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It’s as good as it gets
  |  First Published: December 2012



Sit back and enjoy the ride, take some holidays and polish up all that gear you got for Christmas because the next couple of months are as good as it gets on the local scene.

The estuaries, beaches, rocks and offshore are all firing as the water gets hotter, and this is just the start of lots more good things.

The warm East Aussie Current is bringing with it all those speedsters we hang out for during the cooler months.

Out wide there have been reports of blue, black and striped marlin so a grand slam is not out of the question.

Large skirted lures seem to be the weapons of choice but I can never go past one of those schools of fat little striped tuna that splash about the surface without a Christmas tree out the back.

Have a bridle rig ready on a 24kg outfit and put that little stripy back out and slowly troll it around the school. You may not cover as much ground as you do with lures but where there’s bait there are big fish and if there is a billfish about it will find your stripy pretty quickly.

A few mahi mahi have shown up around the FADs and trap markers with some fish of better than 15kg picked up by the marlin lure trollers.

A few small yellowfin tuna are out wide with the striped tuna and a wahoo is not out of the question, or even a spearfish.

In closer the little striped tuna are mixing with bonito, salmon and rat kings on the surface.

You can’t miss them rolling and splashing on the surface, often in large schools – just look for the birds. Terns moving fast usually mean stripies, and the less energetic seagulls will be over the other species.

A good omen is when you see garfish launching themselves out of the water as predators hunt them. Plenty of gar generally means plenty of bigger fish.

Live bait plays a big role in catching big fish, particularly kingfish. They often shadow schools of bonito and salmon so a slimy mackerel or large yellowtail cast among the feeding frenzy often picks up the better fish.

A well-rigged fresh garfish can score big fish when all else fails but expect a lot of salmon, tailor and bonito by-catch.

If you are lucky, an early frigate mackerel might come your way when casting lures at other speedsters. It must go straight back over on heavy gear because it doesn’t matter what time of day it is, a big king cannot swim past a live frigate mackerel.

Kings have shown up at all the recognised spots like Bass Point, the Islands and Bellambi, so a bit of live-bait trolling will produce fish. As always, just on dawn is the best time but getting livies that early can be a bit tricky unless you get out there in the middle of the night and load up on squid.

On the deeper reefs like Bandit and Wollongong, livies are working, as are jigs ripped back at speed.

A few nice snapper are getting around the shallow reefs but the majority are in 30m-40m depths so if the current is not running too hard to anchor and berley, they are well worth a shot. Most are up to 2kg with a few better fish some days.

Some trevally are in the berley as well, not the schoolies of Winter but fish to 3kg; they bite best in current in the deeper water.

Maybe this will be the year we see a good showing of teraglin; they seem to run in cycles and the past few seasons have been pretty lean.

For the drifters there are plenty of flatties so a feed of sandies shouldn’t be a problem. The sand patches off Stanwell Park, Bulli Sands, Coniston, Port Kembla, Windang and Bombo and all in between are producing fish.

If you stray onto the gravel and reef there are plenty of small snapper, samson, mowies and heaps of sweep with even the odd pearl perch as the water warms.

There will be plenty of small hammerheads about and swarms of those nuisance little whalers. Remember to get to uni and study so you know the difference between the various hammers so you can avoid catching one of the endangered species and hook only smooth hammers.

ROCKS, BEACHES

The rocks are going off with the deeper ledges producing kings of all sizes. Use small baits and lures for run of the mill fish and rats and large live squid, slimy mackerel, frigates and those monster poppers for bigger kings.

Salmon are schooling with bonito and bream and trevally are underneath picking up the scraps. The washes are worth a look for some drummer and a few blackfish are starting to show in the washes on cabbage weed.

The big attraction for the land-based game guys is the chance of a marlin from the rocks. Jervis Bay will be crowded and some monsters were taken there last season but Kiama Point and Marsdens have their fair share of billfish swim past each season.

Hang a live slimy mackerel, a big yellowtail or a frigate mackerel in front of a marlin and you are in with a chance. They are seen and hooked every year and although not as numerous as the JB area, they are around for the persistent.

The whiting are moving onto all 17 local beaches; just add beach worms for results.

Find a good gutter and you will get salmon in the mornings and evenings and some tailor up to 3kg in the early evenings as well. Ganged pilchards are doing most of the damage.

Throw in some dart for the whiting chasers and flathead all day long on bait and plastics and the surf is looking good.

When it starts to get dark the jewies come out to play and schoolies up to 10kg seem to be popping up all along the coast. A few up to 20kg have been landed and better fish lost.

Big baits of fresh mackerel, tailor and squid are scoring most fish while a few tailor fishos have been towelled up on pilchards as well.

ESTUARIES

The estuaries are in full flight with the prawns running and the fish looking for their share.

The main channel of Lake Illawarra and the drop off always have plenty of flathead of all sizes. Plastics, live poddy mullet and prawns will get you a feed in no time.

Don’t forget the Lake Illawarra Flathead Classic for the whole family, hosted by Wollongong Sportfishing Club and Deans Bait and Tackle, it’s on January 20.

Bream are on the chew in the deeper parts of the channel, the rocky island shores and around the bridge. Use live prawns during the evenings when all the pickers have gone to bed.

Chopper tailor are everywhere in the lake and make great jewie baits. A few jewies have been hooked during the evening around the bridge.

The breakwalls have bream, jewies, salmon and tailor.

Whiting are all over the sand flats, taking worms and nippers and poppers very early in the morning before the boats put them down.

Minnamurra is going well with flatties along its length and some big bream and even the odd mangrove jack around the oyster-covered bridge pylons.

Further up in the fresh, the bass are on the chew now the cicadas and beetles are about on the hot nights. Summer – you’ve got to love it.

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