Suddenly the evenings are chilly, the winter winds have begun to blow, and the seas around our coast are cooling. For many anglers that means packing away the fishing tackle, lighting a big indoor fire and hibernating through the winter months in utter desperation and frustration as the fishing bug continually gnaws away at your soul. Or, for the sake of your own overall wellbeing, and that of your partner’s, you could just keep on fishing!
It’s not as scary as one would imagine once you understand the concept and gear up accordingly. There are just as many fish around, and although they generally tend to be of a different nature and smaller class, they’re still fun to catch and isn’t that really what fishing’s all about?
How boring would fishing be if we did the same thing or caught the same fish every day? Winter fishing generally means a change in fish species and styles of fishing which comes with its own challenges and excitement. I grew up fishing in Natal and the change in seasons was an exciting time for me, it meant putting away my heavy rock and surf tackle and picking up my lighter Shad and Garrick outfits or giving up my gamefishing gear for my bottom fishing outfits. Now that I reside in the Cape and having fished all the other sections of our coast, it’s exactly the same concept. All you need to do is establish which fish species frequent your waters during winter as opposed to summer and off you go!
Firstly, a change in wardrobe is needed for winter fishing; you’ll need to trade in those slops for boots, the short pants for waterproof longs and the cotton shirt for an insulated windbreaker. However, it’s getting up on those cold, dark mornings and venturing out into the miserable, chilly, and often rainy outdoors that keeps most sane people wrapped up in a warm bed. But if you’d heard that the bite was hot and the fish were jumping out the water, you might even forget to get dressed!
In reality, the Western Cape has very few ‘typical big game’ species left in its waters during winter months as most migrate up the east coast to spawn, but don’t fret, there is hope yet! Galjoen and Steenbras become the main target species along the beaches and rocks, while Snoek become prolific in the deep. You may not have the biggest variety, but it’s the sheer numbers of fish and the means by which you catch them that becomes exciting.
We need to understand that, in general, there is always a quiet patch in the fishing as we move from summer into winter. This means you’ll experience a few weeks of belowaverage fishing as summer species move out before the others have moved in. This is the time to dust off the winter gear, make sufficient traces, start collecting the necessary baits and prepare for a cracking season.
Along the many miles of rocky coastline, Galjoen fishing becomes a work of art as far as understanding exactly where to fish and what baits to use. The onset of the big winter seas will begin to scour out the many gullies that have been sanded up during summer and this in turn will expose lush marine growth and invertebrates which the Galjoen just love. So, trick number one: look for the clean, sand-free gullies with strong turbulent water. The strong, crashing waves dislodge the worms and bits of growth from the rocks and because Galjoen are such strong swimmers, not even the roughest surf bothers them much. Remember, you are only allowed to keep two Galjoen during the open season and they have a very strict size limit of 35 cm. Although Galjoen are around all year, they are more abundant and in better condition during the colder months. Look out for Galjoen foods, for example, if you see redbait pods squirting you can be sure of Galjoen in the area. They’re always on the lookout for the smaller marine worms and I’ve found sand prawns most effective in calm water. White mussels appear to work better on the west coast and really rotten redbait (vrottes) produce excellent results along the False Bay beaches. It usually only takes three to four days to get the smell of bad redbait off your hands, but it’s worth it!