This month we start to get fair dinkum about our fishing with numbers and sizes of all species improving as we edge ever closer to the sensational fishing of Summer.
Offshore really starts to get cracking particularly out around the continental shelf, where these days it seems more and more trailer boats are venturing.
It was not that long ago that we could target large yellowfin tuna at places like The Hump, Bandit, Wollongong Reef and the South East Grounds but those days seem to be past. Now the only option if you want to catch a big ’fin is to get your passport and head towards New Zealand.
The coastal fishery has been decimated by the longliners but there still seem to be enough fish that come close enough to shore to make the trip mostly worthwhile.
These trips equate to large fuel bills so you have to plan wisely and use all the information available on where the fish might be.
A strong wind from the western quadrant can be life-threatening so you really have to pick your days. The internet has many facilities to make life a little easier but the weather can be fickle so it’s always a gamble when you head wide in a small boat.
There are yellowfin about now, with the Stanwell Park and Kiama canyons the first places to look.
Albacore are with them so look for concentrations of birds, then troll bibless minnows, Christmas trees, small pushers and large minnows. When you hook a fish, get the cube trail of pilchards going.
On good days you will see the fish bursting through the surface so a cube trail will attract any fish in the area.
If you are heading out that far it’s wise to carry a few live baits. A livie set further back from the boat will often pick up the larger tuna or a striped marlin, which seem to arrive in numbers this month.
Big mako sharks are common this month and you can expect whalers, tigers, blues and hammerheads this month.
The heaps of striped tuna you can troll up on the way mean a ready-made berley supply.
Inshore, snapper averaging 1.5kg are about in 30m to 100m but you will have to watch the sounder to find them or go to recognised spots over gravel or reef edges. Anchor and berley but if the current is too strong you could still pick up a few on the drift. Cuttlefish and small squid are good baits but striped tuna is top choice.
Flathead have got moving over the sand with good catches common all along the coast. But leatherjackets are still about and can make the flattie fisho’s life a misery.
The cursed jackets are even out over the canyons, biting off shark rigs and biting through lines with the faintest bit of berley sticking to them.
Morwong averaging a kilo are right on the bite around the reef edges and the gravel drifts. Add a few tasty pigfish, trevally, samson fish and the ever-present sweep and the drifters will have a great month.
Over the next few weeks the pelagics get into the small baitfish off the beaches and headlands. Look for the birds as salmon, striped tuna, bonito, trevally, tailor, small kings and large slimy mackerel gorge themselves.
They can be easy to take on small slugs, Raiders, Crystal Eyes and the like retrieved back through the feeding masses.
Large soft plastics dropped to the bottom under the feeding schools will pick up some nice snapper as well as kings and lots of wonderful sergeant baker. Live baits cast into the frenzy will find out if there are any big kings travelling with the schools.
Reefs mentioned earlier, like Wollongong and Bandit, will be worth a shot for bigger kings. A live bait set near the bottom early in the morning will find any that may be over the reef while a few drops with knife jigs is another option.
Over the shallower reefs there will be trevally willing to swim up a berley trail of bread and pilchards, while slow trolling live baits around the same shallow reefs, islands and rocky headlands should show up a few kings.
Land-based action is warming up with pelagics starting to show off deeper ledges and headlands. Salmon seem to be off most headlands while live baits have been rewarded with the odd good king, bonito and a few mackerel tuna.
Drummer are still about so a bread berley and royal red prawns should produce pics with a few bream and trevally.
The beaches start to fire this month but the water temperature is the key. On the colder days you might as well stay at home.
Tailor over 2kg have been taking ganged pilchards during the evenings on the northern beaches with salmon up to 3kg more plentiful.
Flathead have started to move along the beaches, as have whiting and bream, particularly around the lake entrance and at Port Kembla. Beach worms have been the bait for the whiting with tailor fillets for flathead.
A few school jewies have arrived so the larger fish must be there because this is when they fatten up ready for spawning over early Summer. So get out the big soft plastics and fresh slabs of tailor and blackfish and start looking.
There are consistently good catches of flathead coming from Lake Illawarra on soft plastics. Whiting are over the flats around the drop-off and at the entrance, so with prawns peaking over the coming few months you could try poppers to add some excitement.
Blackfish are feeding along the edges of the weed beds and there are garfish around the drop-off and in the creeks, along with some sizable mullet.
There were heaps of salmon around the entrance and up to the bridge but a crew of professionals netted them out. Some put the catch at 2 tonnes while others say it was close to 20, but it must have been substantial.
To a few they may be good only for trap bait but they are big fish that pull hard and jump when you catch them. Heaps of anglers were having fun from the lake breakwalls, as were the local bait and tackle shops supplying a heap of tackle to those chasing them over the weeks they were there.
The pros probably got 50 cents a kilo – you can’t tell me that makes economic sense.
It may have been the same pros who in September hit the flathead down at the entrance when 17 boxes on one occasion were taken, all big fish. It makes you wonder why you bother to release the big fish or why Fisheries has a rec limit of only one fish over 70cm for when so many are taken by professionals.Reads: 2222