Kings back in Church?
  |  First Published: September 2007

Kings are back on the menu this month after the Winter break and won’t they be a welcome sight! Something with a bit of weight behind it that pulls hard and you don’t have to travel 40km to catch.

Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, yes the dark ages, the Church Grounds just off Shellharbour were the place to be during September. Up to 30 boats crowded over an area about the size of two basketball courts all with one aim – a monster king.

This nondescript bunch of boulders attracted massive schools of large slimy mackerel that constantly circled the small reef, escorted by an equally massive number of kingfish.

It was a simple matter of catch a mackerel, feed it back out and hang on. Most fish were over 15kg with some topping 30kg. The reef is not too far down and there were all those anchor ropes to dodge, so it was a major feat landing any fish let alone a monster.

Catches of 10 fish a morning weren’t uncommon for those using heavy tackle but most were happy with landing just one. While bust-offs were many and expected, even back then plenty of fish were released to fight another day.

While the Church Grounds were a phenomenon, a bit further out at Shellharbour, The Humps had the same fish but in lesser numbers, as did the south side of Pig Island off Port Kembla, Wollongong reef and Bandit – so there were plenty of options.

Another strange happening at the Church Grounds during this kingfish bonanza was all the hook-ups didn’t head for the bottom. Some went into hyperdrive and if you were lucky enough to be on the edge of all the boats and quick enough to drop your marker buoy and give chase, some ripper yellowfin tuna were captured.

They were nowhere else along the coast and only a few ventured into the bay but every year several ’fin between 60kg and 80kg were captured – those were the days! These days the massive schools of slimy mackerel are still about, if not in greater numbers, over most reefs.

It has been a long time since I have fished Shellharbour. Do the kings still gather around the Church Grounds and are there any there during September? They seem to be increasing in numbers over most of the other reefs they used to haunt so it could well be worth a look.


Out around the continental shelf and the canyons, there have been reports of yellowfin tuna and albacore.

Cubing seems to be back in fashion; maybe it’s the price of petrol but it’s still a great way to get some top fish. There are not many better sights than a few chunky tuna slicing through the cube trail right at the back of the boat, sucking down the pilchards as they sink just under the surface.

Trolling small skirts and Christmas trees will get the albies and small ’fin or even any southern bluefin that may be about, as this has traditionally been the prime month for bluefin off our coast.

Most days will see at least one mako or blue shark swim up the berley trail, the question is how big will it be. And if you need some arm exercise, you could drop a bait to the bottom in over 100 fathoms for one of the delicious bottom-dwelling hapuka, trevalla or gemfish. Just remember to use something tough for bait like squid because it is a long way back up to rebait.

When heading out to the shelf, have a few Christmas trees out the back because there have been plenty of striped tuna about and cubing with fresh stripy and using the frames for berley really gives you that extra edge to attract something into the berley.

In close there is still plenty of surface action if you like tossing lures about.

Salmon are schooling all along the coast but can be quite difficult to coax into taking your offering because they are feeding on tiny baitfish. The striped tuna are in much the same boat as they tear along at breakneck speed picking off the baitfish.

Kingfish, from undersized up to 70cm, will be milling on the surface, particularly around the Port Kembla breakwalls if we have a few early north-easters to push the baitfish into the corners where they meet the beach.

Barracouta are not so fussy. Usually the first indication there are a few about is when you get bitten off.

Throw in the odd bonito some trevally and a few tailor and you can have plenty of fun in early spring.

It has been a long, cold Winter with almost continuous rough seas and large swells, which really cut into the offshore fishing. When anyone did get out, there were plenty of snapper just about everywhere but they have thinned out now with only a few stragglers left in around the shallow reefs.

It is still worth a look, though, because some good fish can still be captured this month, but not in the numbers of Winter. The deeper reefs like Wollongong, the South East Grounds and Coalcliff are worth a try over the next few weeks but plenty of berley will be needed for good catches.

If you are using berley, more than likely a few small makos will cruise into the trail for a look. They are great fun and great tucker just be careful of the sharp end.

Drifting is still a bit quiet unless you like leatherjackets which are still all over the sand patches en masse, sweeping all before them. If you get through them there are a few flathead, particularly out on the deeper sand areas like Bulli Sands, but we are still a month or two away from them hitting their straps.


The beaches are still quiet but salmon are keeping most anglers busy. The good news is since Lake Illawarra has been opened, Windang and Warilla beaches have been fishing well for bream, tailor, salmon and a few jewies.

On the rocks there is some action on the deeper ledges with salmon, kings and the odd striped tuna, particularly down around Kiama at the Blowhole, Bombo and Marsdens. The larger kings have a taste for live squid if you can get them.

Berley will attract trevally on the south side of Bass Point, while most of the washes along the coast have plenty of drummer on the bite if you can get some abalone gut.

The estuaries are still a bit slow but by the end of the month we should see a big improvement.

Blackfish anglers are cheering because we now have some tidal movement in the lake so they have been back in action along the main channel and along the new breakwalls.

There are plenty of bream up in the estuaries but they are moving out and will be heading for the beaches over the next few months.

The best news is that the flathead will get going in the main channel towards the end of the month, ready for the October run into Christmas.

More good news is that the opening of the lake at last has even produced a couple of jewies on soft plastics around the bridge pylons.

Minnamurra has the usual bream around the bridges and a few flatties starting to show later in the month.

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