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Food chain springs to life
  |  First Published: October 2012



As the water starts to warm this month you can almost see the food chain spring back into life.

Small baitfish are starting to swarm offshore while in the estuaries, the eggs of fish and tiny crustaceans are hatching and starting to gather in the warming shallow waters and weed beds.

This activity is the kick-start for the season ahead and all the local species that have lain dormant over the colder months are starting to fatten up on the rich pickings of the warmer months.

Offshore, the ever-popular sand flathead are starting to go about their business on the sand patches from Bolga down to Kiama. They seem to be holding in the deeper water at the moment in 30m-plus but will make their way right to the backs of the beaches in coming months.

A paternoster rig with two droppers always works well, put a bait on the bottom hook and a soft plastic around 75mm on the top; it’s amazing how many fish take the plastic before the bait. It is also interesting how many snapper grab the plastic.

The reefs come alive and all the bait gets the snapper and trevally into hunting mode and the mowies, pigfish, sweep and leatherjackets into cleanup mode. There have been good catches of all these already with better to come.

The pelagics are active as well with good kings showing over all their usual haunts. From the deeper reefs to shallow bommies, now is the time to get serious. All we need is a bit of current from the right direction to get them on the chew.

Bait shouldn’t be an issue with plenty of yellowtail and some big slimy mackerel on the bait reefs. Slow trolling with one on the downrigger and another on top will cover the area but you could just anchor, put out a livie and then hit the berley and fish for snapper – the best of both worlds.

Don’t be surprised to see the odd little mako shark swim up the berley trail. They will be quite prevalent over the inshore reefs.

Big or small, makos have a real attitude and will chew on the berley pot and the motor if nothing better is available. I love to feed them and watch just how they take a bait. If you want them to leave, a tap on the nose with the back of the gaff usually sends them packing.

There are plenty of other pelagics into the bait with salmon in seemingly bigger schools each week. A few bonito are and the ravenous, toothy barracouta are back a little further out over the reefs.

Striped tuna are showing in close but they are more frequent beyond 50 fathoms. Albacore are being taken out around the Stanwell Park and Kiama canyons and just about anywhere beyond the continental shelf, as can a few yellowfin tuna, but most of the yellowfin have been coming from 1000 fathoms-plus as boats go further out each year.

I will wait for them to come in closer, as they regularly do in October. Some years there are fish along the coast but it is all up to the current and the bait.

If the wind is calm and the swell down, as it can be this month, casting pilchard halves into the washes around the headlands and islands can be very productive for tailor, salmon, bream and trevally.

Use royal red prawns and a few big drummer will give you some hurry-up as well. Soft plastic prawn imitations also get good results in the same places.

ROCKS, BEACHES

On the rocks it is a good mixture with plenty of surface action off the deeper ledges and drummer, bream, trevally and blackfish in the shallower washes.

Spinning with metal slugs and crystal eyes or soaking pillies will get salmon, tailor and bonito. A few big kings have been shadowing hooked salmon so it could pay to gather squid or slimy mackerel and put them on heavier gear.

On the beaches there have been a few more jewies lately and they will keep getting better as we into Summer. Most beaches have had schoolies but you have to work out which beach on which night. You can go crazy chasing them because they mightn’t be where they were last night.

Find a good spot that is well-known for regular jewie captures and spend a few nights in a row on the good tides and you will eventually get them. Take note of when and where you do and apply that new knowledge to other places and it might just all fall into place. In time and regular catches should occur.

There are plenty of salmon to keep you busy between jewies and some nice tailor for fresh jewie baits. Nothing beats a fresh big slab of tailor or a butterflied tailor head and shoulders for a big jewie.

Bream have been a bit patchy but a few are starting to move and the odd flattie has been taken, but we should see more towards the end of the month.

Whiting have started to gather in the shallows and they too will become more numerous over coming weeks.

PRAWN RUN

In the estuaries we will se the first run of prawns on the October dark and this means the flatties and bream will kick-start their season in earnest. Live prawns are the bait of choice and an evening with the kids scooping a few for bait, and maybe enough for a feed, is always good fun.

The bridges on Lake Illawarra and the Minnamurra River are good spots to start looking for bream during the evenings. The flathead are all along the main channel in both systems and will really get going next month.

Blackfish are still feeding along the edges of the weed beds if you can get some good green weed and there are a few nice whiting starting to show in the shallows around the entrances.

When the prawns start to run, little poppers will come into their own for the bigger whiting on quiet days with little boat traffic. But for the moment, try worms for bait if you want a feed.

A run-out tide during the evening could produce a jewie on soft plastics around the bridge pylons, while the breakwall at the lake has a few bream and the odd jewie at night as well.

Facts

PFD POLITICS

It looks like it won’t be long before we each have to wear a lifejacket every time we get into a boat or go rock fishing and I am sick of being told what to do and how I should behave in everything I do.

Yes, there are laws to be obeyed in everyday life and I obey them, but protecting me from myself in everything I do is just getting to the point of frustration.

There are places where a PFD should be worn ‘if you so desire’ but let me be the judge of that. I have always worn a PFD when crossing dangerous bars like Narooma and the Macleay, but not the creek at Currarong. No waves there, but a designated bar just the same.

Yes I have put on a PFD a couple of times when the ocean got very nasty but it was my choice and it has only been three times in thousands of trips and I made the call. For the most part, a PFD is not needed.

Never combine the ocean and drinking, that is only for fools, and don’t drive like an idiot and you will get home – much the same as on the roads.

I think we should all wear helmets in cars because head trauma is a major killer in accidents. Race drivers all wear helmets but that won’t happen because the ladies would not have it, their hair would get messed up. If you think this is a bit silly ask the ladies. I did.

As for PFDs on the rocks, where and when? Are you going to make the kids having a fish on Peels Reef at Currarong in the Christmas holidays, no waves but open ocean, wear jackets? What about the anglers fishing the Tubes at Jervis Bay or the fishos on the sheltered breakwalls along the coast and the quiet bays? All open ocean.

What if someone wants to walk along an ocean headland and look at the marine life in the rock pools, will they need a PFD? Several people lost their lives at Kiama doing just that. One proposal at the time was to fence the headlands to prevent people from getting to the ocean. Yes that is right, fence the place.

Sometimes you just have to let people go about their business. Educate them, by all means, but let us make our own decisions.

There are situations when a PFD is required but not across the board and even some of the present regulations seem to have had little effort or consultation put into their implementation. The blanket approach seems to be the way these days. – GC

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