Some of the best fishing fun you can have can be when you potter around the rocks at this time of year.
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but there are a so many different ways you can fish the stones and just as many great species.
At the moment it’s not really time to dust of the game tackle and hit the deep ledges, but there are plenty of options open. So grab some bait and berley and work your way around any of the multitude of rock platforms, breakwalls and ledges on the Illawarra coast.
At the moment it is drummer time, pigs rock blackfish if you like, and these guys really go hard. Pulling a big one out of the caves they love to live in is looked upon by rockhopper fishos with great admiration.
Most of the rock platforms hold a few drummer and some a lot. Many of the bigger fish come from the roughest country.
Some of the spots to start looking are up north, between Stanwell Park and Wombarra. They’re not places that take five minutes to walk to so get the pack on and take half an hour to get to the middle of the cliffs below Clifton and work the ledges there – this is drummer heaven.
Further south, Coledale has a few fish but the ledge is flat and best fished on calmer days.
Bellambi is another great spot that turns up quality fish. There are so many good holes and gutters within a five-minute walk of the carpark, but they get hit pretty hard and you may not get the spot you want because someone else is already there.
Almost in the Wollongong CBD, the eastern breakwall all the way to South Beach is worth a throw and the area behind the nuns’ baths is always good.
Honeycomb is next along the coast but it has a reputation as one of the most deadly rock spots in Australia.
It shouldn’t be, but somehow it has a great attraction for anglers new to the country who haven’t become used to the variable sea conditions. Most of them fish a ledge where you get washed into the ocean, rather than just knocked off your feet and rolled along the rocks to lose a bit of bark and get bruised.
From the breakwalls at Port Kembla all the way to Port Beach is drummer country at its best, with cunjevoi-covered ledges dropping into deeper water.
Windang Island has some safer high ledges but further south, Barrack Point and Bass Point have so many options and most are easily accessible.
Next along the coast is Cathedral Rocks, with a heap of great water to work and the bonus of the Boneyard being safe and amazingly productive in very big seas. When I say safe, no open ocean rock platform is totally safe but the Boneyard is sheltered like a harbour and the fish shelter there in big seas. It can get crowded when the seas are up and the fish are on.
Bombo is next, but it also has a reputation of being quite dangerous so it is best fished only by those with local knowledge and experience.
Then we have all those rock platforms from Kiama Blowhole to Werri Beach, a coastline almost untouched by drummer chasers that would take months to fully explore.
The joy of this form of fishing is the by-catch – heaps of bream, trevally, luderick, snapper (often big), silver drummer, salmon and even the odd kingfish.
Less desirable ones include parrot fish, leatherjackets and numerous wrasse species and everyone’s favourite, the swallow-all. This brown, rubbery little creature never gets hooked in the lip, it always swallows the lot, making for a long-winded and sometimes fatal hook removal. (Maybe best to cut your losses, and the line. – Ed.)
The other great joy of drummer fishing the washes is you need only the essentials – a few hooks and very light sinkers and some bait.
Royal red prawns are always good, as is cunjevoi, but a loaf of bread will do the trick as well and is not hard to come by at the right price. A second loaf will do as berley.
While chasing the drummer and bream you will go past some deep ledges which at the moment have heaps of salmon working along them.
Windang Island has been good, as have Port Kembla, Bass Point and south of Kiama.
A few kings are starting to show but they have mostly been small, grabbing pillies or lures meant for the sambos.
It’s much the same on the beaches with the majority of captures being salmon up to 4kg. Some tailor are around during the evenings, as are a few bream.
Jewies of any size are never reliable at this time of year but a few schoolies are popping up here and there.
The estuaries have been quiet with mostly bream in the feeder streams and out around the rocky areas of the lake, but you will have to work for them. Later in the month it could be worth a look for a few early flatties around the drop-off to the lake.
Wait a few weeks and it will be a bit easier to get a feed.
There are a few nice snapper left over after the cuttlefish run but they won’t hang about forever so get the berley going around the shallow reefs and you may get a few.
What you will get are plenty of silver trevally. They love berley and come right up to the boat in their dozens some days around the islands and Bass Point.
Run the sounder over Bandit and Wollongong reefs and The Humps down south and keep an eye out for the kings to 15kg that gather over coming weeks.
Knife jigs and live yellowtail and squid run deep will find them but there are hordes of leatherjackets some days.
Further offshore there are a few yellowfin tuna out on the continental shelf and wider but albacore are more common. Troll small skirts to find them, then toss cut pillies over while fighting them to bring the rest of the school up.
Plenty of mako and blue sharks of all sizes are making nuisances of themselves.
If the current is slow enough, there are still heaps of gemfish and trevalla on the bottom in deep water.
In closer, flathead are waking from their hibernation with a few nice snapper over the gravel and mowies and pigfish over the reefs.
Keep an eye out for the birds as the salmon schools build in size and the striped tuna hammer the little glass eels, too.Reads: 7709