Pelagics popping up in cool, calm water
  |  First Published: April 2017

April may not be quite as good as March, but it’s still one of the best fishing months of the year. The days are warm after cooler nights and light south westerlies in the mornings make the warm ocean waters calm and enjoyable to fish. Even better, we have four days off over Easter. Throw in ANZAC day, after the dawn service, and you have a whole lot of extra time to fish, and the fish are still there and raring to go.

The beaches are a real pleasure to fish this month, with lots of days where the swell is small to non-existent. It can make for tough going in the middle of the day, but it more than makes up for it during the evenings. Mulloway, tailor, salmon and bream all come out to play as the sun goes down. There have been plenty of these species all along the coast in recent weeks.

Lots of sharks are making nuisances of themselves for those anglers chasing the bigger prey. Even little whalers, and not all of them are little, go hard. They’re not bad on the BBQ, though.

All is not lost during the daylight hours, with good flathead still prowling most beaches along with schools of whiting and even a few big mullet as they start to move along the coast on their spawning run. There are still a few dart hanging around as well.

If the swell is only small and there is very little white water on the beach, try the deeper gutters or right under those small patches where the waves are breaking. There is little cover for fish to hide on a sandy beach, and even a small amount of wash is better than no cover at all.

Early morning high tides are always good. Calm conditions are even better, as the salmon, tailor and even frigate mackerel will come in close chasing bait and are easy, fun targets on small imitation baitfish lures. The estuaries are slowing a little as the cooler nights push down the temperatures in the shallows, but they warm up when the sun gets up and the fishing does the same.

Flathead are biting well in the lake, with some very good fish coming in this season. For years, a 60cm fish would raise a few eyebrows. This year, plenty of 60s, 70s and even 80s have been caught. What is going on? The lake has a massive professional presence and resident fish usually don’t get to grow to the high end of their potential in Lake Illawarra. Something seems to be happening and it is good.

Whiting are a good option. Leave the poppers at home, as they seem to have gone off them. The prawns have slowed, but the whiting still like worms fished where the shallows drop off into the deeper water, particularly down around the entrance.

Luderick are increasing in numbers, but good weed seems to be scarce. Tailor in the lake seem to be getting larger and there are plenty of them at the moment. The odd mulloway can be found in the usual spots. The entrance is fishing well for salmon and choppers on the run-out tide, and bream are along the breakwalls in the evenings.

On the rocks there are more good fishing options this month than most others, as the warm water species keep on doing their thing and the winter fish are starting to make their presence felt. Schools of small pelagics are feeding all along the deeper ledges and some of the shallow platforms as well. From Coalcliff in the north to south of Kiama, just about every ledge will have a few pelagics swimming past some time this month. Schools of bonito, salmon, mackerel tuna, kingfish, trevally, frigates and tailor will be in force.

Places like Beaky Bay at Bass Point are often standing room only, as the predators churn into the baitfish for hours on end sometimes. Of course this doesn’t happen every day, but the word generally gets down the grapevine pretty quickly these days, when and where it does happen. There will be plenty of fish moving along the coast and not always thrashing the water to foam. Most spots are throwing up fish consistently.

If you set your sights a bit higher, there are solid kings prowling the deeper ledges in the early morning. This is also the month that we see a few longtails get down this way, mixed with some good-sized mackerel tuna. It will pay to keep a live yellowtail or mackerel in the water while trying to avoid the salmon and rat kings.

Snapper will be in close feeding around the ledges too. The Easter period is the best time to target them with a big full moon in the evenings and good tides. Fresh bonito, tuna or mackerel for bait should find any that are about. If you like things a bit slower, all the quiet bays along the coast will be holding a few if not a lot of bream over the coming weeks. A little berley will help bring them on the bite and should attract a few trevally in as well. Fish as light as you can. A 2kg line is good. Use as little weight as you can as well. No weight at all is best.

The water will cool down slightly with the westerlies later in the month, and drummer will be in the washes looking for cunjevoi, crabs and bread, while the big bronze luderick will be moving along the coast looking for well-presented green weed. The drummer don’t mind weed either and will get into the act and take a few floats, but sometimes you get one, and that feels good.

Offshore is still cruising along quite nicely with a few marlin still on the cards, particularly big blues out wide. Most boats fish at least one 37kg outfit and the rest 24kg, as they are big at this time of the year. Stanwell and Kiama canyons and beyond are the starting points, so it’s not really the place for little tinnies. The odd striped will be in closer and a few blacks will still be hanging about. They mostly grab livies meant for yellowfin tuna that should be showing this month as well. There’s no word just yet of the yellowfin. Their presence lies in the lap of the currents these days.

Mahimahi are around the FADs. Most are small with only a few better ones showing. A few striped tuna are around too, and they make great bait for the snapper that will be the main target over Easter. A nice berley trail over one of the inshore shallow reefs during the evenings fishing unweighted fresh pieces of tuna or pilchards is still a great way to get some really good fish. There is the chance of a mulloway and there will always be a few trevally moving through the berley trail, so you will be kept busy.

Plastics are getting a few as well. Many of the better fish are in shallow water and easily spooked, so bringing them to you often gets better results than you chasing them.

While the rock hoppers are confined to the shore, boaties can find and follow the schools of bonito, salmon, kings and trevally moving along the coast. As always, in April many of the bonito will be whoppers. The bigger fish are usually found when chasing kings with live baits on the deeper reefs. They can be right up against the stones as well.

Throwing a handful or two of pilchard pieces when fighting a hooked fish can really get the whole school going and keep them around for ages. Kings will be in the usual spots grabbing live baits slow trolled on the surface and down rigged.

The bottom bouncing is still going well, with plenty of flathead over the sand patches. Like last month there are some very good fish among them. Smaller snapper are in good numbers over most of the reefs with mowies, trevally, trag and decent samsonfish up to 4kg that really pull hard. Sweep have been thick and the leatherjackets have been in good numbers for fishing, while not enough to be a nuisance.

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