Let’s face it, getting up on a calm, warm Spring morning beats the hell out of battling icy southwesters and the cutting spray of a choppy Winter’s morn!
We can now start to get a little more serious about our expectations this month, and why not. While Winter produces lots of ripper big snapper that look fantastic, taste good and are great to skite about, they just don’t pull like kings and tuna or have the acrobatic skills of mahi mahi and marlin.
Offshore, things are warming up as the currents begin to turn around and fingers of warmer water start to trickle their way down the coast, bringing schools of baitfish in close and attracting predators from flatties to tuna.
The yellowfin tuna and albacore are on the move out around the continental shelf, with the majority of ’fin 30kg to 40kg the albacore ranging from 2kg runts to 14kg rippers. It just depends on the school you run into.
The odd larger ’fin has been hooked but, as often happens, they catch the anglers by surprise and before they know it all the line is gone or it is popped by water pressure.
Not all the fish are out around the shelf; some have even been hooked behind the islands off Port Kembla. With luck more will move in over the close reefs, like they used to.
Striped tuna are plentiful and make great bait for everything.
With all the tuna action there should be a few striped marlin poking about and even a big blue can turn up early if you’re lucky.
You could even score a mahi mahi, they sometimes appear this month and are often big. There were a couple of around 15kg taken in July, so you never know.
Just about any berley trail will attract mako sharks this month, it just depends on where you are. Out wide there are plenty of big ones; in close there are more than enough of those little pesky 1.5m jobs that chase the snapper away.
Berley this month will bring muttonbirds. If they get thick, it’s time to pull up stumps and go home or they will drive you nuts.
Killing them is an offence and, after all, they are only looking for a feed – you’d be hungry too if you just flew 5000km.
The muttonbirds time their migration south with the arrival of the baitfish and they, like pelagic fish, are predators but they are much easier to see than the fish. Keeping an eye out for all the bird activity on the water is a great help when trying to locate the fish action.
Inshore it can be tuna, kings, salmon or even those dreaded barracouta, which have been more than abundant this year. They are great entertainment for a while but after a few lure losses they wear out their welcome.
If you get the urge, try taking the hooks off a popper and ripping it across the top to really get them going. After several casts lift the popper out of the water and hold it about 30 cm above the surface.
Be ready, though, because they launch themselves in all directions and often end up in the boat, or can hit you with their mouths open. They can really open you up (I speak from experience) but it is great fun to watch.
If you can avoid the ’couta and the flocks of birds there are heaps of salmon churning through the bait. Rat kings can be a nuisance at some places and a few bonito can move into the mix as well.
Try lobbing 3” to 4” soft plastics around the edges of the schools or where they just were and work them up from the bottom. If you lob into the schools you will get salmon and small kings; behind them you will get some nice trevally and fair to good snapper.
Too many people still think snapper are bottom dwellers when they actually spend most of their time mid-water. Check out any aquarium to see where they sit in the water column.
That is why so many big fish grab big plastics and live baits meant for other species.
Another misconception is that birds and fish that aren’t normally pelagic are ‘picking up the scraps’. They will grab a scrap but in reality there aren’t too many scraps to be found, except for a few scales from pilchards or anchovies.
Most fish want the whole baitfish and not all the baits are herded to the surface by the salmon, kings and tuna – many go deep and are nailed by the mid-water and bottom dwellers. Red rockies and sergeant baker are predators in their own right and grab any baitfish in striking distance.
While plastics are great, taking time to grab a few big slimy mackerel or yellowtail and casting them live into the schools will result in some hook-ups on big kings. It sometimes amazes me how a small salmon can eat a monster slimy meant for a big king, though.
More kings are getting about this month and they seem to be larger with each passing year. And they are in most of the recognised kingie spots.
Slow trolling or downrigging live slimies and yellowtail will get best results.
Snapper are about over most of the reefs in 30m plus if you use a good berley trail and lightly weighted baits, if the current allows.
There are some over the shallow reefs and bommies but they are residents that stayed after the Winter run.
The flattie chasers are rubbing their hands together after the early run of very nice fish over the sand. Heaps of sandies from 40cm to 60cm have been on the bite for some time and will only get better as the days get longer.
Plenty of pan sized reddies and good number of mowies, pigfish and trevally are coming in along with the odd samson fish, so all is good for the drifters.
There are still heaps of salmon on just about every beach. Throw in some extra-good tailor in the evenings and a few bream and flathead and the beaches are worth a look.
Even better, the whiting are starting and by the end of the month will be a good option on most beaches. The standouts should be Windang, Port Kembla and Warilla beaches.
A few reports have filtered through of school jew to 8kg starting to work the gutters after dark. Coniston and Coalcliff beaches and around Barrack Point and Shellharbour Beach are worth a throw.
The rocks are still producing good drummer on royal red prawns and bread with the ledges around Seacliff bridge and those down at Bass Point and Cathedral Rocks producing some great catches.
There are a few bream mixed in if you berley with bread but you will probably get more trevally.
There are heaps of salmon and some small legal kings mixed with the rats taking pilchards and lures, but the good news is some big kings are around the deep ledges early in the mornings.
If we get lucky we might even see a yellowfin or two appear off Kiama or Marsdens in coming weeks but you won’t hook them if you don’t have a live bait out.
The estuaries are on the up and up, with the flathead starting to really get going by the end of the month.
The drop-off to the lake will be the place, along with the main channel. The prawns will kick into gear on the first dark after a few hot days and thunderstorms and this really gets things going.
Bream are in the deeper holes in the channel and along the rocky shores of the islands and some nice mullet are getting along the edges of the weed beds.
The whiting are on the sand banks from the bridge down to the entrance but worms are needed to be any chance.
A cast with some big plastics around the bridge pylons or the lake breakwalls could score a nice jewie just on dark.Reads: 1617