Hoping for yellowfin
  |  First Published: October 2013

It’s really not fair that we now have to travel so far to chase yellowfin tuna. Gone are the days when places like Bandit, Wollongong Reef, the South East grounds and the Sir John Young Banks were crawling with them each season and they came right to the backs of the beaches.

Now we have to head to the continental shelf and hope we run into a few in that vast expanse of ocean. But some still come our way and this is the time to chase them, with reports of schoolies up to 30kg out about the shelf. Stanwell Park Canyons and Kiama Canyons are good places to start.

As usual, trolling about and watching the birds is the best way to find them. When you get a hook-up, toss in a handful off pillie cubes and see what happens.

With luck the school will follow the hooked fish to the boat, but they are not as easy to attract as the southern blues that swim in packed schools. Yellowfin will be more spread out so it is a little more difficult to draw them in.

Albacore, on the other hand, will come in numbers right up to the boat and stay for quite a while if the cubes are used sparsely and often.

There seem to be heaps more albies about than ’fin so you are more likely to get a few of these guys.

They can range anywhere from 2kg to 15kg so take some light tackle and sight feed them. Just drifting a pillie back in the trail can be fraught with danger because this is when the big ’fin show up and eat that bait on light gear. They make you look pretty ordinary as all your line disappears.

Fin of 80kg-plus can and do show, particularly if there is a bit of competition going on down there; the big guys always command prime position in the trail.

Pillie cubes are good but striped tuna cubes are better so put a few small lures in the spread and pick up some bait because there are plenty of these guys to be had on the way out to where you are chasing the bigger fish.

Don’t be surprised if a stray striped marlin comes in for a look at the lures; they always seem to show around October.

Sharks can be a problem. It’s mako time and the dopey old blues will be about as well, but it is more likely a big whaler that will steal your tuna. They follow the schools everywhere.

If the current is slow and all else fails, there are still a few gemfish over the canyons and always a blue-eye trevalla or some other deep ooglies down there.

In closer, schools of fish should be working all along the coast, just look for the seagulls. Most fish salmon but there are some schools of striped tuna.

Under the salmon are silver trevally. Just let a small plastic sink below the salmon and work it back slowly. A few snapper are falling to this method as well.

Some early bonito are in with the salmon and big kings can be lurking under the schools close to places like Bellambi Reef, the islands and Bass Point.

Big slimy mackerel also get in on the act and they go straight back out on the heavy gear until the ratchet lets out a howl.

A few kings have started to show with the ’fin on the deeper reefs mentioned earlier but the leatherjackets can make it difficult. On good days, a downrigged squid or slimy mackerel, or some time spent at the sounder to pinpoint a school to then drop down the knife jigs will score kings averaging 5kg and reaching 15kg.

Snapper have backed right off now but there are some in 40m east of the Seacliff Bridge and out on Wollongong Reef in about the same depth. They’re hitting 100mm-150mm plastics; they seem to have gone off white and are now back on strange colours like atomic chicken and the like. And some people still use bait to catch them, too.

Things are looking up for the bottom bouncers with the sand flatties back. They seem to be stirred into action when the small baitfish arrive and judging by their stomach contents, they are either up chasing the bait or the bait is all the way through the water column from the top to the bottom.

There seem to be healthy numbers of mowies, small snapper, pigfish and trevally, a few samson fish, sweep and heaps of leatherjackets over all the reefs.


The rocks are starting to warm up with plenty of salmon. Metals of all sizes are working, especially early in the mornings along the breakwalls at Port Kembla and Windang Island, but most of the deeper spots have plenty on offer.

A few bonito and even the odd striped tuna are about. Keep the heavy gear handy, big kings have been harassing hooked fish so a live bait could score a big hook-up.

Port Harbour has jewies to 15kg coming in on plastics and live bait.

For some strange reason there are always a few big mackerel tuna hooked off the ledges at this time of year and if all the planets align and the currents are right, a yellowfin is not out of the question down around Kiama.

There are heaps of drummer around and trevally are in with them, particularly if you use berley to get them going. Pilchards will attract bream and tailor so the rocks are looking good and getting better now.

On the beaches, the first of the whiting are starting to appear down around Windang and Port, so it wont be long before some good catches will come from these beaches and move all along the coast.

Flathead have started to raise their ugly heads on the beaches and will only get better as the water warms.

School jewies are on the northern beaches with a few bream on most and the good old salmon are everywhere. The beaches are no longer cold and lonely and with the onset of daylight saving there could be some late nights getting home because it doesn’t get dark until late.


Down in Lake Illawarra, the flatties are stirring and the first run of prawns on the October dark usually kick starts them into action.

All the usual spots from the drop-off down the main channel and over in front of Tallawarra will produce fish.

Plastics are used by most but those that love their live poddy mullet will be happy that they are starting to infest the shallows as well.

With the prawns will come the bream and whiting, particularly over the shallows at the entrance and along the shallows from Windang to Primbee, so maybe a bit of popping over these areas will be well worthwhile.

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