If you thought last month was good then it’s time to get really excited – the best month of the year is upon us.
So forget about everything else and get out there because you live only once and in a few weeks the champagne fishing will be gone.
The hot water is bubbling along down the coast and with it are all those species that make it so much fun to fish at this time of year. Mahi mahi seem to be everyone’s favourites these days and there is no shortage of them at the moment around the FADs and just about any floating object in the current.
It is a dream come true to find a log or other debris covered in barnacles and surrounded by hundreds of dollies of all sizes – and not another vessel in sight!
These logs are floating ecosystems because as they travel along the current they collect more passengers and you will often find not only dollies but yellowfin tuna, striped tuna, amberjack, huge oceanic leatherjackets, kingfish and of course the apex predators like sharks, marlin, sailfish and wahoo.
Life is good on these days.
You could run into any of these species at any time this month. There are small yellowfin from about 40 fathoms and beyond along with plenty of striped tuna.
To most anglers these are good fun fish but to blue marlin they are just food. The next two months are prime blue time out beyond the shelf with live tuna and big lures the main producers.
Black and striped marlin are about as well and the grand slam of all three in a day is possible in March. Wahoo are a distinct possibility as by-catch and if one is hooked there’s often more in the area so bibless minnows and Rapala X-Raps can be run with the marlin spread to enhance the chances of a hook-up.
Spearfish and sailfish are about as well but they are just a lucky dip and if you get one, good luck and take lots of pictures to remember it by.
Closer to shore, the kings will still be on around all the recognised spots like Bass Point, the islands and Bellambi.
Slow-trolled frigate mackerel and downrigged squid will account for the biggest fish early in the morning while slimy mackerel and yellowtail will get you average fish and a few bigger ones on a good day.
The trouble with the smaller live baits is all those growing bonito that knock off your hard-won baits as fast as they hit the water. Big bonnies are good but big kings are better.
If the current comes in close and runs hard, you generally see more northern visitors than seasons when the current stays out wider. Rainbow runners, spotted and Spanish mackerel, amberjack and cobia all seem to find their way into Illawarra waters every year but when the current runs hard, we seem to get more.
All these guys hang around the close reefs and are often in schools, so if one is encountered then rig accordingly and you could be rewarded with more hook-ups.
Also on the inshore reefs this month are plenty of snapper, from small to trophy size. A berley trail of tuna or bonito and cubes of tuna or fillets of slimy mackerel for bait will bring most of them undone.
A few trag have been picked up too, along with plenty of small samson fish and larger silver trevally. The berley also attracts sharks and there seem to be more than enough hammerheads around and heaps of little and not so small whalers.
Schools of pelagics are all along the coast, just look for the birds. It’s an absolute lucky dip this month as the ever-reliable salmon mix with bonito, trevally, frigate mackerel, striped tuna, kingfish, mackerel tuna, big slimy mackerel, tailor and even a few small yellowfin tuna.
Casting large soft plastics into the schools and then letting them sink near the bottom and working them back under the feeding mass will score kings, big trevally and some nice snapper, particularly over shallow reefs.
Those plastics will score flathead off the sand.
Drifters this month encounter all sorts of strange and wonderful fish with pan-sized snapper from reefs in 30m or less and hotter action as we head to the April full moon.
Teraglin are popping up here and there along with the usual mowies, samson and trevally, tailor, the odd school jewie and even pearl perch and sweetlip.
Flathead are still in very healthy numbers on all the sand patches and the leatherjackets seem to have backed right off this year.
The rocks are firing as well with bream in the washes and mullet in the quiet bays if you throw bread about.
The big attraction is the surface action with big kings taking live baits on the deep ledges around Kiama, Bombo, Bass Point, Hill 60, and Coalcliff. Early is best and live squid or frigates are the top baits.
Mackerel tuna to 8kg are taking live baits and lures early morning and late afternoon and we should see a few longtails towards the end of the month. With bonito, frigates, salmon and smaller kingfish you should have a good time on the rocks.
Raiders, Crystal Eyes and fly and float combinations are scoring fish with the north side of Bass Point and Hill 60 shoulder-to-shoulder some days.
As always, there are the grubs who just want too much of a good thing and kill indiscriminately. It is a shame as it gives all those good anglers a bad rep.
These spots are still not as crowded as The Tubes in Jervis Bay in January, where over 50 guys were trying to fish. Tempers were frayed and the place resembled a tip.
There were over 30 on Big Beecroft and 18 on Eves, so popular is this small patch of coast unique in the world for its land based monster fish.
This is Greg Finney’s patch but I know many anglers from the ’Gong head down every weekend. More access needs to be opened up on the headland to take pressure off the few remaining land-based spots and it wouldn’t take much – hell, thousands of us fished the place for decades without any problems but now it’s a fortress.
We anglers are still paying more and getting less and the sad thing is we take it. We took a stand on mako sharks and the pollies had to clean out their undies, such was the shock at the angry numbers.
Time will tell if we wake up or lose everything.
There are whiting on all the beaches around the ’Gong, with dart and good flathead picking up the worms as well.
During the evenings some big tailor have hit pilchards and mackerel fillets meant for school jewies on the northern beaches. Big fresh baits will get more jewfish.
With salmon and a few bream, beaches are a good option on a warm Autumn morning or evening.
The flatties have had a bumper season and are still going strong with good fish all through the channel in Lake Illawarra and Minnamurra River.
Whiting are taking nippers and worms around the entrance and a few blackfish are grabbing worms.
Heaps of chopper tailor are making a mess of soft plastics while some big bream are around the rocky foreshores and bridge pylons.
Try some bread berley for heaps of garfish and mullet and you might even find a mangrove jack around the bridge pylons.
There is an election this month so here is something to think about. It doesn’t matter which party you vote for, they all seem to mess up health, education and the economy, that is a given.
But you know the parties not to vote for if you want to keep fishing your favourite spots in the years to come.
When you finish voting, take the kids spinning for frigates in the harbours – if Labour and the Greens haven’t closed them to fishing, too.Reads: 2002