Fish out in full force
  |  First Published: February 2017

The estuaries are on fire at the moment and everywhere else is too. It’s a hard choice to decide where you want to go and what you want to catch. There are only so many hours in a day. Sleep deprivation can be a major worry over the next few weeks, as you try to cram in as much action as you can every day.

The lake has flathead all over the place. Just about every patch of sand you can see is holding fish, from the drop off to Tallawarra and the yacht club. Just drifting and casting plastics blind is all that’s needed to catch some. There are fish everywhere.

Even the blue swimmer crabs are taking a fancy to plastics, and live mullet don’t last long at all. If a flatty doesn’t get it, a crab will. The crabs are all over the place, and it can be hard to navigate with all the traps in the water, particularly on the weekends.

Whiting are along all the sand flats. Worms and nippers are the best baits, while poppers are bringing a few bigger fish undone on quiet days. Bream are all the way from the feeder streams like Mullet Creek and Macquarie Rivulet right down to Windang Bridge. The best catches are in the evenings on live prawns. Mulloway are sneaking around the Windang area after dark on the run out tide, but you have to be there on the right day.

The feeder streams are giving up ripper mullet, particularly from up around the William Beach Park in the aptly named Mullet Creek – a great place to take the kids for a fun arvo. Big bream move in on the bread too, so be ready.

Chopper tailor are a nuisance around the drop offs and clean up plastics with regular attacks. There are some bigger fish down near the entrance. Small chrome lures will bring them undone and you may even run into a few salmon at the start of the run out tide around the entrance as well.

Minnamurra has flatties all along its length and plenty of whiting. With less boat traffic, poppers work well early in the morning. Bream are around the bridge as usual, with some bigger flathead and the odd small mangrove jack. Use live prawns or poddy mullet if you can get them in tight on the pylons without the bream getting them first.

Mullet and garfish are all along the edges of the weed beds if you float down a bit of bread berley to get them going.

The odd trevally will sneak in around the entrance and grab a prawn during the evenings on high tide. If you need the best bait, prawns have been pretty good over the past few months and it shouldn’t take long to get enough for bait or a feed on the right night. Take the kids along, as they love scooping prawns as well.

The beaches are going off with some solid mulloway all along the coast. Pick a good gutter and use fresh bait in the evenings for a good chance this month. There are plenty of sharks and stingrays mixed in too, so it can be hard work to get a fish between the rubbish.

Salmon, bream, small mulloway, whiting, dart and flathead are all on the menu if you get hold of some beach worms and work the gutters. If you can get fresh fish bait like yellowtail or slimy mackerel then you can add tailor and take out the dart and whiting, or you can just wander along casting plastics for flatties.

It’s the same on the rocks with pelagics and baitfish in hard against the stones, especially the morning after a hard northeasterly. Coalcliff Rocks, the north and south breakwall at the port, Honeycomb, Bass Point, Bombo, the Blowhole Point and Marsdens will all be great spots and there are plenty of other little ledges in between if you look.

Kingfish from rats to hoodlums, salmon, frigate mackerel, bonito, mackerel tuna, tailor, trevally and even the odd spotty mackerel or cobia are biting if the current pushes through hard and brings some northern visitors. The deeper ledges are more than worth a look for a marlin this month with a few hooked each season. Frigate mackerel and big slimies are the main baits. Big yakkas are a good back up.

If you like things a bit slower, there are good numbers of luderick about and some big drummer mixing it with them. There are a few big silver drummer that really take some stopping. Bream and trevally are in the washes if you toss in a bit of berley to get them going.

For a bit of fun, keep your eye out in the harbours as the frigates head in to chase the baitfish. They are great fun in the sheltered calm water and make awesome mulloway bait for later in the evening. Kids love catching them too.

Offshore is where it’s all happening with the black marlin season in full flight. This is the month to get them over the closer reefs. Wollongong and Bandit are favourites, but these fish are just about anywhere that you find a school of baitfish.

Slimy mackerel will be rippling the surface over many reefs, so grab a couple and slow troll them live about the schools. They’ll get eaten if there are any fish in the vicinity.

Even if you are just out for a flathead, put any mackerel or yellowtail you catch straight back as live bait. Marlin have to move about and one might swim right past you and grab your offering. They seem to show up everywhere this month. You could head wider and drag some plastics about for more blacks and the chance of stripes and blues out beyond the shelf. If there’s a lot of bait, the blues could be in as close as 60 fathoms.

The joy of this time of the year is the by-catch when chasing marlin with live baits – big kings, mahimahi, yellowfin tuna, wahoo and even a stray sailfish or two all on the cards.

If you are in close chasing kings, there’s the chance of a cobia or Spanish mackerel over the coming weeks. The kings are most active when there’s a bit of current. All the usual spots from Bellambi, the islands, Bass Point and Rangoon are all producing fish. Some days are better than others. Isn’t that always the case?

If you get bitten off then it could be a stray Spaniard. Putting a short wire on could pay dividends. More than likely in this neck of the woods, you will have missed your chance on a random fish. Cobia are just a welcome by-catch and something to brag about in the Illawarra.

Just for fun, there are bonito, salmon the odd mackerel tuna and frigate mackerel all over the place. Frigates generally go straight back over live and head for the nearest kingy reef, as big kings just can’t resist them. Often enough, hammerhead will nail it before you get there. Small hammers are good on the barbie too. Cast a lure into the schools for great fun and bait for other species.

A few better snapper have started to show over the reefs if you pick and berley. Sharks usually show up at this time of year, so plastics are the go-to method until the leatherjackets show. Then you go chase something else. Drifting has produced plenty of smaller reds with a few better ones thrown in like samsonfish, mowies, sweep, pigfish, trevally and a few pearl perch for lucky anglers.

Flathead are over all the sand areas all along the coast. You can’t miss.

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