Sneaky bonito bites!
  |  First Published: April 2016

Easter came early this year in March so the snapper didn’t show in the numbers that they generally do over the very close reefs and bommies during the Easter full moon.

The full moon towards the end of this month may consequently see a better showing of quality fish in the shallows. These fish may not travel all that far as they return in mid to late June for the winter, so they may hang around rather than move off and come back. The only way to find out is to get out there and have a look!

The shallow bommies and headlands will produce fish in the mornings and afternoons if you use bait and berley, while the plastics will pick them up during the day as they move to slightly deeper water, up to 10m. There will always be a few that hold out over the deeper reefs as well. There should be a chance of a red wherever you fish. It’s always more fun and a little harder in the shallows.

All the shallow reefs in close all the way up the coast from Bellambi are worth a look, so is the little reef just out from WIN stadium – and you’ll be close enough to hear the crowd if the footy is on. There is Puckeys, but this spot is notorious for swells breaking at any time.

The reefs south of Port Kembla’s Hill 60 always hold fish, as does the area around Bass Point and Rangoon Island. The evenings usually fish better than the mornings with the full moon, and there are often lots of by-catch. Small whaler sharks can be a nuisance at this time of the year and can swarm over the reefs. Salmon, bream and some extra big tailor are an evening special. The odd mulloway can also get involved, but don’t get too excited too early when you get a big run as there are some monster stingrays in the shallows too.

A bit further offshore there are still a few mahimahi showing up around the FADs, depending on the water temperatures they may not stay much longer. We still caught them in June last year, so they may be here for a while yet.

A few yellowfin tuna have been picked up out around the shelf with some spotted in a bit closer – there may be a bit of action over the coming weeks if the currents are in our favour. Out on the shelf a few striped marlin and the odd black have been reported but nothing like the past few months. With that in mind, April is always a good month for big blue marlin wide of the shelf so there is plenty of action for the big boats to play with.

Closer, the bait-stealing bonito are on the prowl and as usual they are monsters at this time of the year. Regular fish are up to 4kg, with the big models up to 7kg. They are great fun on light tackle and go alright on the BBQ as well. My how our tastes have changed! Not so long ago bonnies were only classed as bait.

Small live yellowtail or mackerel will bring them undone as will a trail of pilchard cubes, but there are a lot of other species that respond to this method so don’t fish too light until you know there are mostly bonnies in the berley.

Kings have been quiet over the summer and early autumn but a few seem to be showing now. Although not big (up to 8kg), they are better than nothing, and they like small live yellowtail and mackerel as well so you could find yourself with a mixed bag when chasing kings and bonito. The islands are always good in April as is the front of Bass Point and Rangoon.

There are a few schools of pelagics blowing up here and there on the surface, mostly salmon and bonito, but a few mackerel tuna and even a few frigates are in the mix along with an escort of kings. When you see the splashes on the surface throw in live bait before tossing the lures.

For the bottom bouncers there have been plenty of flathead over the sand and all manner of species over the reefs on the currents. Samson fish, mowies, trevally, pig fish and even the odd stray sweetlip, pearl perch and a few teraglin have shown up in the mix, but they won’t last much longer as the cooler water starts to work its way up the coast.

On the rocks there are a few kings about on the deeper ledges down around Kiama way, but you have to be early. Live squid seem to be the go-to bait, but don’t leave the live yellowtail behind as there is a better than even chance of a solid longtail or mackerel tuna off the deeper ledges this month. Always keep live bait out, no matter what you are doing! Snapper will be around all the rock ledges and points with the deeper ledges looking good if a bit of berley is trickled out in the evenings.

As usual, at this time of the year there will be plenty of salmon and bonito showing up on the north side of Bass Point. Windang Island is always good after a few late northeasters. The northern breakwall at Port and Hill 60 will also have a few, and metal slugs and flies behind bobby corks have been the weapons of choice. With all the surface carnage going on there will be plenty of bream and a few trevally getting around under the predators on top.

On the beaches the whiting have slowed a little but there are still plenty to go around and there are some real elbow-slappers among them, not to mention a few dart thrown into the mix as well. As usual, beach worms are the top bait. Salmon are in most of the deeper gutters along the coast, and a few nice flathead are about. Bream gather in the corners of the beaches next to rocks, particularly if there is a nice gutter running out along the rocks. The same spots are worth a look for school mulloway, but they seem to pop up on any beach – you just have to be in the right spot at the right time.

Some of them are a bit bigger than schoolies too, and a few fish better than 10kg have been hanging around. The deep gutters and those running out beside the rocks are worth a throw with big plastics, while a nice fresh slab of tailor or mackerel is always good in any gutter. Some larger fish should show over the coming weeks as the mullet run gets into full swing and the southwesters start to blow.

In the estuaries, the flatties are starting to taper off but are still worth a look, particularly if we get a bit of rain to flush the streams out. The bream have picked up in numbers and size around the bridges and deeper parts of the lake and Minnamurra. A few whiting are over the flats near the entrances but they are pretty much bait only, while the odd mulloway has been spotted around the bridge at Windang and along the breakwalls. Salmon have been moving in and out of the entrance on the tides but they are not a sure thing.

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