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Don’t miss a day
  |  First Published: February 2014



The best piece of advice I can give you right now is this: Don’t miss a day because you will probably regret it. It doesn’t matter what you chase, there is something out there for you.

The northeasters have backed off a bit now so the offshore scene will be more forgiving on the body over the coming weeks. That’s unless you are hooked into one of the big marlin, kings, or sharks, but that is pain you can live with.

The black marlin are at their peak, with Bandit looking like a boat show marina – particularly when a few fish are on the boil. The schools of mackerel are there and being accosted by marlin and some big kings, and hook-ups have been a regular occurrence.

There is plenty of bait on Wollongong Reef too, but for some reason there aren’t so many boats there. That makes it a good option when the crowds gather up north. It’s also much closer to the Wollongong FAD so if you’re not doing as well as you would like on the billies you can duck out to the FAD. Anglers have been getting some decent mahi mahi (dolphinfish) there over the past few weeks. Marlin like dollies too, so you may score one out there as well.

As always, the fishing action all depends on the current. If it is belting down from the north your odds are always enhanced, and if the water is still you often don’t do so well. No run, no fun.

You can always head further out looking for the big blues and, because you need to cover a bit of ground to get to the shelf, it is always wise to tow some plastic. At this time of year there’s always the chance of wahoo, spearfish and small yellowfin.

A couple of small lures won’t go astray either to get all of those striped tuna for bait. You should also keep an eye out for anything floating as it will probably be accompanied by a few if not heaps of mahi mahi. The small lures and smaller live baits might even attract the attention of a stray sail, as they often venture down this way when the water is hot. If you are lucky enough to get one, work the same area as there will often be a few more hanging about.

Closer in around the islands, Bass Point and Bellambi have been providing anglers with lots of kingfish action. The best days have been when there has been a bit of current about. It just gets them going.

Downrigged squid is always a great bait, but a slow trolled frigate mackerel, be it downrigged or on top, will not be missed if there are any decent kings about. Don’t forget the humble yellowtail either, because on some days they are all they will eat. Strange critters, kings.

Many of the kingfish are just on that borderline of 65cm so make sure you measure them if they are close. Or you can just live by my motto: If you need to measure them, they are too small.

Quite a few fish are in the 10kg bracket with some pushing 15kg, but they get wiser at that size and a whole lot more powerful. Bust-offs in the rough are common in shallow water.

If you just want to have fun, keep your eye open for the birds on the top of the water. They will lead you to schools of marauding salmon and bonito, and smaller kings, trevally and frigates that turn the ocean to foam when they bail up the baitfish.

Schools of striped tuna are in close as well to supplement the bait supply. Most of the action is happening less than 1km from shore all along the Illawarra coast, so the yak fishos will have a lot of fun without paddling too far. Light gear is the key; 2kg tackle will get the most out of these little speedsters and get plenty of bait for other types of fishing.

BOTTOM FISHING

There are some nice snapper about over the deeper reefs, and a few are starting to show up in a bit closer around the bommies as well. Snapper just can’t resist a piece of fresh frigate or striped tuna. There are also plenty of smaller fish about to keep you busy while waiting for the big fella to arrive.

Sharks are a bit of a problem, but that’s to be expected in summer. The small hammers and whalers go alright on light tackle and are pretty good on the BBQ as well, so they are not always unwelcome visitors.

With the warm water and plenty of bait about, the bottom dwellers are getting in on the act too. Good catches of flatties have been coming from all the sand patches all along the Illawarra coast. Leatherjackets are patchy but not as bad as the past few years.

Over the reefs there are trevally, small samsonfish, pigfish and mowies. Even the odd teraglin, pearl perch and spangled emperor has come in over the past few weeks so you just don’t know what will grab your bait this month.

ROCKS

It is fun time on the rocks as the northeasters push the bait into the little coves and corners of the north facing headlands. The frigates, bonito, small kings and salmon go to town on them early in the mornings after the northerlies. Port’s northern wall is always good as are Wollongong, Bellambi, Windang Island and the gravel loader at Bass Point and blowhole point at Kiama. Good approaches include using small metals cast and retrieved fast, or flies on a trace behind a bobby cork.

On the deeper rock ledges a frigate mackerel fed back out at dawn is almost certain to be grabbed by a big king, particularly down around Kiama, Cathedral rocks and Marsdens. If it gets past a king and keeps on swimming, you’re in with a chance at a marlin. A hungry hammerhead is more likely to grab it, but you never know. It’s certainly worth a try.

Whole pilchards and pilchard pieces will account for plenty of bream and salmon in the washes with the odd trevally and small snapper thrown in as a bonus.

Don’t forget the fun of the frigates in and around the harbours with the kids. Grab some very small metals and get to Bellambi Jetty, Wollongong Harbour or Kiama Harbour and get the kids into these little speedsters. They make good bait for everything later.

BEACHES

On the beaches at the moment it is about as good as it gets. There are whiting on all beaches, and to get them you just need fresh beachworms. Dart are about too, with bream and heaps of salmon and tailor in the evenings just on dark and the early hours just on dawn. Some of the tailor are pushing the 3kg mark so expect the odd bite-off.

Flathead are in many of the gutters and are usually picked up as bycatch unless you go for a walk with some plastics and work the gutter edges. There are some nice fish to 80cm among them, plus a bycatch of school-sized mulloway, particularly in the evenings.

Some solid jewies have been coming in from the secret society of jewfishermen over the past weeks. Your best bet for a chance would be Coniston behind the sewerage depot, Coalcliff beach, Windang near the lake entrance or any deep gutter nearby and down on Bombo. Fresh frigate mackerel are a good bait to start with. Remember to take a few traces and hooks because it is whaler time on the beaches.

Honestly, if the general public only knew how many sharks came onto our beaches under the cover of darkness they wouldn’t stick their big toe in the water at this time of the year. I do swim on the beaches but never late or early in the day. The odd noah has been spotted in the lake of late but that won’t worry us.

Down around the entrance there are salmon and tailor ripping into baitfish on the bigger run-out tides and can be caught from the break walls or the boat on small metals and hardbodies.

Then there are the flathead. If you can’t catch a flattie on a plastic over the next few weeks, give the game away and take up croquet. The flatties are all through the channel from the entrance to the drop-off, and along every other patch of sand in the lake. Prawn-style soft plastics like the Gulp Shrimp are scoring heaps of fish, but just about anything will work at the moment.

Plenty of nice whiting are taking worms and nippers over the flats, and if you can get a quiet day it’s worth throwing little poppers as well.

Throwing lures for bream is good fun but if you’re after a feed your safest bet is to use bait. Grab some live prawns and drift them down around the break walls, bridge pylons or around the rocky parts of the islands during the evenings and you will catch nice big bream without too much effort.

As for the prawns, there will be plenty on this dark if you can get a spot. Scooping the flats at the entrance or around Primbee is always good for some bait.

Minnamurra has much the same on offer with some solid bream around the bridge pylons and good flathead all along its length.

If you can’t get a flattie in the lake this month, give it away. Some of them aren’t too bad either.

Wahoo are a nice bycatch when chasing marlin this month.

Black marlin will be about on the close in-reefs over the coming weeks.

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