Located on the far south coast of New South Wales, Merimbula offers some of Australia’s most scenic coastline, just perfect for adventurous travelers. A large part of its natural attraction is the epic fishing on offer – this region has a rich fishing history, with some of our most prized species available in good numbers.
The region has the full spectrum of Australian salt water fishing options – picturesque estuaries and rivers that contain excellent structure, long stretches of clear sandy beaches, a wide range of rock shelves and platforms, plus offshore reef and game fishing that is on par with some of the world’s best.
Located at the junction of Middle Beach and Short Point, the NRMA Merimbula Beach Holiday Resort is in a prime position for visiting anglers to explore the outstanding fishing options available in the region. Here, we are going to outline some of the local species plus the gear and techniques used to catch them.
Species to catch
The far south coast of New South Wales is home to excellent populations of iconic Australian salt water species. These include:
Estuaries in this region are inhabited by plentiful schools of whiting. The bigger ‘summer’ whiting are active in the warmer months, with some large fish over 35cm amongst them. Whiting are fun to catch, respond well to both baits and lures, fight really well for their size, and rate as one of the best eating fish in the estuaries.
Targeting whiting on lures has exploded in popularity, with anglers using light finesse tackle and small hard-body or soft plastic lures. Wading across shallow flats as the tide floods over them is a great way to find active schools feeding. Make long casts and swim lures with or across the current. Whiting can be aggressive and at times will only hit lures worked at a fair speed near the surface. They can often be witnessed tailing a fleeing lure in groups, competing to strike. As water depth increases, slow down the retrieve and mix it up with pauses. Excellent lures are micro soft plastics like 2” GrubZ or CrusteaZ, rigged on a small jighead like a TT Lures HWS which adds further stealth.
Live nippers/yabbies would have to be the number one bait for catching whiting. These can be sourced from good tackle stores, or pumped on the sand flats as the tide recedes. Beach or blood worms are another dynamite whiting bait, again available at tackle stores. They will also readily take pieces of fresh peeled prawns. Otherwise, a simple packet of frozen squid that’s thawed in the local water and cut into thin, small strips is an economical choice that will also attract bream and flathead. Keep the sinker weight to a minimum, and use a light leader of 4-8lb fluorocarbon for a discrete presentation.
This area is home to some of the biggest bream in the country. Large fish around the one kilogram mark are caught regularly, with even bigger bruisers patrolling the area. These fish move between the estuaries, beaches and headlands in the region, feeding on the large amount of bait species on offer. Due to the clean, clear waters and abundant food sources they are in excellent condition.
Lure anglers chasing bream will do well by fishing ‘finesse’ style in the estuary of Boggy Creek – very light main lines and leaders, minimal weight and micro lures are ideal. Try a 4-6lb braided main line, connect that to a 4-6lb fluorocarbon leader, and use jigheads in the 1/20oz – 1/6oz weight range. An ideal starting point in terms of soft plastics are small curl tails like ZMan 2.5” GrubZ. These would have to be one of the most consistent bream lures on the market, having the ideal size and action to attract strikes from finicky feeders. Other great bream options are 3” Slim SwimZ paddle tails that have a realistic baitfish profile. Beyond soft plastics, very small hard body lures also prove effective, often attracting the attention of other species as well.
Bait fishing is very productive for bream, with live nippers/yabbies being the standout bait. These can be collected with a dedicated yabby pump on exposed sand flats, or alternatively they are usually available from tackle stores. Other effective bream baits are fresh prawns, and live blood or beach worms, which are also readily available in local tackle shops. However bait fishers can also do well on good old frozen bait options, as long as they are thawed to temperature in the local waters. Frozen prawns, whitebait, strips of squid, mullet gut and pilchard cubes will all catch bream if prepared correctly. Just remember to use small pieces, and the lightest sinker weight possible.
For either bait or lure bream fishing, a light action 1-3kg spin rod of around 7’ is perfect, offering sensitivity and casting ability with light weights. Those chasing bream from the beaches will benefit from a longer rod in the 8-10’ range, and moving up to 8lb line and leader.
Small species of trevally will be found in all the same locations that bream are, often feeding in amongst them. They fight very hard, and make for great sport on light gear. The exact same gear, lures, bait and techniques used for targeting bream is ideal for trevally too.
The estuaries near Merimbula are home to some true monster flatties, with plenty of small – medium sized fish mixed in as well. These fish will move out and along the beaches at times, plus make their way to shallow rubble and rock patches just off shore in the bay. Like bream, they have a plentiful source of food so are very well conditioned. For lure anglers, soft plastics in the 3” – 7” range are ideal. A 4” DieZel MinnowZ is just about the perfect starting point for flathead, as it will attract fish of all sizes. Step up towards the larger 5” and 7” options if you want to target only the bigger models. Always use a heavier jighead for flathead, as you ideally want the lure thudding into the bottom after each hop to attract attention. Weights from 1/4oz up to 3/4oz are common, with a hook size to suit the tail length.
Flathead are a great species to target on bait, being partial to the same offerings that attract bream. Fresh baits of prawns and small baitfish are best, however thawed frozen baits will also catch fish. Use larger strips of squid or mullet flesh, or a half pilchard instead of smaller cubes. Some really big flathead are caught on live baits, with small fish like poddy mullet being the stand out. Feeding a live bait out slowly with the current at night over flooded estuary flats, un-weighted if possible, is a great way to catch larger fish.
Tailor and Australian salmon
The waters around Merimbula are home to large schools of tailor and salmon, which move in and out of the estuary systems, and along the beaches and headlands. These pelagic species grow to good sizes in the area, with huge populations of bait fish keeping them well fed. Fish in the 2-3kg range are common, with plenty of larger models also showing up regularly.
Walking the beaches at dawn and dusk armed with a metal slug or slice lure can be rewarding, as once a school has been located the action can be frantic. Bait anglers can also do well for these species from the beach with a simple whole pilchard rigged on ganged hooks. Remember to use a heavier leader material in the 20-30lb region to combat the sharp teeth of tailor. Some angler will even resort to a short wire trace for added security.
These pelagic species will also move through the estuary systems, particularly around dusk and into the evening. Fish the rocky foreshore near the Merimbula Wharf with either a metal slug, 5” jerk bait soft plastic, or a whole pilchard and there’s a good chance of finding a passing school.
The headlands at Short Point or Merimbula Point are also great spots to target tailor and salmon, with the chance of tangling with a small member of the tuna family, or even a yellowtail kingfish.
Another very popular target, and the south coast region of NSW would arguably have some of the most consistent mulloway fishing in Australia. Like tailor and flathead, these fish will be found throughout the estuary systems, patrolling the long stretches of beach looking for schools of mullet, or gathering on the close patches of reef and rubble in the open bay.
Anglers targeting mulloway need to upgrade to more robust gear. Main lines of at least 15lb are advised, with leaders of 25-60lb. A rod rated from around 8kg up to 15kg plus is ideal, at a length that suits the environment being fished – shorter rods of 7-9’ for a boat or wharf, or 10-13’ for land-based fishing from the beaches or rocks.
Large paddle tail soft plastic lures like the 7” DieZel MinnowZ are effective on mulloway. Fish the lures deep and slow, staying within a metre or two of the bottom. Find any deeper sections with some structure like rubble and rock, and target these areas during early morning, dusk and into the evening.
The same times of the day are ideal for using live baits to tempt mulloway. A live yakka or poddy mullet drifted with minimal weight through those deep sections of the estuary is a proven mulloway catcher. For beach anglers, either live baits or large strips of oily fish like tuna work well, as does a whole small squid. Night time after wet weather can be a great time to target the estuary entrance and inner bay for mulloway.
Outstanding snapper fishing abounds in the region, with juvenile fish being found throughout the waters around the bay and estuary mouth, while larger fish are found in good numbers scattered through the wider bay area, off the rocky headlands and even patrolling behind the surf breaks. Moving to the offshore reefs will put anglers in touch with some real monster snapper, with 10-15kg fish being a regular catch.
Snapper respond very well to both baits and lures. Using larger jerk-bait style soft plastics is a fun way to target them. A ZMan 5” Scented Jerk ShadZ on a suitable weight jighead, drifted down through the water column is nearly irresistible, with the lure often being hit well before reaching the bottom. Using just enough weight to have the lure very slowly reach the bottom is perfect, creating a natural presentation of a stunned baitfish.
Two standout bait choices are fillets of fresh slimy mackerel, or whole small squid. Like lure fishing, drift the baits down slowly with minimal weight, feeding out line as they sink. The use of a good berley mix will definitely help attract and hold fish in the area.
The same outfit used for mulloway will be ideal for snapper also. And for anglers chasing bream on light gear in the estuaries, a good pan-sized snapper is also a possibility in there as they move in and feed on similar prey.
For shore-based snapper anglers, the Merimbula Wharf can produce fish although it does get busy. However fishing from the rock platforms nearby is a great choice, with more room to find a quiet spot to target. The rocks around Short Point are also worth targeting for smaller juvenile snapper.
Boat-based anglers should search the open bay for any hard bottom structure, particularly areas that hold baitfish. These areas can be drifted over slowly if conditions allow, or anchor up-current and drift lures and baits back down while maintaining a constant berley trail.
These prized fish are another favourite with regular anglers in the area. They can be located in good numbers hanging around rubble and reef patches in the bay, and from the beaches and headlands. A prized table fish, they also fight hard and provide great sport.
Gummies will be found in the same areas that snapper and mulloway will be, usually preferring deeper water with some structure nearby. Target them with the same baits of slimy mackerel, whole squid or whole pilchards. They are particularly active after dark. A very strong leader of at least 60lb is essential.
These pelagics are the jewel in Merimbula’s fishing crown, with anglers travelling from far and wide to catch them in the bay and wider off shore. While there’s plenty of smaller ‘rat’ kings in the 3-5kg range, there’s also a very good chance anglers will find some much larger fish well in excess of 15-20kg. They are veracious eaters at times, attacking bait fish they have herded into tight balls in a spectacular feeding frenzy. Although mainly targeted from boats, they can be found patrolling the headlands regularly with juveniles even finding their way into the estuary system on occasion where they cause havoc with anglers targeting smaller species. Hooking even a ‘rat’ kingfish on light gear is an adrenalin pumping experience.
Kings are an excellent offshore lure target, as they will be found everywhere from the surface to down deep. If a surface-feeding school is located, casting stick baits, large poppers or large soft plastics delivers exciting fishing as they climb all over the lures. Slow trolling with larger deep-diving minnows lets anglers cover plenty of ground until active deeper fish are found. Once located, kingfish are very partial to baits of live slimy mackerel, and whole fresh squid. Nearly zero weight is required, just enough to help the bait waft down slowly to the waiting school.
A big step up in gear is required for these fish. Rods rated from 10kg upwards with a large capacity heavy spin or overhead reel, loaded up with 15kg line would be the minimum, and leaders of 30-60lb. For anglers going further afield to find monster kings, light game fishing gear of 15-24kg can be required
Magic Location and Fishing
The southern coastal region of New South Wales offers something special for travelers who have an affinity with the ocean and its environs. And for anglers in particular, there’s a huge range of epic fishing available in some of the most idyllic seaside surrounds the country has to offer. Anyone visiting the region that enjoys fishing is well advised to bring along some basic gear to explore on their own, or make use of the outstanding charter operators in the region.
Fish, eat, sleep
NRMA Merimbula Beach Holiday Resort is the ideal location for a Merimbula fishing getaway. Book your cabin or site today.Check availabilty