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Spring is for the birds
  |  First Published: September 2006




This is when we can really shake off the Winter chills and start thinking about getting stretched again, because September heralds the arrival of the new season with heaps more fishing options and it only gets better over the coming months.

Summer is prime hot-water pelagic time but early Spring is prime cool-water pelagic season and on some days there can be plenty to choose from. The birds hold the key to giving you a good idea of what is under the water before you catch or even see a fish, and learning how to associate bird species to fish species gives you a big head start in knowing what lures or baits to present.

Breaking it down to its basic elements, terns mean tuna and seagulls mean salmon, kings and tailor. And muttonbirds, well, they are party-crashers who aren’t to fussed about what they chase as long as they get a feed.

All along the coast this month flocks of birds will be over schools of fish so all you have to do is keep your eyes open. Terns and muttonbirds travelling fast and hitting the water every few metres almost certainly mean striped tuna and although they are not as prolific as they used to be, they still go like the clappers and test any light tackle to the limit.

Small lures such as Crystal Eyes or small Raiders cast into the school on 2kg to 3kg tackle will test just how good an angler you really are. When they hit top gear, these pocket rockets leave vapour trails where the line hits the water.

If you are still attached after the first couple of runs you will have done well. I often get bagged for having fun chasing stripies because you can’t eat them. Usually the comments are from the narrow-minded because the fun doubles when you use the frames as berley, then feed a couple of unweighted cubes of stripy back down the berley trail and pull in some fat little snapper.

Flocks of seagulls hovering over the water means slower pelagics and they don’t travel nearly as fast as the stripies, so you can drift around the school for longer periods, as opposed to the chase, cast, chase, cast of speedsters. Salmon and kings will often just roll through the baitfish, giving you plenty of casts into the strike zone.

The same small lures used for tuna will work on the salmon and kings but small lures usually mean small kings, so a few live yellowtail cast into the feeding fish will pick up any better fish in the area.

Most of this action will be within 2km or 3km of the coast with much of the action right behind the breakers and along the larger headlands and breakwalls, like Port Kembla, Bass Point and Kiama.

Also getting in on the action will be tailor, trevally, bonito, pike monster slimy mackerel over a kilo and everyone’s favourites, the barracouta.

OUT DEEPER

Out over the deeper reefs the larger kings are starting to stir, with Spring always producing some solid fish. Live slimy mackerel and yellowtail can be fished over reefs such as Bandit, Wollongong, The Humps, down over the Church Grounds and numerous other small reefs.

Kings from 6kg to 18kg are the target and while they’re not guaranteed every trip, the persistent anglers as usual will get a few fish when they work out their movements.

Snapper have thinned right out but there are still a few stragglers. The stripy-cube caper is always good for a few fish from under a kilo to over 6kg. The same reefs that worked over the past few months are worth a look early in the month while the deeper reefs are a better bet later in the month.

Trevally will be about in good numbers over the shallow inshore reefs and often show up in the berley right behind the boat. Pig and Gap islands are good spots.

Leatherjackets should be thick over most reefs but I think most bottom-bouncers have just about had enough of them over the past few seasons. They have been in plagues just about everywhere, taking a terrible toll on terminal tackle by biting off lines with even the smallest amount of bait or even algae attached.

The rest of the bottom bouncing is pretty slim pickings this month as the flatties are just starting to get going and the snapper are hard to find. The only bright lights are some nice mowies and a few extra tasty pigfish.

Farther offshore, the yellowfin and albacore should be about, weather permitting, but watch out for the big westerlies. The birds can help here as well, with diving gannets and circling muttonbirds a sign of fish in the area.

This month is your best chance to capture a southern bluefin if they come this far north this year. The Kiama Canyons and, to a lesser extent, the Stanwell Park Canyons, are the places to look.

When you’re out there, don’t forget that if the going is slow you can drop a bait to the bottom, current permitting, for gemfish, trevalla, hapuku and other big-eyed ooglies that dwell in the dark.

September is the start of cool-water sharking, with monster makos and blue sharks out around the shelf and little makos over the close reefs making a nuisance of themselves in berley trails.

BEACHES

Beach fishing is still flat with mainly salmon and tailor taking pilchards in the deeper gutters on most beaches in the early morning and late evenings.

You will be scratching pretty hard to scare up a few bream but there seem to be pockets of them in the deeper holes where the beach meets the rocks.

I haven’t heard much about the jewies but towards the end of the month they should show again for the mug jewie anglers like me to have a chance. The small jewies that hung around all Winter seem to have moved on but they should be back before long.

The westerlies will calm the ocean over coming weeks and any whitewater that is about will hold some solid drummer. You can get into places you wouldn’t normally when the sea is calm but remember keep an eye on the water and don’t take any chances.

Royal red prawns and abalone gut are the top baits and you could well hook a few groper on the deeper ledges. The same deep ledges, particularly down around Kiama, will be the places to start the rockhopping pelagic season as the schools of kings, salmon, bonito and even stripies will hit lures. Larger kings and, strangely, mackerel tuna over 8kg and even a yellowfin on live baits are a chance.

The estuary scene is still quiet with the odd flathead starting to appear and bream for those who want to work hard around the rocky areas of the lake and Minnamurra. Next month they should start to fire.

Trannie No. 1

Kingfish will be back on the menu this month with live baits getting the better ones.

2

Striped tuna go like the clappers, are terrific fun on light tackle and make great snapper bait.

3

Small yellowfin are better than no yellowfin and there is always the chance of a big one next bait.

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