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It’s fish lotto out there
  |  First Published: March 2015



Whether it’s offshore or in the estuaries, this is the best month of the year because you just never know what you will tangle with. The hot water has been pouring down the coast since early January, and all sorts of northern visitors have stopped off in the Illawarra.

Offshore is a real lottery, with just about anything available on any given day. Out wide there is the chance of spearfish, sailfish, wahoo, and yellowfin tuna mixing it with the regular blue, black, striped marlin and mahimahi. Closer to shore, there is the possibility of cobia, spotted mackerel, Spanish mackerel, rainbow runners, longtail tuna and an assortment of trevally in with the yellowtail kings, snapper and salmon.

Dragging small skirts with the larger marlin lures will tempt sails, wahoo, mahimahi and tuna, but remember that wahoo have teeth, so wire will be needed on the rear hook.

Smaller live baits like yellowtail and slimy mackerel slow trolled around the FADs or any floating object is likely to be more effective on the mahimahi or that stray sail which might be about.

The marlin showed up early this season and have been hanging around now for a couple of months, so it is well worth a look at the regular spots and out on the shelf with bigger live baits and skirts, as this is blue marlin time from now right into May.

Yellowfin tuna will start to increase in numbers over the coming weeks, starting with the little fellas under 10kg, and plenty of striped tuna in the mix to bolster the bait and berley supply.

Closer in, the yellowtail kings are about on all the usual spots. The better fish seem to be coming from the islands for the insomniacs who have their squid and big mackerel in the water way before daylight. As the sun comes up, live frigate mackerel are the gun bait swum live around Gap or Pig Island.

The same baits will pick up any stray cobia that may be about, but a big strip bait of tuna will get a look in as well, as a few are taken every year. If you are drifting a few pilchards around looking for a snapper and get bitten off, don't blame the tailor as the culprit could well be a Spanish mackerel. A bit of light single strand wire in front of the next pillie should do the trick.

Snapper are on the up and up at the moment too, with shallow bommies and deeper reefs both producing fish. Pick up and berley, and use striped tuna or frigate slabs on the close, shallow reefs. Plastics will do the job on the deeper drops, as berley will attract a lot of sharks.

For a bit of fun you could throw small lures at the schools of pelagics along the coast, and again come home with a mixed bag of surface speedsters. Look to the birds and splashes for the ever-reliable salmon mixed with tailor, trevally, bonito, mackerel tuna, frigate mackerel, striped tuna, Samsonfish, kings and even the strays like rainbow runners and spotted mackerel.

The bottom bouncers are having a good go as well, as the flatties are on over all the sand patches, with a flounder or 2 thrown in for good measure. Most of the flatties are 40cm-plus, so the kilos add up pretty quickly.

Over the reefs, there are some nice mowies showing now, with plenty of pan-sized snapper, Samsonfish, piggies, and even the odd pearl perch and trag have made an appearance of late.

On the rocks there are nice bream in the washes, with tuna pieces the gun bait. Some drummer are in there as well, grabbing cunje or royal red prawns, with big bronze blackfish starting to make a run along the rocks later in the month.

On the deeper ledges, live yellowtail and mackerel will produce salmon, bonito, kingfish, some good sized mac tuna, and towards the end of the month, a few northern bluefin tuna, or longtails if you like.

The Kiama area is the main place to be, but the breakwalls at Port and Hill 60 (if you can get a spot) are good places. Most of these fish will fall for metals cast and retrieved as well, so put out that livie and start casting for maximum results and water coverage.

Don't forget the harbours for a bit of fun with the kids, casting small, shiny lures at the frigates as they zoom in and out smashing baitfish. Bellambi, Wollongong, Port Kembla, Shellharbour and Kiama all have schools of frigates at some stage, generally on the top of the tide in the mornings. They go like the clappers on light line and make great bait for the next trip anywhere.

The beaches are humming along quite nicely too, with the species list just about as good as it gets. Flathead are taking baits and plastics in gutters on every beach, and it doesn't matter what time of day it is, so you can sleep in and still have fun.

Whiting are the same, although I like low tide as it concentrates the fish in the gutters. Dart are with them and always give a good account of themselves on light gear. During the calm evenings, there are plenty of tailor, salmon, bream, and a few nice mulloway working the gutters on most of the local beaches. Frigate mackerel, tuna and slimy mackerel are the baits of choice, but pilchards will get fish as well, although they do favour tuna at this time of year.

Our two main estuaries are firing, with heaps of flathead in both the lake and at Minnamurra. Plastics, poddies and live prawns are the killer baits, with the prawns picking up some nice bream and whiting as well.

The whiting are all over the shallow flats, so taking the time to pump a few nippers or squirtworms will score a feed just about every time. Bream are in the deeper holes and hanging around the bridge pylons, and while chasing them toss a few small minnow type lures around the oysters to see if there isn't a stray mangrove jack about. A live poddy under a float will get better results though.

Down around the entrances, there have been plenty of salmon bashing away on the baitfish an hour each side of the top of the tide, and there are plenty of blackfish along the edges of the weed beds if you can secure some nice green weed.

Don't forget the smaller creeks and streams along the coast either, as they have plenty of nice flathead and bream in their shallow waters, mainly because no one thinks they are there. So if you are strapped for time and need a fishing fix, just head down to the local creek and you could get a surprise.

Clar0315_1

The lake is always a great place to take the kids for a fish, as there are usually a few flatties to keep them amused.

Clar0315_2

Not all mac tuna are big, but they go hard for their size and make great bait, berley and even live bait at this size.

Clar0315_3

You just never know what will grab a live bait at this time of the year. If you use a little wire, you may just stay attached.

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