Early season snapper awaits adventurers
  |  First Published: June 2016

The weather so far this year has been kind to anglers with no really massive storms and wind, and prolonged periods of calm seas and low swells. If this keeps up for another few weeks, it will set conditions up nicely to chase big winter bream in the shallow bays and headlands along the coast.

Bream time

Even better, if we get a good downpour that opens up all the creeks along the coast to the sea and then a calm period the fishing will be even better. There are plenty of good spots along the Illawarra Coast to chase them, and with a bit of berley and some quality, bait you can’t miss. Fish in close, often in 2m or so of water for the best results – this means you have to be on your game if you are in the open ocean, and you must be very familiar with your spot.

Larger waves can and do come from time to time, particularly during the tide change, so only fish on days and in places where you know you will be safe. There are plenty of little coves and protected areas where the waves will have little impact and if you are not familiar with the open areas these will be your best bet.

A bit of berley, in small regular doses will get the bream right up to the back of the boat. Then, use light line in the 2-3kg class, with only a small split shot, or even better, no weight at all, and cast your bait out into the berley stream. If you can, it is always better to wait until you have several fish swimming around feeding behind the boat and competing, as more will come as the word gets around.

If you hook the first one and lose it, the fish become wary, and you may then only catch the odd fish, but when they are competing you can almost pick and choose your target. Don’t be greedy – just take what you need, even though some unreputable professional beach haulers will in all probability, wipe the whole school out a few kilometres up the coast anyway.

Places like, Sandon Point, the north side of Bulli bommie, behind Bellambi Pool (which is only 50m from the boat ramp) will serve you well. The shallow areas around Bellambi bommie, behind Wollongong Pool and the shallow areas around all of the Port Kembla Islands are also great producers. There are hundreds of places to look. Shellharbour behind the pool (I don’t know what it is about pools, but they certainly produce the goods), and all along the northern side of Bass Point and in the bay out the front will find you some fish. The Boneyard, behind the pool at Kiama Harbour and all the shallow bays down to Gerringong will do the same.

Tuna cubes without the skin are the best bait to use but mackerel and yellowtail work too. Fresh pilchards filleted are a good standby if you can’t get the above. Even though you are chasing bream in this shallow water, you will be amazed what shows up in the berley trail, we often fish way too deep for many species who will travel right in the wave zone.

Silver trevally can be a nuisance at this time of the year, as they are always responsive to a little berley. Snapper both large and small often show up in the shallow water, where the big fish either sneak in for a bite or just blast through grabbing a piece they have lined up from 20m away and you are left not quite sure what you saw. The smaller fish just mingle with the bream. Fishing in such shallow water can be a visual experience when the water is clear.

Schools of salmon often come through as they travel along the coast and will hang around if they like what is on offer. Even the odd mulloway might poke its nose in, but they are usually out around the edges. Whaler sharks will often make an appearance as well. The major nuisances are the big rays that vacuum the bottom in the shallows and are quicker than you think at grabbing your bait.

Always have larger bait on heavier gear out a bit further for bigger fish, as they don’t always come in close to the boat. The bream will pick your bait to bits if no bigger fish are about, but that just adds to the berley effect but the chance of a bigger fish far outweighs this problem.

Further Out

The snapper are starting to gather over the reefs waiting for the cuttlefish spawning run. Quite a few cuttlefish have already arrived, but as yet are not in the mood so the snapper will have to wait. They will get involved with an early morning or late evening berley trail or if you’re into lures, work plastics and micro jigs over the reefs.

Some of the early season fish are quality, with fish to 6kg not uncommon, but towards the end of the month the bite will hot up as the cuttlefish start to do their thing and pop to the surface. Further out around the shelf there is the chance of a yellowfin tuna, but so far they have been a bit quiet – all that can all change if the right current comes along holding fish.

The bluefin will not be far away either and will be watched with great anticipation as they move up the coast from down south. Last year most went wide of here with only a few taken, but who knows? This year they might come right in close.

If not, there are always the deep critters to play with now the current has backed off a bit after the summer rush. Blue-eye are always on the cards and gemfish are increasing in numbers over the coming weeks too.

Closer to shore, the bottom bouncing is a bit slow with most of the flathead tucked up for winter, the saving grace is there are a few snapper starting to get about, throw in some mowies and pigfish and you can still get a feed.

Back in on the rocks it’s a case of chase the bread and butter cool water fish. Drummer are about in all the washes with the usual baits doing the job. They like the cabbage weed and have been giving the blackfish anglers a bit of hurry up on the open ledges.

Salmon are around the deeper ledges, and even the odd bonito if you are tossing pilchards around. The bream will be in the wash at your feet picking up the bits. Throw in a few trevally, and there is certainly enough to keep you interested!

On the beaches, the bream are again the target with good fish on any beach with a decent gutter. Throw in some solid salmon and a few tailor, and even a big whiting for a feed and some fun. The main target for many however, will be big mulloway. This is the time when the big fish frequent the beaches, and it can be worth the cold fingers when that big golden slab rolls into view in the shore break. All the good gutters along the coast will have dedicated mulloway anglers plying their trade over the coming weeks with excellent results.

If the majority of fishers don’t hear about it, it’s because the good anglers who catch the big fish don’t post on Facebook. Fresh bait, and a deep gutter just on dark works well or even in the wee small hours if the tide is right. The estuaries are worth a shot for bream along the weed bed edges near Primbee if you need a fix, but most of the systems are pretty quiet at the moment. Good luck.

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