For many anglers, Bermagui is synonymous with big game fish like tuna and marlin. However, there is a beautiful little river that flows into the marina that holds good numbers of many estuary species. It’s also quite picturesque, with a classically idyllic harbour, solid breakwall, mussel-encrusted bridge, tidal channel and forested bay all being key locations.
In this article I’ll discuss these key locations and what to target. Starting with the marina, this is a good spot to catch a few fish. While perhaps more suited to taking the kids down to catch some small slimy mackerel and yellowtail, the marina holds good numbers of decent trevally and the odd nice flathead at times. With the number of fish frames that find their way into the water off the commercial boats, the marina would be a great spot to try at night when the bigger predators could move in under the cover of dark to scavenge easy pickings.
Connected to the marina is the channel running out into Horseshoe bay. The channel is protected by a solid breakwall. The breakwall is an excellent place to cast lures for salmon and tailor, or try bait for bream and sand flathead. At times, the odd kingfish, tuna and bonito is encountered, making it a real lucky-dip.
Further back in the system is the section between the breakwall and the bridge, which contains some nice sand flats and a tidal channel. This is a great spot to try for whiting on poppers. Cast the poppers into the channel and bring them back over weedy patches adjacent to the flats. Often the whiting will be sitting in the deeper water and will readily smash surface lures in the warmer months of the year.
Under the bridge is a popular spot with locals, and a walk over the bridge at night will show why. Often there are a plethora of fish in the light of the bridge. These can include blackfish, bream, yellowtail, flathead, trevally, whiting and there are even reports of the odd mulloway. A fresh, lightly weighted nipper or prawn bait is the undoing of many nice fish in this spot.
Further back from the bridge there is a long deep channel running back through the river past some houses. This channel is a great spot to try for a flathead. You might need a decent sized jighead to compensate for the often swiftly flowing current and the deep water, but it’s a pretty consistent spot and is well worth a try. There are also some nice leatherjacket and luderick hanging around the structure, although these are a little harder to tempt in the current.
Further back the channel widens and shallows, turning into a typical matrix of sandflats, holes and weedbeds. This is an excellent spot for all species and techniques. Plastics, surface water lures and bait are all good producers here. You could encounter anything here, from more common targets like bream, whiting and flathead to species like leatherjackets, octopus and even shovel-nosed sharks. Wading around these areas is my preferred method, as I love getting in the water and seeing first-hand what’s around. Just watch out for stingrays!
About the furthest back in the system you can comfortably go in a tinny is the forested bay, which is only about 2km from the entrance. This is a lovely little spot, which is sheltered from all angles and produces all sorts of different species. Flathead and trevally are commonly encountered, along with bream, blackfish and chopper tailor. Most techniques will work here, although my preferred method is plastics as it allows you to cover the ground quickly and find congregations of fish. If I was fishing bait, I’d anchor up in the channel adjacent to the basin, berley up and throw some lightly weighted prawn baits back in the trail. This is a deadly method for the healthy populations of bream. Light leaders are the go, as the water in this small system is usually crystal clear.
I hope this has given you a feel for the Bermagui River and demonstrated some of the options available. Next time the conditions are looking a bit rough offshore, why not have a few casts in this picturesque and productive little system? Even if the fishing doesn’t go your way, there’s a plethora of birdlife and some stunning scenery, so give it a go and you might be pleasantly surprised!
Lee, October 2011