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Hard to go wrong
  |  First Published: February 2011



Unless something cataclysmic happens this month, you really can’t put a foot wrong because everything is happening on all fronts, from the backwaters to beyond the continental shelf. So hurry up and read this and then get out there and at ’em!

The beaches are firing for all manner of species and you don’t even need bait. Early morning is good because the wind is generally gentle and what better way to start the day than to watch the sun come up over smooth surf?

You can take a leisurely stroll along just about any beach casting soft plastics into the washes and the results can be spectacular. You can get a plastic version of just about any bait these days and artificial beach worms seem to be high on the list during the Summer.

You can get big whiting, dart, flathead, salmon and bream and we all know how fond jewies are of beach worms – and there are plenty of schoolies being reported all along the coast.

Baitfish or prawn-type plastics will score the same, with larger plastics generally enticing the bigger jewies and flatties.

If you like the old-fashioned approach, live or fresh beach worms are still deadly on all species.

Take along a few pilchards for the tailor and fillets of fresh slimy mackerel or tuna for the big jewies and you will have all the bases covered. Don’t forget to keep a few metal lures in the bottom of your bag, too.

This month salmon and tailor often herd schools of bait into the surf shallows and cut loose in a seething mass right at your feet, with the baitfish even leaping onto the sand to escape the predators.

Hook-ups every cast are guaranteed when this happens and you will remember these events for a long time.

ESTUARIES HOT

Lake Illawarra and the Minnamurra system are on the boil, too.

Whiting are over the flats at the lake entrance and up along the main channel near the drop-off and they’re all through Minnamurra.

Flathead are on just about every piece of sand in both systems, waiting for a bait or a lure.

Small chopper tailor in the lake are a pain, cutting plastics to pieces, but they do make good jewie baits.

There are plenty of nice bream around the rocky foreshores and bridge pylons, particularly during the evenings when the prawns are running.

Prawns are great to eat and when fished live are the best estuary bait so get out there on the dark for a feed or just scoop some fresh live prawns for bait for the next day’s fishing and you won’t go wrong.

In the lake feeder streams and the quiet bays there are plenty of garfish and big mullet to keep the kids and the not so young amused for hours. You don’t need to spend a fortune on bait, a loaf of bread will do for bait and berley – if the kids don’t eat it first!

Blue swimmer crabs are all through the lake.

ROCKS ROCK

On the rocks the action is thick and fast as bonito, salmon, tailor, kingfish and frigate mackerel carve up baitfish all along the coast.

The breakwalls at Port Kembla and the rocks at Hill 60, Coalcliff, Bass Point and Kiama are all great spots to throw metals, while a saltwater fly a couple of metres behind a bobby cork belted out and ripped back is also racking up catches.

Or get hold of a few live baits and hit the deeper ledges for big kings, mackerel tuna and a few early longtail tuna.

Live squid fished just in the wash at dawn rarely go unnoticed. Larger slimy mackerel, big yellowtail and the best bait of all, a live frigate mackerel, will score big kings as well and don’t be surprised if the odd marlin gets in on the act.

But be prepared for more than your share of hammerhead sharks, particularly if you swim a few frigates out.

To keep your hook-up ratio high, resist the temptation to use wire if you want a shark because it cuts down on the other hook-ups and you will still get your fair share of hammers hooked in the corner of the mouth if you use circle hooks.

Blackfish and drummer are still common in the washes with bread the main bait and berley, while some big bream are holding in the washes as well. Bellambi and below the light at Wollongong are going alright.

Don’t forget the frigates in the harbours although this seems to be a popular tactic these days. Heaps of anglers line up at the hot spots like Bellambi jetty and breakwall, Wollongong Harbour and Port Harbour, all waiting or scanning through polarised sunnies for those little rockets as they tear into the harbours, rip into the baitfish then zoom back out.

Lures land all around them and a hook-up often results in a tangled mess but it is fun.

But the main action is offshore, with just about everything that visits this part of the coast out there and hungry.

To the continental shelf and beyond there are black, blue and striped marlin, possibly all on one day if you are lucky. The old favourite grounds are Bandit, Wollongong Reef and the South East Grounds.

FAD RAGE

FAD rage is all the rage, with boats jockeying for position and some even tying up to these floating fish magnets for a shot at a mahi mahi.

For the dollars this area pours into the rec fishing fund, we really need one or two more to spread the load. Those who spent the time and money to drop their own ‘illegal’ FADs are scoring well on dollies of all sizes with marlin, wahoo, small yellowfin tuna and even a few sails and spearfish turning up on the wider marks and out in the open blue water.

Slow-trolled slimy mackerel, frigates or, if you’re lucky, a tiny striped tuna, will bring undone most of the big pelagics out there.

In closer there are small and not-so-small black marlin mixing it with the kingfish over the shallow reef systems.

Live baits fished deep or slow trolled around the Five Islands, Bellambi Point, Bass Point and Rangoon Island are scoring kings while jigging on the deeper reefs is bagging a few as well.

If you are chasing kings and get bitten off, it might not always be a shark. Spotted and Spanish mackerel stray down this way at times, often in schools, so a bait put out in the same area with a little wire could pay dividends.

Some whopper trevally are grabbing jigs over the reefs and there are heaps of bonito creating havoc.

If you want to slow down a little then grab a few bonito, which shouldn’t be too hard, and put down a berley trail for the snapper that are hanging in 30m and closer.

Samson, amberjacks, teraglin and rainbow runners are also willing to eat a bonito fillet along with the usual mowies, pigfish, jackets and sweep.

Flathead anglers are in heaven with quality fish over all the sand patches.

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