Narooma Offshore

A view of the Narooma Offshore, Steve Cooper

Narooma is one of those pleasant destinations that offers piscatorial delights most of the year, ranging from gamefishing offshore to rock, beach and estuary. Situated on Wagonga Inlet, the port is best known for its close access to Montague Island.

Narooma is most popular during summer and autumn, when boating anglers head offshore to Montague Island for yellowtail kingfish. Some travel further afield to the Continental Shelf, where they seek striped and black marlin. Bonito and striped tuna also run along the coast. Some anglers prefer a feed to a fight and concentrate on fishing the reef systems for flathead, morwong and snapper. In some years, the yellowfin tuna are about in good numbers around December.

Yellowfin are one of the toughest and most sought-after fish in these parts. Spectacularly colourful in the water, they’re a fast-action eating machine with enough grunt to give the strongest angler a double hernia. Sizzling line-burning runs, sometimes in the vertical plane, are a trademark, while the fight that ensues can be more like an all-in brawl with fish and angler trading blow for blow. A stand-up fight in a rocking boat is difficult and anglers earn every kilogram.

The best time for yellowfin is late autumn through early winter. Conditions couldn’t have been better when my fishing partner Richard Carr and I were more than 20 nautical miles north-east of Narooma on a calm, purple-hued sea. The cloud cover was high and thin. An ageing temperature gauge gave a digital reading of 17.4°C. Around us small shearwaters and gannets were feeding. Slimy mackerel, caught a little over an hour earlier and sliced neatly into cubes, lay spread across the bait board. I pumped the berley as Richard started feeding the cubes into the water. Hardly a word was spoken. This, to quote Charles Dickens, was a time of Great Expectations.

Less than half an hour later we had visitors. Whoosh! Whoosh! You think you can hear yellowfin as they come tearing through the berley trail. All you see is back or gilded flank as they dive through the slick to inhale a cube. On the surface a figure-eight eddy appeared where a fin had taken a cube barely 2 m astern. The torpedo-shaped bulk of a fin displaces and sucks water down to cause the vortex.

Richard took a cube off the bait board and threaded it on the sharpened 9/0 hook attached to his 24 kg outfit. Another cube went out, followed by the one with the hook in it. Matching the drift and sink rate of the free cubes, Richard inched line out. It was an urgent take. Richard pushed the lever on his reel up to strike mode, the line pulled tight and the fish’s momentum sent the point of the hook home. This blue-water battle had begun.

Boat-ramp facilities here are free and excellent with fish-cleaning benches, but offshore anglers need to be aware of the notorious Narooma Bar. It has claimed many boats and several anglers have drowned trying to cross it. Always check the bar before venturing to the entrance, and ask for local advice on how best to handle it.

Narooma has various estuary species, including bream, sand whiting, tailor and flathead. Some of the locals regularly catch mulloway, while luderick can be found along the rock walls that mark the entrance bar to the ocean. For land-based anglers, there is a walkway around the northern shore of the estuary from the boat ramp upstream towards the bridge. This walkway has fishing platforms and is worth a visit. The rock ledges and beaches produce tailor, salmon, bonito and sometimes yellowtail kingfish and longtail tuna.

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