It has been an exceptionally good season for marlin off the Illawarra coast with just about everyone who had a crack at them scoring fish. Even some who weren’t looking for the billies managed to land a couple while chasing other species, they were that thick.
It isn’t over yet because there will still be a few strays hanging about until the end of this month if the water stays good so if you missed out, get out and have a crack over Easter.
There were some epic battles in recent weeks with Leo Stolk battling one fish for over six-and-a-half hours and when finally his deckie Chris grabbed the trace the fish started jumping. It was about 80k and was fought on 15kg tackle with a measured drag of 8kg and that is not a piker’s drag in any way.
It is as if the fish have been on steroids over the past few weeks; everyone was saying how tough they were compared with previous seasons and I thought I was just getting old. I spent two hours on 24kg stand-up gear fishing alone, as I regularly do, on a fish that was just plain stubborn. It jumped only three times but I eventually prevailed on a black marlin over 130kg but I was knackered the next day and my arms hurt for three days – maybe I am getting old.
The half-dozen or so fish I had fought in the weeks just after Christmas hadn’t gone anywhere near that hard and they were on 15kg. Maybe it was because of the cooler water, who knows.
A marlin would be a bonus this month because the main attraction will be the big snapper that venture over the shallow reefs along the coast on the April full moon. These always attract the attention of the avid snapper fishos.
That means you will have a few days off over Easter to chase a big red so you will be able to put in some evening hours to give yourself a good chance. Anchor over the reefs in close near the Seacliff Bridge, Wombarra cemetery, Bellambi Bombora, Towradgi, the southern side of Port Kembla islands and The Crankshaft area at Bass Point.
Tuna or mackerel for berley will enhance your chances and fresh fillets of frigate or slimy mackerel for bait rigged on just a single hook will do the job. Because most of the fishing will be done in shallow water close to shore, no sinkers are required – just let the bait float around naturally in the berley.
Fishing in this manner will also attract the attention of quite a few bream, tailor, salmon, trevally and the odd jewie. There are still snapper over the deeper reefs and there are plenty of other species about this month to keep you busy.
April is still a great month for kingies with plenty of larger specimens around the usual haunts like the islands and Bass Point out around the humps. Livebait is essential for good results, fished either deep with a sinker or slowly trolled to cover more area.
Big bonito will grab your livebaits, too, and if you run into a school of these striped terrors, scale down your tackle to get the best out of the fish. I actually broke the world record last April with a fish of almost 5kg so you never know what can happen if you fish light.
Bonnies can turn up anywhere and if you can keep them around with cubes of pilchard or the like, you can have fun for hours.
There are plenty of other pelagics about with salmon schooling along the coast mixing with mackerel tuna, frigates, trevally and tailor. Throw in the odd rainbow runner, spotted mackerel and cobia and there is a smorgasbord of action if you are in the right place at the right time. The birds will be a dead giveaway most of the time.
Farther offshore there are still plenty of mahi mahi around the FADs. They were very late this year but hopefully the warm water will stay a little longer and will stay until the end of the month.
There are plenty of striped tuna and a few small yellowfin tuna being reported so stocking the bait freezer with striped tuna fillets for the Winter snapper may not be bad idea.
Bottom-bouncers have plenty on the menu. The favourite sand flathead are still about in good numbers and with fewer spikies about this month, just about every fish is a keeper.
Morwong to 2kg are starting to make a move along with plenty of small Samson fish and the odd teraglin over the reefs. Throw in heaps of sweep a few pigfish and increasing numbers of leatherjackets and you will again this month have a good bag drifting over the reef and sand.
For the rockhoppers this is a great month with all manner of species available. Drummer are on the increase in the washes taking cunjevoi, bread and royal red prawns in a berley trail of bread. Bream are starting to gather in the bays and whitewater so a few will be taken while chasing drummer, particularly during the evenings.
Blackfish are gathering as they start to travel along the coast over coming weeks. Kilo-plus fish will be moving around all the headlands and holding up in the harbours and bays in rough weather. Cabbage weed works off the rocks while green weed is best in the harbours and bays.
There is still plenty of pelagic action off the rocks with most of the deep ledges producing bonito, salmon, frigate mackerel, tailor and small kingfish. Soak a live yellowtail or slimy for kingfish, mackerel tuna and even a few longtails, particularly early morning and late afternoon.
There are good numbers of whiting off most beaches but the main problem is getting beach worms. Being a large city, the beaches are wormed pretty hard so they can be difficult to catch but if you have fresh beach worms you will get fish.
Mixed in with the whiting are a few dart, flathead, bream and worm-eating salmon that really give you a run on whiting gear.
During the evenings there are good tailor on Coniston, Fairy Meadow and East Corrimal beaches while most beaches with deep gutters have been producing school jewies on fresh fillets of mackerel and squid. Some guys are catching quite a few on 6” shad soft plastics and even reckon they are getting more than on bait.
The big fish are still being nailed on fresh slabs of tailor and mackerel during the evening high tides.
The estuaries are starting to slow although there are still some good fish about.
Bream, in particular, go from strength to strength over the next two months around the islands in Lake Illawarra and the feeder streams. Soft plastics will score fish if you want to work hard but bait will still get you a good catch with heaps less effort.
Flathead are slowing but still have their days when they bite their heads off. There are whiting down around the entrance to the lake, which should be open as they have been dredging there during February and March. We’ll see how long it stays open this time.
The fishing has to be compromised with the lake being closed for so long and almost drying up a few years ago and it still sustaining the same fishing pressure. The prawns, a major food source for the fish, have disappeared so what’s next? Let’s hope the lake stays open long enough to recruit at least some new stocks.
Minnamurra has whiting around the entrance sand flats and flathead along the entire length. Some nice blackfish are gathering along the weed beds in the main channel below the bridges and bream and the odd trevally are around the pylons during the evenings so there is plenty to play with down south.
Make the most of this month as the fishing starts to go downhill during May.
Trevally start to get active this month and there are a few nice ones about as well.
Snapper are the target this month and let’s hope they are not all as ugly as this one taken in shallow water just recently.
Some solid mowies are about like this one Nick looks pretty happy with.Reads: 700