A lake full of fun
  |  First Published: April 2013

While the offshore fishing is still pretty hot, it is Lake Illawarra that is worth a look over coming weeks for a bit of fun.

Due to its shallow nature, the lake warms quicker than the ocean in Spring and cools quicker in Autumn.

Since the lake was opened permanently a few years ago and breakwalls installed, the warm ocean water pushes well into the system on the making tide, so it should fish well for a little while yet.

I was a sceptical when all the alterations were going on and I am not a great fan of changing what nature put in place but, for the moment, the breakwalls have improved the fishing out of sight.

Schools of tailor and salmon regularly patrol from the entrance up to the bridge on the incoming tide, smashing everything in their path.

Some of the tailor are well over a kilo and the salmon to 3kg, so they are fun on the shallow the flats around the entrance and can give you a hell of a shock when popping for whiting.

Flathead are still biting all along the main channel, with some excellent fish down along the walls near the entrance and up in the drop-off area. Blackfish are in good numbers all along the breakwalls if you have green weed.

A few jewies are hanging around the bridge pylons on the top of the tide in the evenings and a few have been picked up along the entire length of the breakwalls. They have to get to the bridge some way.

Bream are increasing but fishing after dark is the only way to keep your baits away from the pickers.

The bream will soon be gathering around the weed beds from Windang to Primbee. Small blades work a treat in this area, even when the water gets a little dirty on some days. Calm conditions work better than days with chop on the surface.

Chopper tailor can be nuisances, particularly near the drop-off on a run-out tide.

The whiting have grown fat and all the flats from the entrance up to the drop-off have some very nice fish. The prawns are on their last legs so poppers are not really the flavour of the month but if you can get hold of worms, particularly squirt worms, you will get some nice fish.

Blackfish, bream and salmon like worms, too, so be prepared for all these.


The offshore action won’t last many more weeks. The cooler currents are already working their way back up the coast but, for the moment, all is good.

Usually the full moon of April is Easter but it came early this year so the full moon late this month should produce some good snapper over the shallow reefs and bommies in the local area.

You can’t be too shallow, either, as they move right into the washes at places like Bombo rocks, Bass Point’s southern side, out the front of Bellambi and up around Wombarra and Coalcliff.

The numbers will thin out after the moon until cuttlefish time in July.

Berley late in the afternoon over your favourite reef and fish light with unweighted baits.

Plenty of small pelagics are schooling with mackerel tuna, bonito, slimy mackerel and frigate mackerel still on the chew. Pretty much anything with squiggly lines on its back makes great bait for snapper.

These guys are mixing it with salmon, tailor, trevally and small kings so you can have heaps of fun chasing bait before the serious business of snapper fishing.

Not all the bonito will be bait size; there are often monsters to 8kg prowling the reefs now. They can be nuisances, smashing your precious kingie live baits or picking up a pilchard in the snapper berley trail, but in these days of changing tastes some people love fresh bonito on the barbie.

The kings range from rats to thugs and often pop up anywhere there is a bit of reef. There are the prime spots like Rangoon Island and the Humps down south around Bass Point, Gap Island (if you can keep the seals at bay), the northern side of Pig Island, behind Bellambi Reef and on Shalies.

Slow trolling live slimies, one on top and one downrigged, will get good results. Or you could just put out a livie when chasing other species.

I like to berley up the bream in the shallows around the islands and have a live bait out while pulling in the bream. All the bream action often pulls in a few kings for a look and they can’t go past that live bait.

Trevally will mix it in the berley with the bream and salmon are always a nuisance.

The drifters are scoring plenty of flathead over all the sand patches and small to medium reds, mowies and small samson are on the reefs. Leatherjackets are only patchy so you get to keep most of your gear but the sweep are picking up in numbers.


Farther offshore, the FADs are still attracting a few mahi mahi to 6kg on days when the water temp is up and there is current.

The odd black marlin is on the cards but the big blues out on the continental shelf are the main target, with some monsters to be hooked, lost or captured. There are always a few striped marlin around the shelf this time of year.

The main drawcards will be the yellowfin tuna if they decide to show. Last year was quiet so this could be the year.

It’s good practice to troll until you find the schoolies and then cube. Watch that sounder for shows of deeper fish and always carry a few live yellowtail or slimy mackerel.

With the prospect of warmer than average water this month, the northern strays could stay for a bit longer with spotted mackerel over the shallow reefs and a few cobia in with the kings.

The longtail tuna travel close to shore so it is more often the rockhoppers that hit them than the boaties.

So over the next month or so the deeper rock ledges are worthy of attention, particularly from Hill 60 to Kiama, for longtails to 25kg, mackerel tuna to 8kg, big kings and possibly cobia on live mackerel and yellowtail.

While you are waiting for the livie to go off, keep spinning with metals and big poppers for maximum coverage.

There will be plenty of bait-stealing bonito and salmon but you have to put up with them off the stones.

For something less strenuous, there are plenty of drummer in the washes with good bream. Get a bread berley going and fish bread bombs or prawns under bobby corks or just free with no sinker and the results will come.

Big bronze blackfish are on the move and they don’t mind a bit of bread but a berley of cabbage and green weed will get them hungry, then bait with weed in the conventional blackfish manner.


On the beaches it is getting cool during the evenings and if you haven’t yet caught a jewie this season, April is one of the better months, particularly for schoolies to 10kg.

Salmon are on all beaches with some very solid tailor during the evenings while bream are really coming along nicely on the high tides during the mornings.

Fresh mackerel and tuna pieces are top bait at the moment.

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