Lake Illawarra comes alive
  |  First Published: November 2013

A couple of afternoons ago I was working in the Macquarie Rivulet area and while driving past I saw the water rippling and there wasn’t any wind, so I had to have a look.

Big mullet were schooling in their thousands – great fun on light line, great bait and not too bad on the chew if you do them fresh and in the right way.

But the strange thing was there were a few monster eels swimming with them on the surface.

Now I have seen eels swim on the surface before but not with all the mullet in an open river in mid-afternoon sun…

Then a movement close to the edge caught my eye. Just near a big log, three thumper bream were casually milling around, having a chew on the growth and taking things easy.

I walked a bit further, watching the snags in the shallows, and spotted probably 20 really good bream along a 100m stretch.

I didn’t have a rod with me, but time spent fishing the snags from a canoe or the bank could well be rewarding over coming weeks.

I wonder what got everything on the move that day. It wasn’t anything special, with just a small high-pressure system coming through.

Things should just get bigger and better over the Summer now as the water heats up and everything gets into turbo mode.

Down in the lake proper, the flatties are really starting to get a move along. Good catches are coming from the drop-off down the main channel and along the sandy patches among the weed beds all over the lake.

Soft plastic prawn variations are the way to go, with the prawn run hitting full swing on the dark of the moon this month.

Don’t forget to pack a few poppers to toss around over the shallow flats. Everything will be chasing these tasty little crustaceans, including big whiting and bream.

For more whiting, fish the sand flats around the entrance of the lake from the bridge to the breakwalls with squirt or tube worms.

It is much the same for Minnamurra, with whiting on the flats down towards the entrance and flathead along the length of the system, particularly at the edges of the deeper holes.


The beaches are well worth a look and you don’t need waders any more; the water is warming nicely.

There are plenty of salmon grabbing ganged pilchards, mostly around dawn and into the evening. Some tailor to 3kg are around too with most around 1kg.

Whiting are the main target. They bite all day and generally hide at night but some big ones do get caught after dark.

Beach worms are top bait but can be hard to catch because the worm pros give them a hiding this time of year.

The beaches each side of the lake are the prime locations but the whiting are spreading all along the cast now so most beaches are worth a throw.

School jewies are about and the big fish will feed up from now until Christmas, so some late nights could be on the cards. Most beaches are worth a look with Coniston, Stanwell Park, Warilla and Bombo great spots to start.

The breakwalls at the entrance to the lake would be worthwhile for soaking a live tailor.

Flathead have moved back onto the beaches and are providing variety for those chasing other species and some fun for the plastic-tossers.


The rocks are starting to get going, with pelagics moving along the headlands particularly in the northern corners the morning after a north-easter. Bass Point and Port Kembla’s northern breakwall should produce salmon, tailor, small kings and bonito, as should Blowhole Point at Kiama.

The deeper ledges down around Kiama have a few better kings and maybe even the odd mack tuna or even a yellowfin.

The ’fin were recently spotted blowing up not too far offshore. Whether they hold up or keep blasting south is another thing, but without a live bait in the water you will never know.

In the washes bream, drummer and trevally are taking royal red prawns and pilchard pieces fished on light tackle.


It is worth getting offshore again. After the great Spring run of yellowfin tuna a few are still hanging about on the continental shelf but the weather may not be as kind as it was a few months ago, so be careful.

A few may find their way in close, too. Don’t hold your breath waiting but have a look over the recognised spots.

While you are there, try dropping 6” plastics to the bottom over the reef; they have been smashing snapper lately.

These spots have always held a few nice fish in the quiet times for those who worked hard but the plastic revolution is proving so effective it may knock these residents around. So be prudent with the size and numbers you remove from the system.

Striped tuna are still doing the rounds from in close to out wide, with salmon and bonito.

Some better kings have started to show around the islands and down at Rangoon Reef. They should improve in size and numbers as we head into Summer. Live squid, slimy mackerel and yellowtail have been the best bait, in that order.

Over the sand patches the flatties are back with fish to 55cm regularly filling boxes. Morwong are on the move on the reef edges and over the gravel.

Leatherjackets are there but are patchy and can be avoided if you move about.



A disturbing aspect has come to light in the Minnamurra River, one of the best bass waters on our short stretch of coast. There has been a dramatic decline in big bass in the lower sections.

There are a couple of trains of thought from passionate anglers who fish this system and protect it.

The first is that a local organisation has been carrying out snag removal from the waterway, probably in the name of flood mitigation, but as we know removing the snags destroys the bass habitat.

With no cover they are easy prey. About half a dozen 45cm-50cm bass were recently spotted in a cleared area huddling next to a rock but almost completely exposed.

The other thought was that some unscrupulous grub had netted the place, but the fact there were some big fish trying to hide points more to the first reason. If someone was netting the place I hate to think of what might happen if they were caught by law-abiding anglers.

I know NSW Fisheries read this and many other mags as a matter of course, so it may be worth a look into what is happening.

Removing snags does not stop floods, so Fisheries should investigate and stop their removal because they can waste our licence money by carrying on with all the political crap of removing weirs and stocking programs, but they are useless unless the fish have somewhere to live. – GC

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