AS this column’s being written, the water temperature off Sydney is around 24 degrees. Offshore fishos are catching black and striped marlin in good quantities and an angler anchored off Dobroyd Point in Sydney Harbour reported a marlin swimming under the boat last week.

Jervis Bay has had similar water temperatures, and a similar run of marlin. One land-based angler at The Tubes, the late Bobby Russo’s spiritual home, a couple of weeks back landed a 130kg black on a Stella threadline, weighed and verified at the Callala Beach Club.

Offshore at Jervis Bay there have been plenty of flathead but snapper have been scarce, according to reports. In the bay itself, the usually plentiful squid are almost totally absent. One theory amongst locals is that the massive rains earlier in 2022 totally upset the breading cycle or killed all the young squid. The rain also played havoc with the local oyster industry. On the bay beaches, the usual run of summer whiting and bream just didn’t happen. Again, various explanations have been speculated on.

Last year was consistently good for luderick in Sydney Harbour. But January this year was very variable. Sydney luderick historically spawned in September, which always made it the quietest month for float-watchers, but in 2022 the fish stayed in pre-spawning condition, full of milt and roe, until around Christmas. The ones now starting to re-appear on the rocks and in the bays have completed their spawning. Why was it delayed? Rain? Warm water? Who knows?

The Manning River on the NSW north coast was always a reliable luderick spot, but the last two years have been pretty dire, following the flood events up there. Same story for the oyster farmers. The luderick appear to have just vacated the system. Strange, as the dusky flathead population doesn’t appear to have been affected. 

Maybe it’s about the changes to the river flora, rather than salinity, temperature or turbidity, that’s caused this. A recent report from Caloundra supports this view. Apparently the Pumicestone Passage once supported a healthy luderick population and resultant rec fishery, but the tidal breakthrough at Bribie Island in January 2022 completely changed tidal flows and currents. The weed the luderick fed on died off and the fish moved on to who knows where.

But, on the plus side for local anglers, the change has led to tuna and mackerel now being caught inside the passage, alongside the more traditional estuary species. And reports from Tasmania of luderick turning up in catches there and barra in the Brisbane River are just a couple of other examples of the changes in distribution that we’re seeing.

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