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Still plenty to play for around Illawarra
  |  First Published: April 2012



It’s still all systems go and the foot won’t come off the accelerator for a few weeks yet, so keep fishing hard before the first of the cooler south-westers start to kick in and slow things down.

But first we have to get through Easter in the first week.

This full moon is renowned for producing big snapper in close around the shallow reefs and bommies, with the northern reefs fishing particularly well. The moon is often accompanied by calm weather, too, with the evenings the best time for a look.

They aren’t all big fish with plenty of panners thrown into the mix so pick your spot and put down a good berley trail in the late afternoon and you should do well.

Fillets of striped tuna, slimies or, if you can get a few, frigate mackerel, are the top baits. Use the frames for berley or grab a few bonito for berley.

Pilchards will do the job, too, but if you have the time to get them, those tuna are best.

Plenty of snapper will come in on soft plastics, too, and many locals have honed their snapper skills on plastics to a high level.

Kings are on the menu as they get fat on the schools of baitfish. They have been very hit-and-miss this year as they get wise to so many anglers targeting them these days. One day they bite and the next they won’t touch a thing – even live slimy mackerel run right past their noses.

They seem to be getting up to 12kg or 15kg fish although the majority are 4kg to 8kg. There aren’t any 20kg-plus fish like in the good old pre-trap days but they take time to grow so they might just get there in a few years.

There are plenty of big kings further down the coast but they didn’t get smashed like the Illawarra fish did.

The ever-reliable islands, Bass Point and Bellambi are where most of the action is.

If the kings aren’t taking live bait some of those monster bonito might find them. Fish to 8kg are about and they can be pests when chasing kings. Bonnies of 3kg to 4kg make a mess of your big slimies and often don’t get hooked.

Small yellowtail will get them every time, as will whole pilchards in a trail of pillie pieces. Scale your tackle down and have some fun – a big bonnie on 2kg to 4kg line really gets going.

Plenty of bonito school up with frigates, salmon, tailor and trevally to give the baitfish hell – just look for the seagulls and terns. Throw a few mackerel tuna and on some days striped tuna and there are hours of fun and good bait to be had.

REEF SURPRISES

The reefs can still hold a few surprises before the water cools with spotted and Spanish mackerel and the odd cobia mixing in the same haunts as the kings, so it always pays to keep a live bait out. With the odd amberjack and plenty of smaller samson fish, the catch can take on a tropical feeling.

Flathead are getting bigger on the sand patches and there seem to be plenty about for the drifters. Mowies have moved onto the gravel beds with plenty of small to medium snapper. Tasty pigfish are over the reefs with trevally, small samson and the odd trag.

The dollies are still hanging about the FADs and floats but current is essential for any decent bite. The smaller fish will have a play for a while but they go off quickly when there is boat traffic.

The main targets will be yellowfin tuna, predominantly out around the continental shelf but they may come into the closer reefs if the currents are right.

Over past seasons most have been around 30kg, gradually diminishing in numbers as they get bigger with a few over 60kg captured and bigger ones lost.

Pilchard trails work wonders when you find them but always smart to have a live bait out to cover all the bases.

Most of the black marlin have moved on but a few strays always seem to hang about if there is plenty of bait. Striped marlin and blues are more common with many big blues captured in April.

Plenty of sharks to chase this month. Russell Emms scored a 351kg tiger on 15kg tackle not so long back and there are whalers, hammers and makos too.

Little whalers seem to be everywhere, particularly off the beaches during the evenings when we’re chasing jewies. They hit like freight trains and run like crazy before biting you off.

To catch a big jewie you often have to put up with such distractions. Fresh big butterflied mackerel in just about any beach gutter at the top of the tide in the evening gives you a chance of a solid fish.

There are plenty of other fish on the beach this month but they will slow in a few weeks.

Whiting are big on all the beaches, you just have to find where the school is. Dart and salmon love worms, too, as do increasing numbers of bream.

Flathead are on plastics and some tailor to 3kg can be found just on dark on Coniston, Windang and Coalcliff beaches.

HOT ROCKS

The rocks are still hot to trot with pelagics off the deeper ledges. Kings from rats to 15kg-plus are on the deeper southern ledges, use frigates, big squid and slimy mackerel for the big fish and small yellowtail or squid legs for the rats.

Bonito are all along the northern side of Bass Point and frigates will be nipping in and out of the harbours for a little longer. The big news is longtail tuna to 20kg will be moving down the coast in coming weeks so keep the live baits out and hang on.

Drummer are coming out as the water cools and there are heaps of big blackfish off all the rock platforms. Use cabbage for berley and bait or good green weed if you can get it.

School jewies are around both sides of the Port Kembla harbour breakwalls, try lightly weighted mackerel fillets during the evening.

The estuaries are fishing well but will slow as the cooler nights chill the shallows. Warm water moving in with the tide will keep things chugging along.

Flathead are wherever there is a bit of sand and whiting are eating squirt worms at the entrance, as are some big blackfish that are also taking good green weed along the edges of the ribbon weed.

Big mullet can be berleyed up in the lake feeder streams, particularly Mullet Creek (funny that!) up around William Beach Park.

Bream, including some rippers, are more frequent around the bridge and the rocky foreshores.

Minnamurra is much the same with whiting down around the entrance, bream around the bridges and flathead everywhere.

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