Peak time for fishing, so get out there
  |  First Published: January 2015

It's that time of the year again when the lawns get long, the car’s not washed and the missus feels neglected, but she must understand that the fishing just doesn't get any better and it will only be for a solid few months before life at home can get slightly back to normal.

So with that in mind, where do you start? Well, the beaches are as good as it is going to get, with whiting and dart on all of them, so if you can get hold of some fresh beachworms you can't miss.

There are plenty of nice flathead taking plastics and bait on most beaches, along with some quality bream in the early mornings on tuna and frigate strips. Throw in heaps of tailor and salmon during the evenings and it seems that it doesn't matter what time you hit the beach, if you have the right bait you will score fish.

During the evenings it is mulloway time, with some nice fish about and good numbers of schoolies coming in after dark on the top of the tide, particularly on the northern beaches. Fresh bait is the key, with slimy mackerel heads and squid a favourite, but a few have come in on plastics in the late afternoon.

On the rocks it is more of the same, with heaps of pelagic action on the deeper ledges, and bream and a few trevally in the washes.

Frigate mackerel are buzzing about the harbours and breakwalls, making for fun fishing with tiny metal lures. They make great bait for anything with fins, but on the deeper ledges they go straight back out on heavy tackle as live bait, and are generally monstered pretty quickly by any big kings that are about. On the ledges down Kiama way it may be a marlin, so be prepared.

Salmon, tailor, frigates, small kings, mackerel tuna, bonito, big slimy mackerel and trevally will be smashing the bait schools around the headlands early in the mornings, with bream below them mopping up the wounded baitfish that are left behind.

Small metals are again the lethal lures, but flies behind bobby corks go well when they are finicky.

The washes have bream and trevally as well as a few warm water drummer on cabbage and prawns, with big blackfish starting to make a move towards the end of the month when the calm days become more frequent. On the other hand, if we get a big east coast low and the swell is massive, the only option may be big blackfish in the harbours.

The estuaries are on the boil as well, with the prawns running in the lake and everything else in the system ramping up to eat them. That's why prawn style plastics are so lethal at this time of the year on the flatties. They are being taken all over the lake, but as always the area around the main dropoff is a sure bet with fish to 60cm in great numbers. Chopper tailor can be a nuisance cutting plastics to bits, so take plenty with you when you go.

Some nice whiting have been grabbing poppers in the main channel and down around the entrance, but more have been taken on nippers and worms. Solid blackfish have taken a liking to worms as well, with fish well over a kg accounted for.

Bream are in the deeper sections, and in the creeks around the snags live prawns on light lines are a killer approach.

A few mulloway have come in from around the bridge on plastics, so keep plugging away on the tide changes for best results.

Minnamurra is much the same, with good whiting and flatties coming from its entire length and heaps of mullet and garfish around the weed beds from the bend to the entrance. Just add bread and watch them come. A few bream will sneak up the trail as well, so every so often put a prawn on and float it back instead.

Now for the offshore, and this is where it really gets serious, as marlin are the target for all the serious sport and game fishos. The close reefs like Wollongong and Bandit will be well patronised with dozens of boats, and this year will be even busier. It seems most of Sydney has discovered Bellambi ramp, with parking in the 100-plus spaces being filled before daylight every good weekend since November. Cars and trailers are parking up to a kilometre away — unheard of.

Most will drag lures around and scare off many of the fish on the shallow reefs, but those slow trolling live slimy mackerel or yellowtail will outscore the plastic draggers 20-1. The marlin aren't confined to the close reefs, with the water all the way to the shelf and beyond holding them. Blacks will be in close, with striped marlin and blues adding to the mayhem as you get further out. The canyons off Kiama and Stanwell Park are the target areas.

Bycatch at this time of year is at a premium, with all manner of species travelling the current as it heads south. Mahimahi are the main catch, with big stray bulls on bits of floating debris, and heaps of smaller fish hanging around the FADs and trap floats.

Small live yellowtail will nail them every time, while pilchards aren't a bad backup.

School yellowfin from little jellybeans up to 30kg not uncommon. It seems more wahoo are getting about over the past few years, after quite a few lean season with very few being caught.

Sailfish are a distinct possibility out to 100m, while in closer around the reefs the odd mackerel, mainly spotties, rainbow runners, amberjack and cobia will be caught by a lucky few in the right spot at the right time.

The cobia aren't always little fellas either, with fish of 15kg and better showing up each year, usually in the same places you find the yellowtail kings.

There have been plenty of rat kings around, with only the odd school of better fish, unlike the Sydney area, which has had heaps of solid specimens to 15kg around for months. It is not that much further north, when years ago the Illawarra was renowned for its kingfish.

Bellambi, the islands, and Rangoon, have all had fish, with the islands perhaps holding the better specimens, but it also has a few seals in residence, so you may lose a fish or two.

For a bit of fun, there are schools of salmon, kingies, bonito, mackerel tuna, trevally and frigate mackerel smashing through baitfish all along the coast; just keep an eye out for the birds. These guys really go on light tackle and you get some fresh bait into the bargain.

There are still some nice snapper grabbing plastics over the reefs in 40m and more of water, but the current can make it hard to get down on some days. There are a few snapper in closer over the shallow reefs during the quiet evenings, and they like strips of slimy mackerel, striped tuna and frigate. So too do a few mulloway, but they have come from right in close on reefs just off the backs of the beaches.

There are heaps of flathead on the drift over the sand, with flounder off Port Beach and Windang. A few mowies, samsonfish and small snapper are over the reefs and wherever you fish, there are heaps of whaler and hammerhead sharks making a nuisance of themselves.

It doesn't get much better than this, so get out there.

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