March mixed bag mayhem
  |  First Published: March 2017

With so many options available, where do you start? You could fish in a puddle on the side of the road this month and catch fish.

The offshore scene is firing on all cylinders from the surf zone to beyond the shelf, so there’s something for everyone. Salmon, frigate mackerel, bonito, mack tuna, kingfish and trevally are gathering in schools all along the coast, chasing down the baitfish. The birds often give away their presence, as do the slashing splashes on the surface as they go about their business of getting fat. They are great fun on light tackle and you also get a feed or plenty of bait, depending on what grabs your lure.

For the best results, very small metal lures cast into the schools and retrieved at speed are about all you will need. As always, keep a few live baits in the tank to cast into the schools. There are usually a few bigger fish hanging around, picking off the less cautious smaller pelagics.

It’s kingfish time, so these will be the usual culprits when your livey is smashed. There are fish in all the usual spots like Bellambi, the islands, Bass Point and Rangoon. They can pop up anywhere where there are other fish feeding on the small baitfish.

The good thing is that with the warm water that has been pushing down the coast since January, there are plenty of northern visitors willing to smash a live bait and some surprising captures. Every year at this time there are a few cobia picked up with the kings. Some are just little tackers while others are better fish of 15kg or more.

Other predators are about too in the form of Spanish mackerel and spotties. The first thing you will notice if these are about is you will have lost your hook and didn’t feel a thing. This means it’s time to put on a bit of wire. You may have missed your chance and it’s possible you won’t see another. Sometimes there are spotties about and you’ll get a second chance.

Rainbow runners are another visitor that come down on the current, with fish up to several kilos showing every year. Even a few amberjack could be thrown into the mix. Other regulars that hug the coastline are the longtails. They’re caught less often. More come through than you realise and they are usually right behind the surf, close to the headlands. They’re a better option for the land-based anglers and some are caught each year. This far south there are usually bigger fish and they will be more prevalent next month.

Further offshore there are still a few marlin over the close reefs like Bandit and Wollongong and the Hump up north. Slow trolled live slimy mackerel is the number one bait. A by-catch of big kings is on the cards as well.

Further out, the FADs are still holding some decent mahimahi. You will have to be early to beat the boats, as they go off the bite pretty quickly once there is a bit of traffic. They would probably stay on for longer if it wasn’t for the greedy maniacs who blast back to the FAD under full throttle putting the fish down. If they just took their time and used stealth, the fish would stay active for so much longer, thus giving them more fish.

With the dollies about there will always be an apex predator in the area. A big livie drifted a bit away from the crowd will pull the marlin or sharks that are about.

Further afield it is blue marlin time on the shelf and beyond. Solid fish are taken in March every year. Trolling lures has always been the style of choice. Using the sounder to find bait and dropping large mackerel down deep with weights works quite well. You just cover a lot less ground and concentrate your effort on the bait schools, which is where the fish usually are anyway.

If trolling, put a smaller lure or two out, as there will be a few yellowfin tuna of varying sizes getting about in the deep water this month and a few wahoo if the hot water keeps pushing down. If there is little current, bottom fishing around the Kiama Canyons will produce blue-eye trevalla and even a hapuka or two.

Back in close there are plenty of nice snapper over the inshore reefs and they will get better as the month progresses. Plastics are working in water depths of 15m and deeper. Late afternoon fishing in the shallows (water under 10m) with berley is scoring fish as well.

A few teraglin have been spotted at the ramps, so there are probably more being caught and kept quiet. Samsonfish, trevally, mowies and even a few stray pearl perch have come in. The flathead are still biting well over the sand patches and they are good quality fish too.

On the beaches it is first class fishing with everything on the boil. There’s also the odd surprise. Salmon are the standby beach fish every month and they are extra thick this month. They can be a nuisance, because they eat just about every bait thrown at them and there have been some ripper fish among them as well.

Whiting are on every beach along the coast this month. For consistent results, fresh beach worms are a must, which brings in to play just about every other species that visits the gutters and sand flats. Dart have come down with the warm water and if there are a few about the gutter you are fishing, they can really eat into your worm supply quickly. Bream are on all beaches in good numbers, along with quite a few flathead.

Plastics cast in the gutters are picking up flatties as well, along with the odd school mulloway in the deeper holes at the corners of the beaches on the top of the tide.

As darkness approaches the big tailor come out to play. Some of the northern beaches like Coledale and Stanwell Park and southern beaches like Minnamurra and Bombo are throwing up fish better than 3kg. If you are brave, put them back out alive, as there are some bigger mulloway getting about this month. You’ll probably have a better chance of scoring a big whaler shark. I even heard of a nice snapper and a few trevally coming from one beach as well, so it’s all happening.

On the rocks things are progressing nicely with plenty of surface action on the deeper ledges. Bonito, salmon, frigates, rat kings and small mackerel tuna are chopping around the headlands and breakwalls. Live baits are picking up a few better kings. For the best results, a live frigate spun up in the early hours and sent back out will be your best bet for nailing a big king.

All the southern rock ledges will produce, as well as Coalcliff in the north and Honeycomb with the breakwalls at the port worth a look. Live yakkas and slimies will get lots of salmon and even the longtails that will be travelling through later in the month.

Drummer, bream and trevally are available all along the coast for the bait fishos, with a snapper or two on the cards on the deeper ledges during the evenings. Big blackfish will start to move along the coast towards the end of the month. All the headlands and harbours are holding fish if you can get good weed.

For a bit of fun, the frigate mackerel will be zipping in and out of the harbours this month. When they do it gets crowded. With everyone casting at once when they come in, there are some monumental tangles. It’s really fun to watch and a few fish get caught too. If you look about, there are sneaky, less crowded spots to catch them as well.

If you prefer something a little more sedate, the lake has been producing some really good flathead this year with some fish almost hitting 80cm. For as long as I can remember, a flathead of better than 60cm in the lake was something to cheer about. With so many nets strung through its waters annually, they rarely stand a chance. This year they have been numerous and large.

Whiting are in the warmer shallows down near the entrance, and beach or squirt worms are the best baits. A few big blackfish will pick up the worms as well as they move to the entrance to head to sea.

Bream are in the feeder streams as well as around the rocky shorelines and the bridge pylons in the evenings. Live prawns are the gun bait. Throw in a mulloway or two in the main channel and a few trevally for some variety.Minnamurra is much the same with flathead, whiting, bream and blackfish all along its length. The bridge pylons are particularly attractive to the bream this month and you may even pick up a little jack if using live baits.

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