Still some cool surprises
  |  First Published: September 2011

What a Winter it was! Wind from every direction, and beyond gale force much of the time, most weekends blown out or washed away by rain or big swells, temperatures well down on recent years – or am I just getting soft?

At least things are on the up-and-up and soon we will have warmer weather and warmer water. But first we have to get through Spring and there will still be a few cool surprises in store.

The beaches fished pretty well all through Winter, with good gutters on most and some even starting to resemble those big North Coast beaches with their long, deep gutters that go on forever.

Salmon were the mainstay. They were everywhere and still are.

I don’t mind catching salmon and drop my line size down to get the most out of them. A surf salmon on 2kg or 3kg line can seriously test you and though they are not the best on the chew, they are bloody good fun.

After all that’s why we fish, for fun. Only a mug would spend that much money on tackle and waste all that time to get something you can buy at the shop for a few dollars, and salmon are as good as it gets in the fun stakes.

Throw in a few tailor during the evenings and a bream or two and you have all the fun you can handle and a decent feed as well.

There are a few small jewies around, too, with Coniston Beach and the area around the entrance to Lake Illawarra turning up a few.

Not many big fish have appeared recently and those that have seem to be confined to a travelling school with several solid fish being caught in the same area in a very short time before they move on.

As usual, the best tip is get out there and put in the hours in likely-looking spots. When you score a good fish, work the place for the next few days before they move on.


The rocks are starting to get going now with some thumper drummer coming in from the washes all along the coast. Royal red prawns, cunjevoi and bread are the baits of choice and a bread berley also helps.

Most of the whitewater has a drummer or two in residence and you could do worse than fishing right under the big lighthouse at Wollongong. A few bream are in the suds, too, along with scattered trevally.

Just remember to fish the rocks only when they are safe. The angel rings at Hill 60 saved two more locals recently who would have drowned if the rings were not there.

We have lost count on how many lives have been saved just at Port by the rings. The sea was up and commonsense says they shouldn’t have been there but what can I say?

When the sea is up and I stay at home on a weekend morning my kids often say, ‘I wonder how many rock fishermen will drown today’ and the sad fact is when they watch the news that night, often someone, somewhere, has drowned. Be sensible.

There are a few kings on the deeper ledges so grab some live yakkas, mackerel or squid and check out Kiama, Port Kembla or Coalcliff at daybreak or dusk.

Salmon and rat kings are a problem when using yakkas and slimies so take time to catch a few extra baits.

For the pillie-soakers and lure-tossers there are plenty of, you guessed it, salmon.

The rat kings don’t mind pillies either but they take a while to land and waste a lot of time so try casting metals. You still get plenty of sambos and any bonito that are around or you could just put on the backpack and walk along the rocks using big plastics.

It is surprising how many jewfish, big snapper, flathead and trevally hang in the shallow washes right at your feet and are not interested in bait, where a well presented softie put across their nose will get nailed. Try it, and try it in places you wouldn’t even put a bait, and see what happens.

Small plastics will get plenty of bream, salmon and trevally.


The estuaries are starting to wake from their hibernation but will get better as we close in on October.

There are a few bream in the creeks and around the rocky parts of the lake islands and you could score a jewie under the bridge during the evening run-out tide.

If you like catching luderick on weed there are plenty along the edges of the weed beds in the main channel. The local tackle shops sell good weed.

A few flatties will start to move and the odd bigger whiting at the entrance at the end of the month but it could be earlier if you work around the outlet channel of the power station, where the fish take advantage of the warmer water.

Minnamurra will have a few bigger flathead down on the main stretch but they are breeding and best left alone – this is a small waterway with limited breeders.


Offshore is getting better with a few baitfish starting to show in close, attracting striped tuna, bonito, salmon and some of those toothy barracouta. Just look for the muttonbirds and seagulls.

Bigger kings are making a move on the close reefs at Bellambi and Bass Point and around the islands.

They’re also on the deeper reefs like Bandit, the Hump at Stanwell Park and Wollongong Reef, although towing a slimy mackerel lately has limited appeal because the prolific seals make it almost impossible for a king to get the bait.

Seals are very quick learners and can surgically remove your bait and never even go close to the hook, and they just don’t go away no matter what. And if you do get a bait past them and get a hook-up, they love nothing more for breakfast than a tired kingfish.

Some nice snapper have remained in close, picking up the last of the cuttlefish, but they should be gone by mid-month with only a few residents left behind.

For better results try in 40m to 60m with baits and plastics.

Farther offshore there are more striped tuna along with albacore to 12kg and some patchy yellowfin tuna. Some days you win, some you don’t and it is a long way to the shelf and back for nothing.

Kiama Canyons are a good bet because you can always pick up a few gemfish down deep if you get desperate and need some winding practice.

Blue and mako sharks are plentiful and a live bait could bring a stray striped marlin undone.

The southern bluefin tuna didn’t seem to come up this far this season although they could have, the seas were just too rough to get out at them.

They could still come through because they used to get plenty in September off the ’Gong in the dark ages before they were decimated, so there is still hope this season.

Back in close, if you put down a good berley trail there are heaps of trevally and some smaller snapper but it is tough for the drifters, with the dreaded hordes of leatherjackets moving back in over the reefs and sand. This is good if you like jackets, because they are great on the plate and there are plenty of them.

If you are lucky and find a spot between them or just persevere, nah nobody carries that many hooks and sinkers, there are some nice flatties starting to show over the sand.

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