It happens this time every year; anglers eagerly await the calm after a mid-July storm sea because this event usually triggers the spawning run of the cuttlefish and with it, the frenzied feeding of big snapper.
You can catch good reds all along the Illawarra coast over coming weeks but by far and away the most productive areas are the shallow inshore reefs from Bellambi up to Stanwell Park, an area only 7km or 8km long, and most of the best fishing is within 2km of shore so it is an open opportunity to all comers to catch a snapper.
As usual, local knowledge is a key factor in scoring good fish regularly but just about any reef with a few cuttlefish popping to the surface will have snapper not too far away.
The best way to go about your business is to get out nice and early before much boat traffic arrives and put down a good berley trail over one of these reefs. Many snapper move close to shore at night and move to deeper water as the sun rises but they will hang about if a good berley trail is there.
Unweighted pieces of cuttlefish flesh, particularly the ‘candles’, those two long extension legs they use to catch their prey, are cast well out and left to slowly drift down through the trail.
Or you can quietly motor around casting unweighted baits at the floating cuttlefish on the surface and pick off any snapper that follow the cuttlies to the top. This has become increasingly difficult over the past few years with the decline in numbers of the albatross that would mark the presence of any floating cuttles. As these giant birds get fat on the easy pickings they create a natural berley trail at each feeding area as small pieces of cuttlefish flesh drift down through the water column from the feeding activity on the surface, in turn attracting snapper to come up and join in the feast.
On the other hand, you could grab a handful of white soft plastics and work these around the areas where cuttlefish pop to the surface. But be prepared to catch one heck of a lot of sergeant baker, rock cod, trevally, pike and numerous other less desirable species between each snapper. I suppose the exciting thing about this type of fishing is it is a buzz when you actually do hook a red.
There are other fish about this month but most of the effort seems to be on the snapper but sometimes they just don’t co-operate and you have to look at other options. That usually means trevally.
If you are feeding out a bit of berley the chances of trevally showing up are good, sometimes to the point where they can become a nuisance as they come right to the back of the boat following the berley.
A pilchard fillet on a small hook with a split shot for weight cast out into the berley will pick up any blurters hanging about. The islands off Port Kembla and Bass Point near the Crankshaft are prime spots.
The ever-reliable salmon, along with a few tailor, are taking whole pilchards on ganged hooks in the washes on the headlands and islands. In the shallow bays and washes there are still quite a few bream about and for best results you will need berley. Fish with the same rig as for trevally and you should get a feed.
Out around the Kiama Canyons there have been some good catches of trevalla, cod and gemfish but it is hard work fishing over 100 fathoms and good days just to get out there can be hard to find but if the weather is kind and you have the boat, it is worth a shot. The chances of a few yellowfin tuna in the same area are pretty good as well so a Winter trip to the shelf can pay dividens.
In closer, bottom bouncers do it pretty tough at this time of year with flathead scarce and heaps of yellowtail, sweep and slimy mackerel to knock off their baits. The saving grace is plenty of pan-sized reds over most reefs and gravel patches. Throw in a few mowies and leatherjackets and you can scrape together a fair feed.
If you hit a patch of jackets, drop the anchor and put on a couple of long shanked hooks to slow down the bite-offs. Some great catches of can be made, with chinaman leatheries over a kilo common in coming months.
Off the rocks it is not all bad with some solid drummer all along the coast. Abalone gut is the top bait, if you can get it, but cunjevoi or royal reds will do the trick. Hooking 3kg fish or better is common but getting them out is another matter.
Blackfish are another species that can be prolific, particularly if there is a heavy sea running. Get with the crowds in the boat harbours and have some fun as the fish school up in the protected waters. Green weed is the top bait and most of the coastal swimming pools will have it growing on the walls, or you could buy it from the tackle shop.
Bream are about in the sheltered bays and in washes around the headlands, particularly during the evenings. Fish light: 2kg and 3kg lines are the way to go and you will score more fish.
Off the deeper ledges are salmon and tailor with even the odd bonito still about hitting pilchards and lures. Trevally will come to a berley mixture of bread and tuna oil and will take peeled prawns on small hooks.
The beaches are quiet this time of year with the cold keeping anglers home in the evenings and a lack of fish keeping them home during daylight hours. But if you are still keen there are a few tailor and salmon in the deeper gutters during the evenings and some decent bream in the early mornings.
The hardy jewie anglers are still plying their trade and at this time of year the fish almost always run 15kg or better. Pick your best gutter and go for it.
The estuaries have all but shut down with only a few bream in Lake Illawarra around the rocky shores and bridge pylons with a few in the creeks. Minnamurra has a few around the ever-reliable bridge pylons.
A couple of local Angel Rings that have gone missing some time in the past have shown up and been returned. One that disappeared from under the lighthouse at Wollongong turned up at Forster.
One from the famous Blowhole Point at Kiama travelled a little farther and was picked up on a beach 10km north of Cooktown in north Queensland – around 3000km from its home. It had been replaced last in August 2005 so it had spent better than six months floating around.
Whether these rings had been washed in or deliberately thrown in as an act of vandalism is not known but vandalism is still a big problem with these rings. If you find one or see one where it shouldn’t be, a toll-free 1800 number is embossed on all rings along with text and logos.
And if you see someone deliberately vandalising these rings, take their vehicle rego or use the mobile to call the cops because an Angel Ring quite literally can be the difference between life and death – and it could be yours if you are the one who gets washed in.Reads: 1940