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Baitfish kick-start the season
  |  First Published: September 2014



The first of the light northeasters will start to puff this month as the air temperature rises, and the water will run back downhill from time to time, bringing with it all the good things of summer.

Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves though. It’s just September and although it’s a little warmer the westerlies can still howl through, and for the most part the water is still cold.

The good part is the tiny baitfish will start to arrive over the coming weeks. Their arrival really kick-starts the season as all the predators – be they pelagic, bottom dwellers or scavengers – get in the mood to feed. My favourites are the massive schools of salmon, rat kings, bonito and trevally that ripple the surface, vacuuming every tiny baitfish in their path. Hovering above them are hordes of seagulls, and mixing it with the fish are the mutton birds.

Tiny lures, light lines, thin rods and fast reels are the weapons of choice to get maximum distance before retrieving the mini morsel back through the mess to get crunched.

Small kings are a pest as they fight hard and long just to be put back as undersized, but a few better ones are in the mix. You earn every one of them on light line. Some days though they are so focused on their prey that they won't even look at anything you have in the tackle box.

Not all the schools are kings and sambos, the ones moving fast with the terns on them will be striped tuna, and if you can keep up as they blast along the coast and manage to get a cast in front and get a lure past their nose before they change direction and actually get a hookup then you are in for some of the best light line fun available anywhere.

Then some of the schools will be large slimy mackerel and these will be marked by flocks of mutton birds diving and moving with the school but there will be little surface fish action. While slimies are good bait it is the snapper that move with these schools that will be the target.

Big plastics fished deep will get any that are about, don't know why they move with the big slimies but they do, then again a descent snapper is a top predator that will smash a random slimy without a problem.

Following all this action will be some larger kings. A smaller live slimy or yellowtail cast into these feeding masses on heavier tackle will often bring undone some good kings.

You will find these schools all along the coast but some better spots include up past Stanwell Park towards Burning Palms around Bellambi, the Islands and Port break walls of course, Bass Point and Bombo.

On the subject of better kings they will start to gain momentum this month on the deeper reefs and around the islands. Bandit and Wollongong are worth a look, while the trap reef off Port is worth a sound over and a big knife jig put down to any schools marked on the sounder.

There are still a few nice snapper and quite a lot of smaller fish left over after the winter cuttlefish run. In around the shallow reefs and bommies with an early morning or late arvo pick and berley session is the best way to get a few. You could also try drifting some big plastics over the deeper reefs for a bigger fish or two. Trevally will be more numerous in the berley so if you don't get any snapper a few blurters isn't all that bad.

With all the bait about the flatties will start to wake up over the next few weeks and catches will get better. For the moment, however, they are still a bit quiet.

Over the reefs there are a few morwong and good numbers of smaller snapper for the drifters. Throw in some piggies and samsonfish and things aren’t looking too bad.

One predator not mentioned is the dreaded barracouta. They arrived early this year and have made a nuisance of themselves over the reefs all along the coast. They don't mind cut baits and love knife jigs, and with a set of teeth that slice and cut they make short work of lines and lures. They were once very popular down south and they don't taste all that bad so there are some redeeming factors.

Further offshore out around the shelf there are some quality albacore and a few yellowfin grabbing small lures around the Stanwell and Kiama canyons and beyond. However, most of the bigger boats are worn out after the excellent run of southern bluefin this winter, with heaps of fish to 150kg+ coming in, albeit from a long way out.

So the yellowfin and albies might get a rest? I think not.

If it does get a bit slow there are always plenty of gemfish, with some blue-eye and the odd hapuka and bass groper to entertain the crowd. With electric reels so popular these days it is hardly fishing at all.

ROCK AND BEACH

Back on the rocks it’s drummer time. Get some cunje or royal reds and work the washes with little or no lead and they will come. Throw in some bream and trevally and there is plenty of entertainment. There are some solid salmon on all the deeper ledges too, so grab a few pilchards and ganged hooks and cast a bit further beyond the washes and work them back slowly.

The LBG season starts about now with a few solid kings lurking along the deeper ledges down south and even a few striped tuna or even a few mac tuna might come within casting range down Kiama way if you’re lucky. They are twice as fast from the rocks.

On the beaches it is salmon, salmon and more salmon. Throw in a few tailor just on dark and some bream picking up the scraps and you will be kept busy. The fish seem to be all along the coast. Any beach with a good deep gutter and a bit of wash around will generally be worth a look.

A few school jewies are on the prowl but you will have to work for them. There are plenty in the rivers up around Sydney but they just don't seem to find their way down here in great numbers for any period of time.

THE LAKE

In the lake the bream are in the feeder streams and there will be a few flatties starting to show late in the month as the shallows start to warm up, but they will be slow.

To score the bream get out on the dark and try to kick up a few early prawns. There won't be a lot but just about every one of them will score a fish on most days. Use the prawns live and unweighted on light line (around 2kg) and cast them into the snags in the streams and hang on. You will probably get dusted up a few times too. Good luck!

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