July can be a tough month to maximise our fishing potential because we’re so limited in choices, but what is about is generally worth rugging up for and a little extra effort can yield good results.
It can be difficult if you are time-poor because the obvious choices are between the big jewies along the beaches and the start of the snapper run that coincides with the spawning run of the giant cuttlefish.
The jewies will start to fade as the month wears on but the snapper will just get bigger and better.
Most of the jewies will be encountered off the beaches but some of the close, very shallow, reefs will produce good fish during the evenings.
Fresh bait is always best and a slab of fresh-caught tailor is hard to beat. But slimy mackerel and yellowtail will do the job, as will a nice fresh lump of cuttlefish flesh.
While baits work well after dark, if you get to the beach early and spend a little time working the gutters with plastics you could be home with a nice fish even before it gets dark.
Good gutters are not that difficult to find at this time of year and an evening session as the weather calms after a big blow often produces great results. A calm evening with no swell is much easier to fish and often turns up a few fish.
Just remember to keep warm because it does get chilly on the beaches now.
The snapper are really starting to hit their straps, in the northern Illawarra waters.
If the water cools sufficiently, and at the moment it is right on the money, the cuttlies will get stuck into doing the deed and many will then die. I suppose if you have to go there are worse ways.
This brings on the feast and with the albatrosses waiting on the surface ready for the banquet and the snapper below picking up the scraps, it is not hard to find a fish or three.
Big snapper don’t have to wait for the ‘alberts’ to shred the cuttlefish; they are more than able to attack a cuttlefish and remove the favoured candles before they hit the surface, leaving the birds to despair over missing out on the best bits.
Sometimes the big reds follow the cuttlies right to the surface and maintain the onslaught, and there are few better sights on a calm morning than a couple of big reds on the surface, tails thrashing as they tear lumps of meat from the cuttlefish before returning for another mouthful.
These fish are just about odds on to grab any piece of cuttlefish that you cast into the attack zone, but sometimes it is just worth sitting back and watching them in action. It’s a less frequent sight these days but it is always spectacular.
Casting baits towards the spent cuttlies can be hard work at times, particularly on weekends with the extra boat traffic and competition around, so it’s a much better option to get out early, set up a berley trail over a shallow reef and bring the reds to you.
You still get the passing trade of big reds and a whole lot more smaller fish that don’t get the ego value at the boat ramp, but a bag limit of reds to 2kg is nothing to turn up your nose at.
Soft plastics come right into their own over the next few weeks. The best ones 20 years ago used to be the big Mister Twister white wriggler types about 120mm long. They looked exactly like a piece of cuttlefish but I don’t think they exist any more.
A multitude of softies have taken their place these days, and now is the time to try all those new colours if you like to experiment because there are plenty of reds ready to take up the challenge.
Stick close to shore because if you are in more than 20m, you are too far out.
Trevally have been swimming in the berley most days and are always the first fish to turn up. Most are just under a kilo, fight well and aren’t that bad on the plate.
There are plenty of bream in the sheltered bays and the usual schools of salmon in the washes around the islands, deeper headlands, along the Port Kembla breakwalls early in the morning and on the northern side of Bass Point. Casting pilchards into the washes is working well.
Keep the heavy gear ready because the odd big king has been chasing the smaller salmon. Pull in that is being molested, then put it back out on the big gear and it will get eaten. Getting the big hoodlum out is another matter.
There are bonito still hanging about, even in the cooler water.
Put in the to gather a few crabs and there is no better time to target groper than during the calm westerly seas of mid-Winter.
Groper are very active and won’t miss out on a feed of cuttlefish but just can’t swim past a crab. Thanks to good management over the past 40 years, there are plenty of groper around these days and taking a couple a year won’t upset the balance.
If you are heading out to the islands, keep away from Gap Island because the seals are back there. More than 100 have been lying up and popping out pups in recent months.
Anything you hook, they get, and it is not worth fighting over a fish, they win every time and you don’t want to get hooks into any of them.
But it is quite interesting just getting close and having a look. They can certainly get around in the water and I wonder how long it will be before a great white shark or two shows up.
Further offshore the yellowfin tuna have been a little quiet, with only a few here and there. Albacore have been more prominent over the continental shelf and as yet there has not been word on any big southern bluefin moving up the coast – but we live in hope.
If all else fails, there are plenty of gemfish and some trevalla on the Kiama Canyons if you like a bit of winding practice.
Back in the washes, drummer are keeping the rockhoppers happy with some good fish up to 3kg taking cabbage weed, green weed, cunjevoi and royal reds.
Good numbers of big blackfish are falling to the weed baits as well, particularly if you berley hard with a weed and sand mix or fish the harbours during a big swell.
It is a good idea to stick to the harbours when the weather is foul because they are relatively safe and you get extraordinary results in these conditions.
On the deeper ledges, pilchards on ganged hooks are picking up plenty of salmon and the odd bonito and if you berley around your feet, trevally and bream won’t take long to find it.
As well as the big jewies on the beaches, salmon and tailor will keep you busy during the evenings and early mornings. Quite a few nice bream are being taken in the deeper gutters.
Lake Illawarra is a bit quiet for most species but the bream are making up for that with fish better than a kilo along the rocky shorelines, around the weed beds and drop-offs at the creek mouths and along the weed edges where they drop into deeper water around Primbee.
Minnamurra is the same, with bream around the bridges and the deeper holes.
There have been some nice jewies to 10kg coming from the lake over recent weeks. They’re falling to big plastics worked under the bridge lights during the evenings.Reads: 1450