Still plenty of life
  |  First Published: May 2006

I know the mornings and evenings are starting to get chilly but unless you are a fair-weather angler, don’t pack your gear away for the Winter just yet – there is still plenty of life left in the water for a few more weeks.

The estuaries are slowing down, particularly the flathead action, but often in May we can get quite a bit of rain. If this eventuates, dig the out plastics again and head for the Minnamurra River because the fresh generally pushes heaps of flathead down towards the entrance and for a few days there will be some great fishing.

If it doesn’t rain there will still be the odd fish about but bream are the target in Minnamurra and Lake Illawarra. Bait or lures, it’s your choice but fresh nippers or chunks of striped tuna are hard to beat if you are looking for a feed, particularly if the water is a bit dirty.

There are still a few solid whiting taking squirt worms around the sand flats at the entrance to the lake but they are more quality than quantity.

The rocks are fishing quite well, particularly for bream. The quiet bays are fishing well in the dark while the washes and suds next to deep water on just about all the headlands are holding fish during the day.

Unweighted baits of tuna or royal red prawns are the way to go. The royal reds are also taking solid drummer along with a few trevally and the odd salmon. Working the same washes next to deeper water with lures has produced some tailor to 2kg and plenty of salmon when you hit a school.

If you are looking for larger prey, keep the live baits out on the deep ledges at Kiama, Bass Point, Honeycomb and even Coalcliff for solid kings that patrol the rocks this month, particularly at daybreak. As the sky lightens you could be in for longtails, mackerel tuna, large bonito and the ever-present salmon.

Keep throwing lures while you are waiting for your live bait to go off – there is still plenty of action on bonito and smaller kings through out the day.

For those who like watching that thin little float disappear, this is your month as the blackfish are moving along the headlands and bays. Popular spots like the port breakwalls, Bass Point, under the lighthouse at Wollongong, Bellambi and a host of other locations are worth checking out but it helps if you have cabbage weed or green weed and sand mix for berley. Blackfish of a kilo or better are common and really give a good clean tussle on light tackle.


The beaches have slowed but there is still plenty of action if you put in time and this will be the last month before they turn on the slim pickings that come with Winter. Salmon and tailor are the mainstays on ganged pilchards during the evenings and early mornings. If there are a few pickers about use pillie pieces on a single hook for bream, while there are still some nice whiting on many beaches if you have beach worms. Coniston, East Corrimal, Windang and Coal Cliff beaches have been fishing well.

There are still a few solid mulloway if you put in the hours. The smaller schoolies seem to have moved on but the bigger fish are about, if only for persistent anglers using fresh bait. The trouble is there seem to be 10 sharks and stingrays for every jewie run.

At this time of year look for deep gutters and try some of the less-frequented beaches because those that are flogged every night seem to produce less fish pre-Winter. Work that one out.


Offshore the fishing is still trundling along quite nicely but it won’t last much longer. The flathead are slowing but if you put in the effort you will still get a feed off Stanwell Park, Bulli sands, Port Kembla and Bombo.

The reefs have a few Summer species like trag and small samson with more small snapper starting to arrive with the cooler water. Throw in a few mowies, tailor, pigfish, kingfish, increasing numbers of leatherjackets and the ever-present sweep and the day can be rewarding.

If you put down the pick and berley you will get snapper over the inshore reefs but it may take a trip or two to work out where they are. The South East Grounds off Shellharbour and Wollongong Reef are good starting points.

There are still solid kings around the islands on live bait along with salmon in the washes on pilchards and small lures. The monster bonito are about but not as thick as they have been in past years with only a few 4kg to 5kg fish, usually picked up while chasing kings.

Put down some berley over reef in less than 10 metres of water and you should get a few trevally as they move in with the cooler water. Don’t forget the bream, as they are not confined to the land-based anglers, with most shallow bays harbouring plenty of fish. Lots of berley before sunup should see them right behind the boat and they should get better as we get further into the month. With this usually being a calm month, you could get right into the shallow areas for some top bream fishing.

With calm seas you can also head to the Kiama Canyons and drop a bait to the bottom for, trevalla, gemfish and an assortment of other deep-water species. The current is generally much slower at this time of year to so it makes fishing the deep water easier.

There is a better than average chance of a striped marlin with several being hooked over the past few weeks, while May has always been a time for monster blues out wide.

If I was writing this 15 years ago I would be highlighting monster yellowfin tuna everywhere but the longliners have put paid to that. But a few show up each year, usually behind the boat of an unsuspecting snapper angler, flashing trough the berley, picking up a floating bait meant for a red and spooling the poor angler in quick time.

So if you see that huge boil like a current upwelling, grab the heavy gear and float a fillet or whole pilchard back and hang on.

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