Fishing destination Eden, NSW

By: Steve Starling, Photography by: Steve Starling


Check out Starlo’s comprehensive guide to fishing in Eden, one of the best spots for trailerboats on the East Coast.

 

Ben Boyd Tower in Eden, NSW
Iconic Ben Boyd Tower and the aptly named Red Rock stand guard over the southern entrance to Twofold Bay. This is prime kingfish country.

The beautiful port of Eden, on the far south coast of NSW, was the venue for judging this year’s Australia’s Greatest Boats awards. As well as providing a stunning backdrop for our on-water evaluation of the finalists, Eden is an angling heaven, so it was hardly surprising that many of our judges took the opportunity to go fishing in Eden! In this handy area guide, Starlo offers a valuable overview of the fishing opportunities available close to Eden.

 

Fishing in Eden

Steve 'Starlo' Starling with tailor fish
Steve Starling with a lovely tailor from Wonboyn.

Eden lies nestled on the shores of Twofold Bay, a partially enclosed body of saltwater said to be the deepest natural harbour in the entire southern hemisphere. The township has variously relied on forestry, whaling, wood-chipping and commercial fishing since its establishment in the 1840s. Today, tourism is arguably the region’s most significant single source of income, and the lion’s share of the visitors who flock here list recreational fishing as a high priority on their holiday activity wishlist. Fortunately, these would-be anglers and hopeful danglers are extremely well catered for in this part of the world, with a broad array of fishing options on offer, from freshwater streams and sheltered estuaries to inshore reefs and the cobalt currents of the continental shelf beyond.

These days, not too many people are aware that Eden – with its deep natural harbour and placement almost midway between Sydney and Melbourne – was a prime contender for the site of Australia’s national capital in the early 1900s. However, it was eventually decided that a coastal location was too vulnerable to naval bombardment and invasion. Instead, a sheep paddock somewhere south of Yass was selected as our seat of government – I’m sure Eden would today be a rather different place had our Commonwealth’s founders chosen it as the nation’s capital...

I’m delighted it failed to win that particular crown, as it has remained a relatively sleepy little port town with a permanent population of fewer than 4000 souls. I’m guessing most of those folks – as well as those of us who visit Eden on a regular basis – prefer it that way.

 

Estuary fishing

Whiting caught on lures
Catching big whiting on the flats using surface lures is a real blast, and a regular summer highlight around Eden.

With many rivers to fish, it’s no surprise the estuary fishing is also excellent. From Mogareeka Inlet (the lower Bega River) in the north, near Tathra, and extending all the way to mighty Mallacoota Inlet over the border in Victoria, there are at least a dozen small to middling systems that produce superb estuary fishing and summertime prawning within an hour or so of downtown Eden. Some of these are permanently open to the sea while others are best defined as ICOLLs (Intermittently Closed and Open Lakes and Lagoons) often spending extended periods of time closed off from the sea by broad sandy beaches. All of them fish well and most also host great prawn runs through the warmer months.

A couple of my favourites in this area are Pambula Lake to the north of Eden and Wonboyn to the south. Although still commercially netted, Pambula produces excellent numbers of big dusky flathead, yellowfin whiting and both black and yellowfin bream. Pambula’s entrance channel, downstream of the lake, also turns on exceptional action for pelagic and semi-pelagic visitors such as Australian salmon, tailor, silver trevally and very occasionally juvenile kingfish, especially during the autumn and early winter months.

Wonboyn is a true gem of an estuary, and one dear to the hearts of many regulars – some no doubt cursing me for publicising its delights! However, with no legal netting and today’s sensibly tight recreational angling regulations, the abundant fish stocks in this tidal river and lake are unlikely to suffer adversely from angler pressure.

Wonboyn is renowned for dusky flathead, whiting, luderick, tailor, estuary perch and bream. It also produces sporadic catches of mulloway or jewfish from sub-legal up to perhaps 10 or even 12kg for those willing to put in the work and time.

The ‘Yellow Peg’ area of the main lake at Wonboyn is a flathead hotspot, while any of the extensive sand and weed flats will produce excellent results on whiting and bream using bait or lures, particularly small surface lures, especially during the warmer months of summer and early autumn.

Berleying with a little crumbled stale bread in protected backwaters will often attract hordes of sand mullet and garfish, which most kids (and big kids!) enjoy catching on light float tackle baited with prawn or worm pieces, dough, cheese or bread.

 

Bay fishing

Squid caught in Two Fold Bay
There’s some brilliant squid fishing available in Twofold Bay at times.

Eden’s aptly named Twofold Bay is very popular with visiting boat fishers, especially those operating smaller craft that may not be up to tackling the sometimes wild waters beyond the broadly spaced heads.

Drifting over the extensive sand and gravel patches of the Bay with a couple of baited hooks hanging off a paternoster or dropper rig strung above a reasonably hefty sinker will typically produce fair to good catches of sand flathead, as well as the odd silver trevally, gurnard, small snapper, red spot whiting or gummy shark. Some days, these sand flathead are quite modest in size and every second or third fish may have to be thrown back, but during the cooler months of the year, average sizes tend to increase, even if total numbers decline.

Rocky and reefy patches within the Bay hold some thumping big six-spine leatherjackets as well as the odd snapper, snook, pike and blue groper, while broken beds of weed, kelp, sand and rock in less than five to six metres of water are always worth a try for calamari squid, which can be prolific early and late in the day.

Surface-feeding schools of salmon, tailor and juvenile or ‘rat’ kingfish may also be encountered in the bay, their presence typically signposted by wheeling flocks of terns, gulls and other seabirds. However, don’t assume all the kingies inside the bay will be tiddlers; some very big greenbacks venture well inside at times, especially down around the woodchip mill’s loading wharf. Fishing is prohibited within a prescribed distance of this manmade structure, especially when a ship is berthed alongside.

Amongst the best-kept secrets of Twofold Bay are the big mulloway or jewfish that occasionally visit en masse. These magnificent fish often fall foul of commercial netters but those that escape can really brighten the day of any lucky angler soaking a livebait, fresh squid offering or larger soft plastic lure in the right place at the right time.

 

Freshwater fishing

Wonboyn freshwater
Wonboyn is a very special and wild place.

While not often thought of as a prime freshwater fishing destination, Eden is actually well-placed to serve as a base for exploring the Australian bass streams of the NSW far south coast and Victoria’s East Gippsland. It’s also worth noting that some of the mainland’s finest and most reliable trout waters — including Lakes Eucumbene and Jindabyne — lie within a couple of hours’ drive.

Starting from the north, one of the region’s premier bass-fishing hot spots is Brogo Dam, inland from Bermagui, and just an hour from Eden. This picturesque reservoir has been well stocked with bass over the years and while most of the fish encountered will be modest 20 to 35cm specimens, enough 40cm-plus bruisers turn up to keep things really interesting. Brogo bass are also amongst the fittest and hardest-fighting representatives of their clan you’re ever likely to encounter.

In addition to Brogo’s stocked fish, the Sapphire Coast is home to many secret wild bass waters, including the Bega, Yowaka, Towamba, Wonboyn and Merrica Rivers, as well as several more systems just across the border in Victoria.

Bass fishers are notoriously protective of their favourite streams, but for those willing to spend some time poring over topographic maps and Google Earth images before speaking politely to local landowners to seek access, there are some genuine sweetwater jewels to be uncovered in this corner of the world. Many of these can be fished on foot, but a kayak, canoe or small car-topper will greatly broaden the would-be bass fisher’s horizons.

 

Bottom bouncing

Morwong caught while drift fishing over Eden
Morwong are a common catch when drifting over Eden’s offshore reefs and gravel patches.

Offshore waters also produce excellent hauls of snapper, morwong, pigfish, leatherjackets, tiger and sand flathead, trevally, gummy sharks, nannygai, sweep and snook, to name just a few.

Relatively well serviced in terms of modern boat ramps, and with all the facilities and infrastructure you’d expect from a regional centre of its size, Eden is a wonderful destination, whether for a long weekend escape from the grind of work or an extended family vacation by the sea. The weather may not always be perfect, with notorious Bass Strait just around the corner to the south west, but the unfavourable fronts and low pressure systems usually blow through pretty quickly, meaning calmer seas are never too far away. And with them comes some of the finest fishing to be found anywhere around the south-eastern seaboard of our lucky island continent. Yep, Eden truly is an angling paradise!

 

Offshore fishing

Legal yellowtail Kingfish
Jo Starling jigged up this legal kingfish off Green Cape on a cold, windy day.

Outside the entrance to Twofold Bay, the sky really is the limit in terms of fishing opportunities. These deep blue – and often rough – waters are visited seasonally by vast numbers of tuna (albacore, skipjack, yellowfin, bluefin and bigeye), five species of billfish (striped, black and blue marlin, short-billed spearfish and the mighty broadbill swordfish) and a dozen types of shark, as well as tropical wanderers such as mahi-mahi (dolphin fish) and even wahoo.

These ocean-going prizes are all actively targeted by game and sportsfishers trolling spreads of bluewater lures or drifting, berleying and presenting live and dead baits at various depths. So-called ‘deep dropping’ with big squid or fish baits is also growing in popularity, producing hook-ups on swordfish, tuna and several types of sharks, as well as blue-eye trevalla, hapuka, gemfish and oddballs like the evil-looking oilfish, even during daylight hours.

However, in more recent years the Eden water’s abundant yellowtail kingfish stocks have arguably attracted more angling attention and press than any other single species. From the bomboras off Red Point, at the southern extremity of the Bay, all the way south to Green Cape and beyond, schools of kingfish regularly hound hapless baitfish, from the surface to depths up to 60m.

Similar, if somewhat less reliable, action also occurs north along the coast towards Merimbula. Finding and catching these fickle kingfish can be far from a pushover, but if and when you crack it, expect some white-knuckled encounters with hoodlums weighing anywhere from a kilo or two up to 20kg and more.

Metal jigs, surface poppers, stick baits and live or dead offerings of yellowtail, slimy mackerel and squid can all produce the goods – each alternative has its day, or even its hour within a given day. Serious kingy chasers need to be prepared for the fast-changing moods of these fish. But get it right and the rewards can be memorable.

 


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Eden fishing calendar

You can download and print a higher quality version: here

Eden fishing calendar

 


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