The cuttlefish have been popping for six weeks now and the snapper are absolutely stuffed, so they are at the best table quality they will be all year and there will be plenty out there for a few more weeks.
North of Bellambi has been firing and it seems the closer to shore you are, the better. On some days the snapper are hunting in even shallower water than they normally do at this time of the year.
Recently a couple of mates managed only two hours on the water before the westerly came up and chased them in, but they had a red-hot bite with eight solid reds and half a dozen more lost through hooks pulling – and they were only in 7m of water a few hundred metres out.
It seems there were so many in the berley and they were competing so vigorously for every bait that they were grabbing them and running and not getting hooked properly.
That doesn’t happen too often but there have been some good catches all along the coast. Most fish are under 2kg but there are plenty up to 8kg, so expect anything.
This time of year, everything with fins loves cuttlefish, with solid kings also grabbing the snapper baits. They still like live yellowtail or slimy mackerel so if you get one when fishing for the snapper, pop it out on some heavier gear – at least you stand a better chance of landing a king on the heavier gear than the snapper rod.
Groper are very active at the moment and that snapper that took you into the rocks probably was more likely to be a big blue. I’ve been messing with these guys with a few crabs and sea urchins and watching them through my bathyscope as they swim up to the bait and gulp it down with those big rubbery lips.
Contrary to popular belief they aren’t the bulldozers they are made out to be if you work them the right way. My recent best is 9kg on 4kg tackle and I got a couple, but that is not to say you still don’t get smoked from time to time.
One monster came out of nowhere and grabbed a crab on 24kg tackle and destroyed it – I couldn’t get the bait out of the way in time.
I hadn’t seen a blue of this size and it had changed from blue to black with a whitish band around it and would have gone 25kg-plus. I didn’t want to hook it but it was too quick.
Some big tailor are taking to the cuttlefish as well, particularly in the shallower areas during the evenings. Fish over 3kg are about along with the usual salmon.
If you are berleying for reds over the reefs the trevally can become nuisances but if you like them, fish in close around the islands or the Crankshaft at Bass Point with light line and you should go home happy.
The bottom bouncers are doing pretty well, too. Although the beloved flathead are still very slow, the pan-sized snapper are making up for them in spades. Throw in a good sprinkling of black-spot pigfish and a few nice mowies and most crews are heading home happy.
If you can sneak out between westerly gales there are reports of albacore, from tiny little jellybeans of a kilo up to 12kg thumpers. Trolling and cubing are working well.
Yellowfin have been conspicuous by their absence over Winter with just sporadic appearances of small to average fish a long way out. But this can all change overnight, as it did with the southern bluefin.
The surface action heats up this month. As we roll into Spring the little eel-like baitfish swarm along the coast and with them come the salmon, bonito, striped tuna, tailor and all else that likes slurping down these tiny snacks.
Just look for the flocks of seagulls and terns hovering over the surface – or the ocean churning as the predators go into overdrive.
Small metal lures cast into the schools will give hours of fun and don’t forget that the striped tuna this time of year are notoriously large, up to 10kg, and will be found right in the back of the beach breakers with Coniston and along the breakwalls at Port Kembla specials this month.
Don’t be surprised if you start loosing a few lures to bite-offs; there are already barracouta mixed with the other pelagics.
A few better kingfish are starting to show over the deeper reefs with weighted live baits and knife jigs getting action. Bandit and Wollongong reef are good, just watch the sounder for the telltale marks and position your jigs and baits accordingly.
Off the rocks it is still drummer and groper time with calm seas in the westerlies and huge swells after them making it a day-to-day proposition. As always fish to the conditions and a well placed crab or royal red will get good results in the washes this month.
On the deeper ledges salmon are grabbing lures and pilchards, while berley will bring the odd bream, heaps of trevally and a few nice snapper, particularly as a swell dies down. Coalcliff, Bass Point and Cathedral Rocks are good spots.
The estuaries are a bit slow with a few trevally and salmon hanging around the entrance of Lake Illawarra and the Minnamurra system and some nice bream in the lake feeder streams.
Fresh peeled prawns are the go here but don’t expect cricket scores; a couple a session is a good result and most will be quality.
Cast unweighted baits into likely snags and don’t spend too much time on each one. When you do hook a fish, work that area –they hang about in small groups.
The hot water outlet at the power station has good bream, even a few flathead grabbing baits and lures, and heaps of mullet. It’s amazing how a little warm water gets things moving.
On the beaches it is cold and mostly windy but going by the latest reports, if you want salmon, pick a good gutter on most any beach and send out a ganged pilchard and you shouldn’t wait long.
Dawn and dusk are the prime, with early evening turning on some thumper tailor. Windang and Coniston beaches are specials with Stanwell Park in the north and Bombo in the south pretty hot as well.Reads: 729