Break out the plastics because the beaches, estuaries, rocks and offshore are all starting to warm up, and many of the species that were quiet during the colder months are now in need of a feed.
Sure – we used plastics over winter, but it was mostly for a few snapper offshore and bream in the enclosed waters or, if we were very lucky, a local mulloway. You could have travelled to one of the bigger systems north and south but that isn't local, so we have struggled a bit over the past few months.
First cab off the rank is everyone's favourite: the flathead. As the shallows warm these fish are starting to get a move on in the lake. They usually coincide with the first run of prawns on the first dark in October and get better as the months roll into summer.
The prawns usually kick-start the bream into grabbing lures much more aggressively, as well as smashing live prawns put in the right spots. Some of the snags in the creeks are producing good fish, as are the islands in the lake and down around the bridge pylons in the evenings.
The flathead, as usual, are in the main channel and up around the drop-off. Plastics that imitate prawns are the go-to lure, but these fish will hit almost anything when they get going towards the end of the month.
Over the shallower areas you will often see a prawn skipping over the surface with a few frantic jumps before disappearing in a swirl. The swirl is more often than not a whiting, so get the poppers out and start working the sandy drop-offs around the main channel and down around the sand banks just up from the entrance.
During the week is the best time because the weekends will start to get a bit crowded now that the weather is starting to warm up. Alternatively you can try a late afternoon look after dinner now that daylight saving is here.
Chopper tailor are about in numbers as well, putting the cutters through your plastics and taking those little poppers in one bite. It can be expensive at times.
A few mulloway have been taken around the bridge but they are here one day and gone the next. It’s very frustrating.
Minnamurra is much the same, and with less boat traffic (particularly during the week) it makes a great alternative and is always picturesque.
Plastics have been scoring a few early flathead and the odd school jew if you find the right deep gutter.
Salmon are a constant on most beaches, grabbing plastics and baits at any hour of the day, and can make a very quiet day a bit more exciting when they move into the gutter you’re fishing.
The big mover towards the end of the month will be the whiting. They really get going on the southern beaches either side of the lake before spreading out to all the beaches in the Illawarra. As always, beach worms are the number one choice for bait. With a bycatch of salmon, bream, trevally, mulloway and flathead you just can't go past beach worms, so every minute catching this bait is worth it.
With the whiting usually come the larger mulloway, so fishing a good, deep gutter on the top of the tide after sundown with fresh bait can be rewarding. It can be time consuming too because they aren’t always abundant. The most successful anglers are usually the ones who put in the most hours.
On the rocks there have been plenty of bream in the washes, and over the past few months the drummer have just kept on biting. Some good fish are being taken on royal reds and cunje, but the old cunje seems to be harder to get thanks to some anglers taking more than required. In some instances people have cleaned out areas that used to hold plenty.
Blackfish are still on the tooth on the ledges and in the harbours, particularly when there’s a bit of a bump on. Cabbage weed and green weed are both working well.
Dusting off the land-based game gear and heading Kiama way could be worth a shot this month, with some decent kings starting to patrol the rocks. If the currents are favourable you may even get a run from a stray yellowfin tuna. October used to be a prime time for ‘fin on the rocks but they are few and far between these days. They’re not out of the question though, and for some strange reason there often seem to be big mackerel tuna taken off the stones during October. I’ve never been able to figure that one out, but it still happens.
To keep you busy between runs, keep tossing those metals at the horizon for plenty of salmon and a few tailor, bonito and smaller kings.
Or for something different you could walk the deeper ledges and shallow bays tossing prawn plastics into the washes and working them slowly about. The amount of species that can pounce on your offering is astounding. Bream, trevally, snapper, salmon and kings are the staples, but there are so many others that love pretend prawns. Parrotfish and wrasse of all types and groper (from small to rip-your-arms-off thumpers) love them. You can also encounter pike, drummer, blackfish, leatherjacket, silver drummer, mowies, samsonfish, jewies, mackerel, sergeant baker, red rockies, yellowtail, pigfish and tarwhine. On some days you’ll get most of the above, and you’d be surprised how many flathead gather in the tiny patches of sand and gravel around what appears to be solid rock.
The fishing is hotting up as the water starts to warm. Out on the shelf there were heaps of albacore and a few yellowfin if you found the right patch of water, and this action will hopefully improve as the month goes on.
A few early striped marlin should start to show and maybe even a large mahi mahi or two. They seem to come down on the first of the warm currents, and the little ones come in en masse when the water gets hot much later.
The canyons have plenty of gemfish and blue-eye, with the odd hapuka thrown in for good measure. The current will start to pick up soon though, making it tough to get down to them in the warmer months.
Closer in the flathead seem to have woken from their winter slumber, with all the sand patches reporting good numbers of larger fish for the bottom bouncers. Small snapper and good-sized mowies are over the gravel and reefs, with lots of pigfish coming in too over the past few weeks.
The leatherjackets haven't been too bad but they are still about. However, the barracouta are making up for them, chopping off hooks and sinkers, and generally making a nuisance of themselves in many places.
Some nice snapper are grabbing plastics on the deeper reefs as the fat store from the winter cuttlefish frenzy starts to wear off. The area to try is in 30-50m of water. Drifting plastics is so boring but at the same time so damn effective in the local area. If only it were like Coffs Harbour and areas north, but you have to play with the hand you are dealt! Waiting for that hit is the only option. If the barracouta are about it isn't boring, but it can get expensive as they slice your rubbers to bits on every drop within seconds. When that happens it’s time to move.
A few kings are starting to show around the islands, Bass Point and Minnamurra and even the odd few over the deeper reefs, but they have been few and deep. Live mackerel are the bait if you can find them, with squid good too but harder to find. Knife jigs are worth a try only if the dreaded 'couta are not about.
A few striped tuna are skipping around on the surface and are worth chasing for bait, as they are hard to beat at this time of the year for everything.
In closer there are schools of salmon popping up all along the coast, with a few trevally and kings sitting underneath them, and you guessed it: more barracouta. They seem to be everywhere this year. They can be crazy to catch as they will jump into the boat chasing your lure on some days, but with razor teeth and needles in their gills and fins they are nasty to handle.
A few decent snapper to 3kg are hanging around the shallow bommies if you berley early or in the evenings, and use unweighted baits. The odd samson will like your berley as well. Good luck.Reads: 452