It’s hard to know where to start because this month it all begins to happen.
It was a bit scratchy to get a feed or even find good patches of fish consistently until now but for the next few weeks we should see great improvements in all categories. That’s until that cold water arrives late next month in front of the big push down the coast of the East Australian Current.
Everything shuts down for a short while until that rich, blue, tropical water arrives and everything goes ballistic. Let’s hope it is not like last year when the water dropped to 14° for much of January before finally producing the goods.
Offshore there are yellowfin and striped tuna from 50 fathoms to the continental shelf and beyond. The canyons off Stanwell Park, wide off Wollongong and Kiama Canyons can produce fish one day and the next nothing and boats can have a mad day while others only a kilometre away miss out.
The yellowfin can be finicky when they are feeding on sauries. This is when the Rapala Slivers come into their own. Trolled where the tuna are feeding, they can be deadly. After a hook-up, toss a few handfuls of pilchard pieces over as you are fighting the fish to bring the whole school in behind the boat.
A few albacore are mixing with striped tuna out in the deep water so there is variety about.
The first real chance of a billfish will present itself when a few striped marlin arrive chasing the stripies and schools of slimy mackerel so a few live baits put out for yellowfin could provide a bonus.
If you are into sharks then the next few weeks will often provide a blend of species as the warm and cool water tumble around and merge together. You could catch up to half a dozen species in one day as hammers, whalers and tigers gather with makos and blues. There is even the chance of a thresher or a protected great white.
I don’t suppose there are many places in the world where this could happen but if the water is right and the bait is about, it is not out of the question.
This could be your last chance to get a bait to the bottom in the deep water for gemfish, trevalla and cod before the current gets too fast.
Closer in, the snapper gather over the gravel patches in 30m to 50m. Plenty of berley is required and a bit of patience but good fish are on if there is not too much current.
Over the reefs, bumps and around the islands the kings should get going. They should be hunting the wider reefs like Bandit and Wollongong so live baits near the bottom will score. Out around the islands, slow trolling livies in close to the rocks will get hits.
There are plenty of rat kings about on the surface and they can make life difficult by hitting the livies. They often mix with the salmon this month from Stanwell Park down to Kiama. The salmon are great fun on light gear but can drive you nuts by rolling in thousands on the surface and ignoring every lure you offer them but if you stumble on the right lure you can hook up every cast.
Trevally are under the salmon. Set up a berley trail of bread, tuna and tuna oil over a shallow reef or around the islands and fish lightly weighted pilchard pieces down the trail. They often gather in hundreds behind the boat.
A regular occurrence this month is the arrival of yellowfin and striped tuna chasing bait in the bay between Shellharbour and Port Kembla, just wide of the islands and places like Wollongong Reef and Bandit. It doesn’t happen every year but if you see a flock of terns feeding over fast, often-unseen fish below, the odds are they are on tuna. Fish to 60kg mixed with 20kg schoolies are something to keep your eye out for.
Over the reefs the drifters are getting some excellent mowies up to 3kg in good numbers with a few small snapper, samson fish, trevally, heaps of sweep and a few pigfish.
On the sand the flatties are hitting their straps with some good catches but the marauding schools of leatherjackets are really starting to wear thin on an angler’s patience and the tackle supply.
As long as anyone can remember, the jackets have never been like this until a few seasons ago when the small ones showed up in their millions. They quickly took over most of the sand areas and now the yellow monsters range from a few hundred grams up to almost 3kg. They devour everything in their path but like most plagues I suppose their time will pass and things will get back to normal – let’s hope it’s soon.
The rockhoppers start to smile this month with heaps of options. Some very nice drummer are in the washes along with some decent bream. The quiet bays also have nice bream during the evenings if you fish light and berley, while most of the deeper ledges have trevally.
On the same deeper spots like Kiama, Honeycomb and up at Coalcliff, there are some solid kings early in the morning but live slimy mackerel and squid are essential for these and it all stops after sunrise so you have to be on your game early.
After sunrise there are still rat kings, salmon a few tailor and the odd bonito, mackerel tuna and even striped tuna, particularly down south around Kiama.
The beaches also really pick up this month as the Summer species get moving. Flathead are now on the menu if you like tossing large soft plastics into the surf or small live baits. Or you pick them up as by-catch when chasing the whiting that are starting to school on the beaches down around Lake Illawarra.
Now that the lake is open we should see a much better season than the past few when it was closed.
Windang and Warilla are the beaches to target but the whiting will move out over most beaches as we head into Summer. The same beaches have salmon and tailor in the deeper gutters along with a few small school jew in the evenings.
The northern beaches have had a good run of jewies up to 10kg, with most fish up to 6kg. A few larger fish have been caught but they should improve further.
Salmon, tailor and a few bream are on the northern beaches as well.
Down in the lake it has been all good news with plenty of flathead in the channel, whiting starting to gather around the entrance and some nice blackfish along the edges of the weed. Throw in some nice trevally around the bridge, chopper tailor at the drop-off and a few leatherjackets along the rock walls and you can have an entertaining day out.
The feeder streams like Mullet Creek and Macquarie Rivulet have a few bream and some very sizable mullet so even the kids can have a bit of fun.
The Minnamurra River has flatties along its length, bream around the bridges during the evenings and some nice whiting on worms down around the sand banks at the entrance.
Summer isn’t far away as we get a taste of the good life this month.Reads: 718