With the stick faces, aka marlin, showing up in local waters, game fishers are heading out to tag and release these stallions of the sea, but you don’t need a big boat and heavy fishing gear to get some aerial action on the water.
In the local waterways lurk the mini marlin of the estuaries, the Eastern Sea Garfish also known as gars or beakies. Yep, these tasty pocket rockets sometimes put on an aerial display like a marlin, they are a good fish for the tin lids to target because of the way they turn it on when hooked.
Garfish are a pale, greenish blue on the back and upper sides and have a blue edged silver band along the sides. They also have three narrow brown lines along the back, above the silver band. Like billfish, they have a beak and the Eastern Sea Garfish have a red tip on the end of theirs. These fish school near the surface at night and over weed and seagrass beds during the day.
There no legal size limit but a possession limit of 20 per person per day applies.
I reckon the best time to fish for gars is the last two hours of the run-out tide and the first couple of hours of the run-in tide.
Without doubt the secret to catching gars is to berley up to get the fish around and keep them interested. When it comes to using berley I like to get it simple by using a 10-litre bucket with a lid with holes drilled in it. Attach a rope lanyard to the bucket so you can tie it off your boat. I use cable ties to secure the lid when it’s in the water to stop your berley getting out. Fill the bucket full of bread and give it a good soaking in tuna oil, the tuna oil will create a nice slick on the surface of the water, which the gars love.
Once you’ve got the garfish partying around the boat the easiest way to get them on the line to see some aerial antics is to fish light by using 2 to 3kg line. Use a small (size 10) longshank hook with some sort of bite indicator like a quill float or a very small bobby cork.
I then just use a small piece of peeled prawn and float the rig down into the berley trail watching the tell-tale movement of the float. If you see the float go under the surface and move quickly across the top of the water strike and you should have some fun while bringing the gar in.
When fishing for gars using berley in the river, don’t be surprised if you are also catching mullet or have a big bream come up and take the small piece of prawn floating down in the current. Don’t be afraid to soak a few bream baits while fishing for gars, I’ve caught some solid bream doing this.
Gars are great to eat and also good bait whole for snapper or jewfish.