Big kings on the prowl
  |  First Published: October 2016

Lake Illawarra feeder streams have had some decent bream, but the real attraction is the huge amount of tiny baitfish around the snags and in the shallows. It looks like the flatties won’t be far off feeding, smacking plastics and bait.

The bream are slow, possibly due to the loads of bait around the snags, but I’ve been fishing with lures. A live prawn dropped down into the hiding spots gives a different result. Prawns are hard to come by, but on the next dark night in October they should get a move on and be plentiful enough for bait.

Whiting have started to appear over the flats and they love live prawns too. When the prawns run, the whiting love poppers. On an early morning session, cast small poppers around the holes and drops around the sand banks, east of the bridge.

Blue swimmers are starting to move about too. A trip to the lake should produce over the next few weeks, and only get better as we head into the hotter weather. Minnamurra is much the same – a few flatties will show with the always-reliable bream around the bridge pylons, whiting around the flats down to the entrance, and plenty of luderick along the edges of weed beds.

On the rocks, it’s still transition time, so it can be feast or famine based on water temperature. Early warm water brings the mini mackerel and other baitfish. Then the bonito, salmon, kings and even big striped or mackerel tuna will be on offer off the deeper ledges. There may even be a stray yellowfin if the currents are right.

Big kings will start to patrol the usual deeper spots in early mornings and late evenings. The southernmost Illawarra ledges are close to the banks, which will be crawling with big kings towards the end of the month. Many fish will move past these ledges in their travels.

If not, salmon, bream, trevally and drummer are abundant in all the washes. The water won’t get warm enough to slow them down just yet. Luderick are in the washes too, and in the harbours on the early high tides. Get some descent weed for bait and berley.

Beaches are looking a whole lot better with more species getting involved around the sand. This will only improve over coming weeks. Bream are the target fish this month – all beaches hold fish in the deeper holes and on the edges near rocks. As usual, whiting are starting to show and the beaches around the lake and Minnamurra entrance produce the best results early. The rest of the coast gets better as we head into summer.

Windang, Warilla, MM beaches, Minnamurra Beach and the Farm are great starting points this month. As always, beach worms are the only bait for good results and great by-catch. Flatties find their way onto the beaches and are mostly taken when chasing other species, but later in the month, casting plastics along any beach at likely spots will throw up a few.

It could well throw up a surprise or two in the form of school mulloway that are increasing in numbers along the beaches. Bigger fish will move in as the sun goes down, and better fish are being picked up from the northern beaches in the past weeks.

Big salmon can be a pest when chasing mulloway. They’re great fun on light tackle, if you’re not scared of taking on that big mulloway when it grabs your salmon bait. Pilchards will do the job for the sambos and work equally well on tailor that are getting about on the southern beaches around Kiama. Fish up to 2kg have come in, but most tailor you encounter will be under a kilo.

Offshore is picking up with better snapper taking plastics over the reefs and gravel in 30-50m of water. Use your sounder to find bait schools, particularly those closer to the bottom. Watch for larger fish close by or just work the areas around the schools. Random fish will show over harder ground and bumps. From Port Kembla North, there aren’t many bumps left off the coast.

Seventy years of ore carriers and tankers anchoring along the coast has destroyed every outcrop and bump by grinding it to rubble, dragging their massive anchor chains across the bottom every time there’s a significant change in wind. There are fish, but little structure to hold them. You have to look hard.

Out further, October is always a good month for yellowfin tuna, striped tuna and albacore. Schools come into the coast some seasons, so keep your ears open for murmurs on the grape vine. A few showed in September, and they had the travelling oceanic fin with big sickles. This is usually the case – their appearance will be at the whims of the currents, but odds are pretty good. There is also a chance of striped marlin this month, as they were still about in August.

If you’re out wide and struggling to find yellowfin, there are always gemfish and trevalla about over the canyons. The long drop could be worth a look. In closer, schools of striped tuna have been popping up along the coast, but they’re scattered. They’re the best bait for bream and snapper, so if you cross paths with a school, have fun and get some great bait.

Kingfish are on the move over the deeper reefs like Bandit and Wollongong. A few are starting to show around the islands. Live baits fished deep are picking up. When one is hooked, use knife jigs to pick up any hangers on. Most locals who tackle kings head to the banks this time of the year, only an hour drive down the coast.

Salmon are the most prolific of the pelagics at the moment as they move in solid schools chasing small baitfish. Trevally schools are just below them, with smaller snapper below or mixing with them as well. When you spot the seagulls on top, you should score a few fish.

One not so welcome visitor with the sambos and trevally are those toothy barracouta. They get whipped into frenzy chasing your lures, and make it impossible to lure anything else. When they’re about, they damage or take everything you put in the water.

Flathead fishers are starting to smile again. Some descent catches are coming in from the usual drifts over the sand. Some of these early fish are a good size, pushing 2kg, so it doesn’t take many for a feed. They will only get better as we move to November. The reefs are producing plenty of leatherjackets, nice mowies and more good pigfish, and small early Samson fish are making a show.


Decent kings are making their presence known over the usual reefs.


The flatties will get better as the month gets older, with come nice ones in the mix.


There’s no better bait than fresh striped tuna. Schools are scattered all along the coast right now.

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