Usually associated with cold Winter water and normally taken as by catch when fishing for other species, silver trevally will be at their peak over the coming weeks on the shallow reefs along the Illawarra coast.
They will have two things on their mind, eating and reproducing, so they will be schooling up and at times rippling on the surface, particularly around Pig and Toothbrush islands. And they will be easy pickings.
The water is still quite cold in the depths and warming on top – great for bringing food to young mouths so this is a great time to spawn.
When they are on the surface, which doesn’t happen as much as it used to but still occurs, they are suckers for small lures of any type.
But for the most part it is simply just a matter of picking a spot in about 10m of water over the white rocks and berleying and they will come to you, often in their hundreds.
Cast into the berley stream a pilchard fillet on a No 3 hook and a small split shot for weight on 2kg line and you can have fun all day. The berley can simply be bread with tuna or pilchard oil mixed in.
You can cast a small plastic into the berley and let it sink before gently hopping it back, or you can forgo the berley and just drift around the islands working the 10m contour.
Not all the fish will be monsters; they tend to grow quite slowly. I had a tag returned from one that was released at Toothbrush Island and travelled over two years to half-way up the Shoalhaven River but grew only from around 500g to 8oog. That slow growth is probably why they are not as numerous as they used to be.
The thumpers of 3kg-4kg that gather on the Sir John Young Banks in January must be quite old.
Some anglers are not too fond of them on the plate but filleted, skinned and de-boned, their sweet, white flesh cooks up pretty well.
Mixed in with the trevally in the berley will be the always-reliable salmon, which also gather on the surface at this time to gorge on the tiny baitfish in the surface layers.
Again, small lures will produce hours of fun. You can troll around the schools but within half an hour they will go down and become flighty and the fun will stop quickly. Quiet and careful, and you will catch them all day.
Now the baitfish are here you will have to contend the migrating muttonbirds. The wedge-tailed and fluttering shearwaters are the main species that will swarm into the berley and eat everything, including every bait you put in the water.
They are a bloody nuisance because they are hungry, but you would be too if you just flew from Russia and Japan. If they get too bad, pick up and move, don’t dong them on the head with the gaff – they are a protected species and are in plague numbers for only a few weeks and only if their food is scarce as they move down the coast to the southern oceans for Summer breeding on the offshore islands.
It’s a different story when you are looking for big fish in a large ocean and you spot a small patch of muttonbirds working a small area in the middle of nowhere, showing you exactly where a school of yellowfin or bluefin tuna are. Then you love them, so look after them when they are hungry.
Speaking of tuna, there are a few yellowfin out on the continental shelf and the odd few in closer, just look for the birds. There seem to be a few more albacore about as well but they won’t last for long as the warmer water pushes them south.
The odd striped marlin will show at the end of the month or you could luck out with one of those early big blue marlin out over the shelf at this time of the year. There are plenty of mako sharks about, too.
In closer, the flathead started fairly early this year, particularly on the northern sand patches, with good bag limit (20) catches of fish to 60cm and the rest of the sand patches will just get better as the water warms.
Over the deeper reefs in 40m or more snapper to 3kg can be caught on the drift or, if the current allows, at anchor on bait and plastics.
If the flathead have been early the kingies have been a bit late with a show here and there but nothing worth writing about. There has not been a great deal of current in close but if it starts to run that can all change overnight.
If you are struggling to find kings, downrigging a slimy mackerel or yellowtail around the feeding salmon schools could pay dividends. You will get a few salmon and bonito as well as those big kings that trail the salmon.
There are still a few speedy striped tuna in close and plenty out wide.
On the beaches whiting hit their straps this month and the beaches closest to the lake entrance will fire first. Windang and Warilla are always good, as is MM Beach.
Over coming weeks the whiting will move all along the coast. Live beach worms get best results but tube worms work well.
If there are whiting about it would be a good bet that after dark there will be jewies in the same area. They like a feed of whiting too, so as the sun goes down put out a whiting frame as fresh jewie bait.
Bream can be a nuisance in this situation but it’s always a good sign if the bream suddenly stop biting – a bigger predator might not be far away.
Flathead have made a move on the beaches over recent weeks so a walk along the channels flicking soft plastics will score nice lizards and stray school jewies.
During the evenings and early mornings there are plenty of salmon and tailor for the pillie-tossers on all the beaches, you just have to pick the right hole.
The rocks are firing up as the water slowly warms. A few local big kings are moving along the deep ledges down south at daybreak and live squid, mackerel and yellowtail are the top baits.
Salmon, bonito, trevally and rat kings are taking lures and pilchards off many of the deeper headlands but the Kiama area is the pick. Bass Point isn’t far behind and Hill 60 is always crowded at this time of year.
Drummer can still be found in the washes with some bream and a few trevally. Lightly weighted prawns get results.
In Lake Illawarra it’s flathead time with fish through out the system but the drop off and main channel are the places to be, particularly with the prawns starting to move during this dark.
Live prawns will nail any flatties and big bream and it is fun catching the bait, too.
Soft plastics will take as many flatties as you need and then some.
Minnamurra is much the same with flatties all along the channel and some nice bream around the bridges and the rocks at night.
The lake entrance walls are good for salmon late afternoons and a few jewies during the evenings on the run-in tide and around the bridge on the run-out tide.Reads: 1802