Big reds rev it up
  |  First Published: July 2007

Fishing is pretty slow around the ’Gong at this time of the year so you have to use all available tricks and techniques to make the most of your fishing time to achieve the best possible results.

One such tool is available to everyone is the fishing grapevine. A simple phone call or two to a mate or tackle shop can give you an instant insight into what is happening around the place.

Of course, you then have to sift through the information and sort the trash from the treasure and you then have an instant head start into knowing where the fish might be. It is then up to you to catch them.

The vine is a two-way street where you are also expected to give up any info you may have to your informants in return for the good oil. If you start telling porkies it doesn’t take long before you are found out and the next lot of information you receive may not quite be as accurate as you were used to.

If you give good, accurate info – not exact GPS marks but good general area stuff – you will get good reliable help most of the time. Then there are some out there who are often keen anglers but you know you have to halve the size of the fish and divide the numbers by three to get a fair sort of idea about what is about.

Gather all this information from all the sources and most of the time you can get a pretty clear picture of what is about and where you might find it.

You will need all the help you can get this month and even the grapevine may not help, so I will try to give you a head start with this report because the fish are patchy – unless, of course, you are chasing snapper.

It’s that time of the year when the cuttlefish converge on the northern reefs to create a new generation and the snapper will be waiting. The smaller fish, up to 3kg, seem to hang about in schools, often with a big fish leading, and there is a pecking order.

Unlike the Summer mahi mahi where the bigger fish in the school often hang back while the smaller fish race around attacking everything that hits the water, the larger snapper like to be the first ones to grab a bait when the school shows up in a berley trail.

Lose this first fish and you often lose the whole school because they follow the leader when it bolts after feeling the hook and the rest follow, often ending the session before it starts.


Sometimes this is unavoidable because a hook can come loose but things like bust-offs are unacceptable. I prefer lines from 8kg to 10kg when starting off, then with a couple of fish in the boat you can go down to 6kg or 4kg and get the most out of the reds.

Most of the shallow reefs north of Wollongong will hold concentrations of snapper with places like Bellambi Bommie, Peggies off Bulli and my favourite area, Sandon Point to Coledale.

You don’t need to go far because most of the action is in less than 20m of water during the day but any rough ground right in behind the beach breakers or just off the headlands at dawn and dusk can provide some great fishing. Try places like just off Wombarra cemetery or in close on Bellambi Bommie.

Remember, if you fish in close over shallow reef that larger than average set waves can and will break, so know your area before you fish it. If you are new to the area, stick to the water over 10m deep because a swim at this time of year after a capsize usually ends in death for one or more of the crew.

With that sobering thought in mind, you could just putt around on the calm mornings looking for floating dead cuttlefish and cast baits to them or, if you are lucky spot a big red or two smashing a cuttlie on the surface. With a bit of stealth to get you in casting range you can sight-fish a big surface-feeding snapper.

Snapper are not the only things that like cuttlefish pieces; it’s surprising how many big groper pick up your cuttlefish baits when chasing reds. Often the fight is put down to a monster snapper but often the fish that bust you off through the reef are solid groper. You get the odd one that misses the sharp edges but for the most part they are short-lived battles.

Sergent baker seem to infest the waters at this time of year and will be a nuisance over most reefs. Trevally, while not a target species, can become quite prolific in the berley on some days but they find it hard to swallow a large lump of cuttlefish on a 5/0 hook.

If the fishing is slow for snapper, light lines and small pieces of pilchard will provide a tonne of fun and catch you your limit of trevally in no time, particularly around the islands.

Salmon are still about but not schooling on the surface, so casting pilchards or lures into the washes around the headlands, bommies and island washes is they way to go for a bit of fun.

There are still a few stray bream in the sheltered bays during the early mornings and late evenings, particularly if it is calm with a bit of a westerly puffing.

Out wide there has been some yellowfin action but, as usual, it is hit-and-miss and you always have to keep an eye on the weather charts before venturing well offshore at this time of year. The Kiama canyons are the place with fish around 40kg and the odd one to 70kg having been caught so far. Trolling the usual array of lures and cubing with pilchards have both been effective.

Mako sharks seem to be about early this year with many reports of aggressive fish coming to boats. They aren’t all Jaws size, with heaps of smaller fish of 30kg to 50kg.

It is quiet time for the bottom bouncers as the flathead have tucked themselves into the sand for the Winter and only a few mowies and pigfish have been seen at the ramps. You could target leatherjackets as there still seem to be plenty of them, and small hooks will get you all the sweep you want. A few snapper fall for drifted baits bounced along the bottom but the pick-and-berley method will score the majority of fish.


The beaches are quiet with cold water chasing off most of the jewies, although those that are about are big and partial to a big lump of cuttlefish in a deep northern beach gutter just after dark.

Salmon and a few tailor should keep you occupied if you use pilchards on ganged hooks.

The rocks aren’t too bad because you have a chance of picking a solid snapper off the northern ledges up at Wombarra, Coalcliff and Stanwell Park or down at Bellambi.

The deeper ledges down south will have a few trevally if you berley well with bread and most washes on just about any headland will hold solid drummer this month.

The Kiama Blowhole could produce a big king if you persist with live squid but I prefer to eat the squid at this time of year.

The estuaries have all but shut down but there are bream in the feeder streams of the lake if you persist and use berley. I watched the pros clean up with their nets along the edges of the weed beds around Primbee this time last year so that could be worth a look.

Minnamurra has some bream under the bridges but for the most part the backwaters are quiet.

Now here is something to ponder and check out in your area. Not so long back I saw a bloke using a nipper pump on a beach, not a common occurrence. The beach is fairly well protected but still gets a surf and has a creek running into it, but quite a distance from where the pumping was happening.

I was just passing but had to check out what he was doing because he was actually picking things up after every three or four pumps and it had me guessing what he could be collecting.

I was surprised to see he was actually pumping nippers on the beach, something I had not seen before. Maybe I have led a sheltered life.

These were not your everyday pink nippers but mega-nippers, much larger than your pink estuary variety, and they were green. Now I have seen the green nippers that get in the seagrass beds in estuaries but they are usually very small.

So I watched for a while and checked out what he was looking for and then I spotted a small hole with no tell-tale mound around it, just a simple hole in the sand.

Two pumps later, he had another monster nipper and he reckons they are dynamite on bream in the surf. Gathering nippers in this type of area is a new one on me but another handy tool in your fishing arsenal.

And if anyone asks where you heard the information, it was on the grapevine.

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