reel and feel the power for oneself to truly appreciate this fish. The river roman enjoys really hot weather and seems to be most active and aggressive when the river water gets really warm – early morning is the best time to target these fish. Don’t be put off by discoloured or fresh water – I have had awesome results far upriver in filthy water.
Last year, the perch seemed to flourish in our estuaries – these fish are often maligned but are a great angling species; they often hit lures with as much ferocity as the roman but at times can be really finicky and frustrating.
At these times, a finesse approach is required and often the patient angler will win the day. Perch really like structure much in the same category as the roman and can be dual targeted.
However, perch are really fond of sitting under nesting birds and if you can find this incorporated with sunken trees or rock structure, I can almost guarantee that early morning or late afternoon you will get a strike from a perch.
GTs, bigeyes, blacktip and even greenspot (brassy) kingfish can be targeted late summer – I often find that at this time of year one sometimes catches a few really big fish in the estuaries. The river mouth area can be particularly productive for kingies – especially on the push of the tide; look out for a colour line between the dirty river water and the clean sea water – kingies often use the line to ambush mullet.
Over the years, I have also found that the bigger kingfish tend to hole up in the deeper sections of the rivers, especially around bridge pylons. Look out for feeding shoals of these fish and throw into them. The smaller kingies can be really fussy so, at times, it is important to ‘match the hatch’. This will often require one to scale down in lure size to as small as 4 to 6cm.
FLATHEADS (RIVER GURNARD)
It may surprise many that this fish makes it into my fave four – however, these fish are awesome to target when the other fish are quiet, or later in the day when things slow down.
The larger specimens can rip metres of line off your reel and are a great target species for kids. The only drawback is that they are really spiky and care must be taken when handling them. A lip grip and a pair of longnose pliers really do the trick. These fish tend to stay in the shallows, just on the edge of dropoffs, camouflaged on the sandbank, awaiting your lure bounced on the bottom. Three- and four-inch dropshots and small jerkbait bounced on the bottom all produce results, but we have had the best results with small bucktail jigs. For some reason, the flathead seems to have a penchant for chartreuse – it really produces the goods as far this species goes.
Remember to fish slow and make sure the lure is working the bottom.
Personally, I really enjoy targeting fish on topwater – throwing into the structure, twitching gently and allowing the bait to just float in the strike zone produces some heart-stopping explosions. I enjoy this method not only for the visual topwater bite, but because hooking the fish on the top gives you a better chance of getting it out of the structure.
Most poppers will produce the bite – over the years I have developed a few personal preferences:
1. Owner Gobo Popper 6.5cm
2. Storm Chug Bug 7cm (gold/black)
3. Strike Pro Taistick 9cm (red, gold
4. Strike Pro Gobi Popper 7cm
These topwater lures have out-fished most other lures; black with gold seems to be the best colour combination.
Floating, suspending and even sinking
jerkbaits all have their place and produce results. The floating ones are great
to use in structure, almost like a popper – twitch the lure, allow it to pop up
again, then work it again. Suspending lures can be worked in the same way with
a stop-start action. Here are a few of
• Maria Duplex weighted jerkbait – a new lure on
the market, it has produced awesome results this year, from kingfish, kob and
perch to sea pike. Being weighted, it throws like
• Owner Rip’n Minnow 6.5cm suspending – colour: Magic Purple
• Halco Sorcerer S52 1.6m – colour: Jelly Prawn (and also look out for colour ‘GRAVY TRAIN’)
• Rapala X-Rap 8cm – colour: black
As well being thrown, all of the above lures can also be trawled to great effect while moving from spot to spot.
A few other lures that I really enjoy at this time of year are:
• Rapala SubWalkTM 7cm – colour: Ghost or Orange. This is an awesome lure and really produces the bite when the fish are sulking – river roman, big perch, kingfish and unfortunately the sea pike also love it.
• Megabass Dog-X Jr dog-walk surface lure – kingfish love it.
• Adagio 8.5 cm blue/shine subsurface – enticing action
• Yo-Zuri popper 5cm chartreuse/clear. Given to me by Lloyd from AJF AGENCIES, this little popper is deadly for skittish perch.
Add to the above a good selection of three-,
four- and five-inch dropshot (McArthy Goldfish/Berkley Pearl Watermelon) and a
few small bucktails (Tritons or Alcocks) – colours: chartreuse, olive or white,
and you should be set