Black and blue beaky bonanza
  |  First Published: February 2016

I just itch for this time of the year. The air is hot, the water is hot and the fishing is even hotter, with all those sensational fish that come with summer out there now and ready to be chased.

Marlin have to be on the top of the list and this is the best month all year to find one. Blacks are from just offshore to the shelf and beyond, so you have a chance no matter where you are.

You can tow skirts around all day and hope you score a strike, or you can grab a few live baits and head to the recognised spots like Bandit and Wollongong reef, the Trap Reef, out around the FADs or the South East grounds off Shell Harbour.

You can either slow troll those livies, anchor, or just drift around while chasing other species, but always keep that live bait out where ever you go. If there are any billies about, they will find it. Whether you catch it or not, the jumps and tail walks of a marlin are something you will never forget. Like everything, it is so much better live than on the television.

You don’t need a big boat either, as most of these spots are accessible from the average tinny with many anglers fishing these places at other times of the year for snapper and other reefies.

There will be the usual stories of the small fish brought in when a marlin suddenly grabs it and takes to the air. These chance encounters inevitably end in disappointment as the angler is usually well out gunned in the tackle department, but if you have that livey out on the required tackle you stand a better than even chance of landing one.

Blacks aren’t the only billies about, with the odd striped marlin hooked further out around the shelf or in closer at times if the current and the bait schools align.

Then there are those who chase the big blues on the shelf and beyond. It has been a good season already further up the coast, and now some good fish are coming from local waters as well.

A good place to start is the Kiama Canyons then head east. With fish to 300kg and bigger on offer, heavy tackle is generally the rule with most of the larger boats and more recently many of the smaller vessels that head east fishing 36kg outfits. They make short work of small blacks and stripes but put you in with a chance on a massive rampaging blue.

It’s not all marlin though with mahimahi of varying sizes all along the coast. Most are targeted on the fisheries and various other FADs that are about, but the good old random floating object generally fishes better than any of these as they have not been hammered day in and day out and the fish are generally fearless. Good luck if you find one of these. If you do, it will more likely than not hold other species as well, as these objects often become mini eco systems. Striped and yellowfin tuna of various sizes, wahoo and the apex predators like sharks and marlin will always be present if there are a few fish on any object.

All of these will be encountered randomly while chasing marlin anyway, but are more prevalent around a floating object. Any live baits tossed in will be smashed by the mahimahi, but if you put out a small mahimahi live, it usually gets nailed by the big boys 90% of the time.

If you are trolling skirts always keep a few smaller ones out in the spread as there is even a chance of a sailfish when the water is hot and they prefer the smaller lures. You will also score plenty of striped tuna, small yellowfin and, if they don’t snip you off, wahoo.

Closer in can be a lottery. If the currents have been good to us we can get cobia, spotted and narrow barred Spanish mackerel and rainbow runners. Bigger mackerel are rare and even more rarely caught as they are often put down to shark bite offs when you come back with no hook and no live bait.

The smaller spotties often show up late this month with a few fish caught by anglers who click quickly when their pillies meant for snapper are cut off. Thinking they are big tailor, a little wire is added and the next hook up results in a spotty.

Cobia are generally picked up by those who fish live baits for yellowtail kings, as they like the same sort of underwater structure, but a few grab snapper baits and are hooked away from trouble.

Kings have been about in most of the regular haunts and they have had a liking for live squid and slimy mackerel fished on a downrigger. Fish to 15kg are available, but most fish are well under 10kg and are fat as there has been plenty of bait fish about over the past months.

Good numbers of summer snapper have started to come in, and the reefs in 30m of water produce fish. Good fish are taken in deeper water and the shallows around the bommies in the evenings, but the majority seem to be in the 30m area.

Most fish are up to 2kg, with a few bigger fish spread among them. Plastics and micro jigs work well as does the good old pick and berley method when the current backs off.

Closer in there have been a few trag taken on the bumps that haven’t produced a trag in years – strange creatures those teraglin. Plenty of samson fish, morwong and even the odd pearl perch and spangled emperor have come in off the reefs, while all the sand patches along the coast have good numbers of flathead.

On the surface, the bonito, salmon, frigate mackerel and rat kings make a meal of the small baitfish all along the coast, just look for the birds and frothing water.

On the rocks it is all action as well with the bonito, salmon, mackerel tuna, frigates and trevally all grabbing lures and pilchards on the deeper ledges. Big kings patrol the deep shelves around Kiama early in the morning and this month there’s also a real chance of a marlin off the deeper spots in the same area. We may even see a few longtails at the end of the month.

Don’t forget the fun in the harbours with small lures catching frigate mackerel as they zip in and out looking for small baitfish. Bellambi will be standing room only, Wollongong is always good as is Port Kembla and the front of Kiama harbour. If you are down there in the evenings there are heaps of squid about as well for tucker or bait.

Whiting are caught on all beaches, alongside a few dart, bream and the ever-present salmon – that’s only if you are using beach worms for bait. Throw in some nice flathead and tailor if you use lures or pilchards. The mulloway have been about in good numbers for those that pursue them with plenty of schoolies and few better fish as well.

The lake and Minnamurra are at their best over the coming weeks as the flathead take advantage of all the prawns and baitfish filling the estuaries. Prawn like plastics are the go but just about any will score fish at the moment.

Whiting take nippers and worms if you want a feed, but if you want a bit of excitement, little poppers have pulled a few fish as well when the water traffic is low. Bream are around the bridges in both systems in the evenings and you may even score a small mangrove jack if you are very lucky and using live prawns for bait.

A few mulloway have been spotted around the lake bridge but persistence is the key to getting any results here and the prawns and crabs in the lake will be on the boil for a while yet.

It doesn’t get much better.

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