The rocks aren’t a bad option this month with several species hitting their straps and more than enough by-catch to keep you guessing.
Rock blackfish (black drummer) are the No 1 target in the suds as they school up around the cunjevoi beds and underwater ledges.
Fish up to 3kg are common and bigger fish are about but on standard gear these are usually only short-lived encounters as they bury you in the rocks and cut the line.
Unless you drop right onto a school, berley is the key to good drummer fishing. Most rock platforms along our coast hold drummer, you just need to pick a likely spot, add berley and catch them.
A bucket with a few loaves of stale bread soaked in water will do the trick. A handful thrown in every 10 minutes or so will bring them to you.
I mostly use a very small bobby cork float and experiment with the depth setting until I find the fish. Or I tie on just a hook and a split shot and let the bait move around naturally in the wash.
Bait usually consists of peeled royal red prawns, cunjevoi or even fresh bread crusts. You are not allowed to use the very best bait of all, abalone gut, so you don’t transmit the abalone virus to new places. But it was deadly.
Not all the drummer will be black –
a few silvers will get in on the act from time to time and these things pull harder than a Mack truck. In the tucker department they rate a minus and I would give carp a 10 after chewing on a silver drummer.
While drummer are the mainstay there are plenty of good blackfish or luderick in the whitewater.
Green weed will be hard to get but there is plenty of cabbage weed about and they love that. Drummer don’t mind it, either, so you have the best of both worlds.
Sheltered bays and harbours will be busy after a big blow and the resulting large swell brings all the blackfish and drummer into the calmer water – just look for the crowds at Bellambi, Wollongong, MM side of Port Kembla and Shellharbour harbour and Kiama.
If you are berleying with bread the trevally and bream won’t be too far away, particularly if you add tuna oil to the mix. This will be detrimental to your drummer because they are not fond of fish oil in their bread berley.
Just fish the same way for the drummer and the bream and trevally will come.
For something a little larger, there is no better time to have a crack at the toughest fish in the suds, the blue groper. Crabs are a must for bait and if you can get them, a few sea urchins for berley.
Any groper won’t take long to find your bait, and remember there are strict limits on the number of urchins and crabs you can have in your possession – 10 of each.
Or you might wan to go for glory and catch a big snapper from the rocks. You often get them on crabs when chasing groper.
The best time is after a south-easter has pushed the dead cuttlefish close to the shore. Most of the winds this time of year have west in them and usually blow the cuttlies away from the coast so if a south easter gets up, grab some cuttlefish for bait and hit the stones.
Most places could turn up a big red but you still have to be aware of the ocean conditions and fish accordingly. You don’t need deep water because the reds will come into the shallow bays following the cuttlies.
The deep platforms are really worth a shot but with a south-easter blowing the sheltered areas are safer and more comfortable.
The northern side of Sandon Point, Coalcliff or Bellambi breakwall can be special. In the dark ages before the Bellambi ramp was built and Penn Squidders, Seascapes and ABU 10,000s were the casting reels of choice, the platform that is now under the road was a gun spot for big reds in a southerly.
Now the breakwall is about where your baits landed on a good cast. So from the wall you can get even further out.
The north side of Bass Point is always good, as is the host of protected bays further south.
The next few weeks are a good bet for snapper off the stones but for real results, the moment everyone has been waiting for offshore has arrived, the annual cuttlefish spawning run and the snapper invasion.
The albatross have been here for a few weeks picking up a few early cuttlies but this month they and the snapper get fat as the cuttlefish spawning gets into full swing.
Stay in close and fish the reefs in 20m or less, with those north of Wollongong producing best. But the reds will be all along the Illawarra coast for the next 6-8 weeks.
At this time of the year nothing beats the feel and sight of your line gently peeling from the reel as your bait drifts down next to a floating cuttlefish before blasting off the spool as a big red grabs it and takes off.
Maybe one thing could beat it – your game reel screaming in pain as a big bluefin takes your lure and hits hyperspace.
No reports of the blues as yet but for those who can range out wide, 150kg of bluefin tracking off in the opposite direction is a great feeling. Whether they show this year is in the lap of the currents, let’s hope they do.
There are plenty of salmon around in the usual haunts taking ganged pillies and plenty of trevally in the berley trails of the snapper fishos.
Pan-sized snapper are there for the drifters with a few bigger fish thrown in, along with a few pigfish, mowies and heaps of leatherjackets. The flatties have gone a bit quiet since the water cooled.
Most beaches have plenty of salmon and tailor and you have to be unlucky to miss, really. Throw in a few bream and the odd trevally in the surf. I have even heard of a few snapper coming from the local beaches and it has been a long time since that has happened.
Only the odd jewie has been caught, maybe because the salmon are so thick and getting to the baits first.
In the estuaries, it is cold, windy and sometimes wet but if you must there are few bream in the lake and its feeder streams and not a lot else apart from little chopper tailor to slice your plastics.Reads: 3010