Don’t party, go prawning!
  |  First Published: December 2006

It’s party time as we head into Christmas and the fish seem to be getting in on the act as well, so if you can just drag yourself away from the parties or the cricket for a short while there are plenty of fish out there to keep you busy between Yule tide festivities.

One thing that really goes down well over the coming weeks is a feed of prawns and with all those imported varieties flooding the market, it is difficult to remember what a really good-tasting prawn is like. They don’t come any better than those from Lake Illawarra.

Prawning can be one of the most demoralising activities you can undertake as you can wander around the shallows in the dark for hours and see only a few paltry prawns. Then the next night or even an hour after you give up in disgust, they run and everyone out there ends up with bucketloads.

When you are there and they run it is nothing to get several prawns with each scoop and the drag-netters get even more in just a few drags but it is hard work dragging so you earn every prawn.

Prawning is a cheap and easy way to spend an evening and the kids seem to enjoy it too, so it might be something to look into over the school holidays. All you need is an underwater light from the tackle shop, a couple of scoop nets and a battery. There are many ways to carry the battery around, from towing in a floating container to lugging it in a backpack.

No matter how you do it, when you sit down to a feed of succulent fresh – not frozen – prawns with a beer to watch the cricket it will all seem worthwhile.

Don’t forget to keep a few alive because there are is no better bait when fishing the estuaries than a live prawn.

If you can’t get motivated to go nocturnal then there is plenty of other action in the lake and it will only get better over coming weeks.


Up in the feeder streams there are plenty of solid mullet, particularly in Mullet creek – funny, that. A berley trail of breadcrumbs and bran will get them on the bite and a small float with a No10 long-shank hook and a bit of bread or prawn for bait will give you all the fun you can handle.

Remember before you leave after having thrown in berley for the mullet for a few hours, try putting out an unweighted peeled prawn or some mullet gut for any bream that might be about. There are generally a few sneaking around picking up the scraps in the berley trail.

There is plenty happening throughout the rest of the lake system. On the shallow flats down around the entrance and up through the main channel there are some nice whiting taking squirt and beach worms.

Blackfish are feeding along the edges of the weed beds in the main channel but good weed seems to be hard to get and they seem to like squirt worms this time of the year anyway. Flathead seem to be just about everywhere, taking the usual plastics, live poddy mullet, live prawns and white bait.

There are bream along the rocky shores, in the deeper holes in the main channel and under the bridge, particularly at night.

Minnamurra is much the same with flathead along its entire length and the weed beds down in the main stretch towards the entrance have blackfish but they have been a bit small so far. The whiting are in the main part of the river and out on the beach at the entrance while the big tides at the end of the month could even see some salmon and solid trevally enter the river.


On the beaches it is big jewie time. There are good numbers of school jew about as well to keep you interested but the focus is always on that big fish. High tides just after dark are the prime time, just pick a good gutter and use the freshest of bait, preferably caught that day, and you are in business.

Keep an ear out for the chat on the grapevine as to which beaches have been working the best and the rest is in your hands. Stingrays and small whalers are about but you just have to put up with that.

During the day there are whiting on most beaches with the top spots Windang, Warilla and Port Kembla beaches. Salmon and tailor, some of them solid fish, are on most beaches early mornings and evenings with a few nice bream. Most sessions wouldn’t be complete without a nice flathead for good measure.

So from here on in over the next few months the beach fishing should be as good as it gets.

The rocks are starting to fire but it will be after Christmas when they hit top gear. Drummer are still about with cooler water putting them on the bite some days and not others. Bream are about but not thick, with early mornings in the shallow bays producing a few fish.

On the deeper ledges there have been a few trevally for those using berley while the lure-tossers have been getting salmon, bonito, tailor and the odd small kingfish. There have been some larger kings about for those using livebaits, particularly down around Kiama.

Windang Island is always worth a try this time of year as it holds heaps of different species to provide numerous fishing options.


Offshore is a bit hit-and-miss with fluctuating currents playing havoc with the fish. But I would not be surprised if we had an early season because the water has been warm to hot in patches all Winter.

Let’s hope it doesn’t hit with an early bang then fizzle out for the rest of the season with dead water behind the first rich, warm push. Who knows, with spotted mackerel here in the middle of Winter and early Spring, anything could happen.

There are still some yellowfin tuna out wide but they seem to be much less abundant than a month ago. Striped tuna are still schooling all along the coast from just behind the breakers to beyond the shelf. They are not the huge 10kg-plus fish we have seen over the past few months but regulation schoolies up to 3kg are still great fun and good bait for everything.

The first of the black marlin should show up towards the end of the month but for now there are a few striped marlin about if you put in the time. Try slow-trolling live slimy mackerel around the schools of striped tuna in 60 fathoms-plus for your best chance.

As the warm water approaches it shouldn’t be long before the mahi mahi turn up and the first fish are generally over 15kg before the hordes of small dollies take over every floating object off the coast. Next month should see them arrive for the Summer.

Closer to shore, there are some good kingfish around the usual places with the islands producing well. Just watch out for the seals which don’t mind stealing fish when they are hungry. They seem to have set up a colony on Gap island lately.

Schools of salmon and bonito are chasing bait all along the coast, just watch for the rippling, splashing mess on the surface covered in seagulls. Some nice snapper have been picked up on the wider reefs with the odd large fish coming from in close around the bommies but they are well spread and not a sure thing by any measure.

Trevally are still a popular target along with a few samson and the odd trag.

On the bottom the flathead are biting well but they slow down a bit when that cold water comes through, but for the most part there are plenty over most of the sand patches. Combinations of bait on one dropper and a soft plastic on the other have been doing very well.

Over the reefs there are snapper, mowies, leatherjackets and assorted reefies so there is plenty of action. Anyway have a great and safe Christmas and New Year, see you next year. Good fishing.


Just when you thought it was safe to fish around the Illawarra, those ugly words ‘marine park’ have crept out of the shadows once again.

There is a State election next March so you would not expect to see a draft proposal given to the public at this time but if Labor is re-elected with the help of the Green preferences we can expect to have our turn at being excluded from our favourite fishing spots.

Just imagine if you cannot fish around Bass point, the five islands, Bellambi Reef and other favourite fishing locations. There are very few other places off the Illawarra coast, particularly north of Wollongong, that have any peaks and deep gutters left to preserve. Over decades, massive ore carriers and coal ships anchoring offshore drag those huge anchor chains across the bottom, demolishing every piece of structure in their path every time there is a wind change. Anything in the way is reduced to rubble and deposited in the holes and gutters to make a virtual lunar seascape.

How many studies have been made into the damage this has done to habitats, including those of the treasured grey nurse shark! People need to start looking at a bigger picture rather than just closing off large tracts of ocean, lakes, rivers and creeks and hoping it will do the trick.

So be very afraid you won’t have a say as these parks are done deals and are forced on us no matter what. And once they are here, they are here for good.

– Greg Clarke

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