Berley is the key to producing good results most of the time but more so this month as the fish are spread pretty thinly.
So rather than waste a lot of time chasing them, you must do your best to bring them to you.
Just about every species responds to berley of one type or another, from offshore game species to backwater bream, but you must use the right berley to attract your target. Often other fish will stray into a berley trail and these are accepted gratefully as a bonus.
Offshore this month around the shallow reefs, bommies and islands, silver trevally will respond to berley of bread, tuna oil and pilchard pieces. The by-catch will be bream and snapper – if they can get past the usually ravenous blurters.
Some of the better spots will be Pig, Toothbrush and Gap islands off Port Kembla, the Crankshaft at Bass Point and the area behind Bellambi bommie, as well as any shallow reefs in between.
Once you encounter a school of trevally, don’t be too enthusiastic and catch the first few fish in the trail because if they are left alone, more will join them and in a short time you can have the whole school right up behind the boat competing for every scrap of berley.
Then it is time to start fishing and you can almost pick your fish when they are in this competitive state. This wait-a-while approach also works well on bream, particularly in the quieter, clear shallow bays and harbours where they are more cautious.
Hook and lose that fist fish and the session could be over before it starts, but get a few fish competing for the berley and you are in business. Places like Beaky Bay, the lee side of Toothbrush Island, Bellambi Bay and Sandon Point, as well as all the harbours during the early hours, are all tops spots this month.
There are still plenty of snapper around most of the close reefs chasing the last of the cuttlefish run. In the next few weeks they should move to deeper water but for the moment, anchor over just about any northern reef for best results but most local reefs will hold fish. Then berley with tuna, mackerel or minced cuttlefish and you should be rewarded.
Out around the continental shelf, weather permitting, there could well be some tuna action but it cannot be assured these days. However, some sizable yellowfin have already been taken along with albacore.
Towing a mixture of large soft plastics and minnow lures has worked but with the price of fuel it can get expensive towing bits of plastic and rubber around so berley comes in handy when you find an area holding fish.
Using a trail of pilchard pieces is still one of the best ways to attract large tuna right up to the boat and keep them there. Then a pillie drifted down the trail in most cases achieves the desired result.
Finding the tuna usually isn’t that hard because baitfish, muttonbirds and diving gannets are usually dead giveaways that there are fish in the area. There is often the added excitement of a large mako or blue shark swimming up the trail. Some like the challenge but if it isn’t your cup of tea, a sharp whack on the nose with the blunt end of the gaff will send them packing.
During coming weeks there will be plenty of small bities over the shallow reefs picking off the odd snapper and making nuisances of themselves in the berley meant for reds. A tap on the nose generally sees them off or you could have a bit of fun on light tackle.
Salmon always seem to be about these days and although they respond to berley, you more often pick them up when chasing other species. Towards the end of the month they should start to gather in large schools on the surface and hunt the tiny baitfish that arrive at this time of year.
Casting small lures is the way to extract a tonne of fun from these tough customers but slowly trolling the edges of the schools with small minnow lures will get results and there will still be ample fish around the washes grabbing pilchards.
Mixed with the salmon will be plenty of small kings and at this time they are generally undersized. A few better fish can be taken by casting live yellowtail instead of lures into the schools.
Bottom-bouncing at the moment can be hit-and-miss. With flathead scarce you have to rely on hitting a patch of snapper or mowies. When you do find them, use the GPS to mark your position so you don’t lose the spot, then drift the same line a couple of times.
Some nice snapper have come in from the reefs up around the Seacliff Bridge area and out on Wollongong Reef, with the edges of the reef and gravel holding some decent mowies.
Leatherjackets are thick in some areas, snipping off a lot of tackle, but if you use long-shank hooks and a little wire you can take home a swag of these tasty fish.
In on the rocks, it’s drummer time. Solid fish to 3kg seem to be around most headlands with a bit of rugged country and white water and, again, berley can play a big part in your results.
Bread in an onion bag tied to a rope hanging off the ledge will attract the drummer and fishing with bread, royal reds or cunjevoi under a float or with just a small split shot and hook will score fish. The bread will also attract bream and trevally in the area and there is always the chance of a snapper.
On the deeper ledges it is quiet with mostly salmon on pilchards or lures or if it is calm after a westerly, you could get stretched by a groper, particularly down around Bombo and Kiama if you can find some crabs.
The beaches are cold, miserable places this time of year but if you are a diehard then there are a few bream in the deeper gutters or next to the rocks. Slimy mackerel fillets have been doing the trick.
Mostly it has been the ever-present salmon picking up baits, particularly if you are keen enough to get up before daylight and put in a frosty morning. During the evenings salmon and tailor are around and, for those who set the bar a little higher, jewies.
Did I say raising the bar? Lately the bar has been lowered because this year the normal Winter run of hard-won big fish have been displaced by heaps of small schoolies and even soapies down to less than 30cm. These fish are usually gone by the end of May but seem to be hanging around. There have still been a few better fish taken but the small fish are grabbing the baits most of the time.
If the beaches are a bit chilly then you can head up the lake feeder streams, which are holding some solid bream. Macquarie Rivulet and Mullet and Duck creeks have produced for those working hard with soft plastics and hardbodies. A little tuna or mackerel berley in the deeper holes and snags, followed up with a fresh peeled prawn on light line, has been doing better.
Try berleying around the rocky foreshores and the lake bridge and under the bridges in Minnamurra for good results on the bream.
Large flathead are about but you need to work hard for them and they are in spawning mode so if you do get a top fish, remember the camera and put her back gently so she can give us another generation of flatties.
Only a few more weeks of cold weather to endure: Spring is on its way with better things to come.
Bream are in the Lake Illawarra feeder streams but they are hard work on fly at this time of year.
Snapper will still be about over the shallow reefs close to shore for bottom-bouncers and anchor-and-berley fishos.
Not all the flatties are monsters in August but at 60cm-plus, this one is still a nice fish.Reads: 996