I get a buzz out of catching striped tuna. They are one of the few fish that can actually make your line crackle as it slices through the water, often leaving a rooster tail in its wake as they take blistering runs and make high-speed 180° turns that defy the laws of physics.
On light tackle they test your skill to the limit, from presentation and lure size to stalking to get a cast in the right position in front of the school as it hurtles through the water. Then when you hook one it makes high-octane, explosive runs before slugging it out to the finish.
On 2kg and 3kg tackle they test you to your limits and will often take over 30 minutes to land and these are just fish up to 3kg. Larger fish will just blow you away on the first run on this tackle so you will have to up size to 6kg tackle if you are lucky enough to encounter one of these schools.
They may not be much chop in the tucker department but they are certainly one of the best baits you can get for any species and this is the month they show up off the Illawarra coast.
The schools are nothing like they were 20 years ago but that seems to be the way with all our fish, so we must make do with what we get. The general run of fish are up to 3kg and are found in schools from the shelf right into the backs of the beaches and headlands.
Not all the fish are small because traditionally every August pods of larger fish between 10kg and 15kg find their way into the shallow coastal waters. You would normally find fish like this travelling with albacore or yellowfin in deeper waters but for some reason they spend a few weeks in close at this time just about every year.
Last season fish to 14kg were captured and that is one ripper of a stripy.
Casting small lures to the schools is the most exciting way of catching these speedsters as you get the very visual hook-ups and explosive first runs. Trolling will probably get you more fish but the motor often scares the school deep and the runs are never as good when fish are hooked trolling.
Some of the better spots to find them this month are in the bay at Bellambi, often just off the ramp, right up to Sandon Point. At Wollongong you can often see the birds out from the lighthouse, then down along Coniston Beach to the Port Kembla breakwalls, where they regularly work the baitfish along the walls.
They’re out around the islands, particularly between Pig and Gap, then in the bay from Port Kembla all the way down to Bass Point. The bay between Kiama and Bombo often fills with fish and the Blowhole Point is one of the few places you can spin them off the rocks. So they are available in close virtually all along the coast – just look for the muttonbirds and terns.
You can troll around out wider and will probably catch more but for speed and fun, casting to them in shallow water is the way to go.
It’s not all stripies because mixed in with them and in independent schools are heaps of salmon, small kings, tailor, some dreaded barracouta, the odd bonito and even a few solid mackerel tuna to 8kg.
Let the lure sink to the bottom or use small soft plastics and there are plenty of silver trevally under the schools, picking up the straggler baitfish as they dive for cover.
Not all the trevally are under the schools of bait as they are starting to show up over most of the shallow reefs. The islands, Bass Point and Bellambi Bommie are just a few areas where a bread and tuna oil berley will get them going and prawns or pilchard pieces will catch them if you drop the anchor and put in the time.
You can make good use of your striped tuna by using the frames for berley for snapper and there are still plenty about, but they seem to still prefer cuttlefish at this time of year. Just like last month, they are still hanging around the northern reefs.
They will start thinning out during this month so for the best fishing chase them during the first two weeks.
Further offshore, there have been a few yellowfin tuna but they are hit-and-miss so listen to the grapevine and chase them when there are reliable reports filtering through.
Mako and blue sharks are starting to show for those who like to pump berley through the pot out on the shelf, particularly around the Kiama Canyons. Don’t forget a few heavy weights to drop a line to the bottom for gemfish, blue-eye trevalla, frostfish and hapuka. These are great but you get a lot of green-eyed sharks and other assorted ooglies of the deep as well.
The sharks are not all restricted to the shelf with quite a few little makos showing up in berley trails meant for snapper in close. They put up a great fight and aren’t too bad on the chew.
For the bottom bouncers it is quiet time, particularly on the flatties, although something can be salvaged if you chase the abundant leatherjackets. Cuttlefish stays on the hook better than most baits and you have the chance of picking up any small reds hanging about over the reefs.
If you can get away from the jackets there are pigfish over the reefs and a few mowies on the gravel, with prawns the pick of the baits. Try Wollongong Reef for best results.
The ocean around the rocks is either dead flat with no whitewater or a boiling cauldron this month so you have to fish to the conditions. When it is quiet there are groper on the deeper ledges along with salmon, tailor and a few trevally.
When it gets rough, find a safe, quiet spot with some whitewater, get some cunjevoi or royal reds and chase drummer, bream and trevally. The edge of sheltered bays at Bass Point, Port Kembla, Bellambi, Sandon Point, and Austinmer are the spots.
The beaches are much the same, with calm conditions producing, tailor, salmon and the odd bream in the mornings and evenings with a few jewies showing up on the top of the tide during the evenings.
Wear your waders and thermal undies because it gets cold on the beaches during the evenings when those westerlies blow.
The estuaries are quiet this time of year with the only bright spot being some nice bream in the lake feeder streams right up to the barriers.
Light lines and a little berley will produce some fish, as will soft plastics but they are hard work. Mullet Creek seems to be holding some nice fish up around the golf course and the new rock wall at the entrance to William Beech Park at Brownsville has a few fish.
I watched a gentleman catching some solid mullet in the same area recently so they might be worth a look as well.
That’s it for the fishing but back in June I mentioned the pending loss of the infrared night-sensing search equipment from the aerial patrol plane, the only such device in NSW.
The Federal Government withdrew funding and the State would not pick up the tab and the price is now $300,000 if the patrol would like to take on the expense itself and it was given 48 hours to do so.
Due to deadlines I cannot give a result but it just goes to show the high regard our politicians show for the lives of all who head out to sea. This was all in the same week they voted to accept a pay rise. Really makes you think about where there priorities lie doesn’t it?Reads: 737