Here we go, holiday time and the fishing just gets better with every passing day.
Over the next few months it doesn’t really matter what type of fishing you are into because just about everything with fins can be encountered.
For the offshore bottom-bouncers flathead really hit their straps this month with bag limits the rule. Every offshore patch of sand seems to hold fish from Bombo Beach down at Kiama, Windang, Port Kembla and Coniston just wide of the reef – but keep a good lookout for ships coming and going from Port Kembla Harbour. Fairy Meadow, Corrimal, Bulli sands and Stanwell Park are all top spots.
If you venture over the edges of the reefs there seem to be more than enough small snapper around to keep you happy and a few solid Summer reds up to 6kg, particularly in the evenings.
Morwong are starting to thin out a bit but they are being made up for by better-than-average pigfish captures of late. Throw in a few school jew, teraglin, leatherjackets, tailor, sweep, trevally, small samson and the odd yellowtail king and you have the makings of a good day out.
Bottom bouncing gets you a feed but the next few months are all about hot water and speedsters. Everyone’s favourites, mahi mahi, have already shown up around the traps.
To make things a little easier there is now a new FAD off Wollongong installed by DPI Fisheries, so there is an extra spot to chase the dollies this season. It took a little longer than anticipated but it is now in and attracting fish. To find out where it is, check out the Fisheries website.
When the dollies show up it means the marlin aren’t far behind. As usual, the first to appear have been striped marlin up to about 75kg. Mid-January should see the blacks arrive in force as they travel down the coast with a few taking up residence over the larger offshore reefs to take advantage the easy food supply.
Slow trolling a live slimy mackerel, yellowtail or small tuna over any of the reefs or around the FADs is a great method of taking a strike, as is anchoring and putting out a live bait. But you seem to score a whole lot more hammerhead sharks using this method.
The marlin can be encountered from just behind the beaches to as far out as you wish to go, so keep a live bait in the water wherever you are, even on the drift for flathead, and you could score the fish of a lifetime.
Out around the continental shelf there have been a few small yellowfin tuna but the larger ones that were about in October and November seem to have moved south with the cooler water.
Striped tuna are about if you like to play with these mini-missiles on light tackle. Trolling small Christmas trees past the 50-fathom mark will get you plenty of bait.
Bonito have been noticeable by their absence over the past two seasons, a situation many put down to the deepwater ocean outfall off Sydney. A great deal of other fish have really declined in numbers since it was commissioned a few years back, pumping megalitres of fresh water and poo into the ocean and creating a vast curtain many kilometres long to the south. Many professionals believe fish will not swim through it.
Sydney has clean beaches and we get the fallout just a few kilometres to the south. Pumping this much reusable fresh water into the ocean during a drought is still mystifying to me…
Salmon, as always, are chasing baitfish around the islands and up at National Park – just look for the seagulls. If you see terns then there is a good chance the fish are tuna, so it pays to know what bird follows what fish.
The washes around bommies and islands hold salmon too, so an early-morning session tossing pillies is always a fun way to start the day. A few nice tailor have been hunting around the washes along with bream and a few trevally so a good mixed bag can be taken.
Kingfish are still a main target and live baits seem to be the key. The islands, Bass Point, Rangoon, Bellambi, Wollongong Reef and The Hump at Stanwell Park are all great spots.
You can also try the new knife jigs; they work a treat with the normal jigging style of retrieve and the kings love them.
The close reefs are really worth a look this month. Almost any rough ground in less than 20 metres is worth a shot, particularly if you get a good show of bait on the sounder. Put the pick down and hit the berley and the results can be very rewarding, particularly during the evenings. Good snapper, teraglin, small samson, trevally, kings and the ever-present hammerhead and whaler sharks head the list.
Around the rocks there are some nice bream and tailor in the washes and the odd trevally. Lures and pilchards are producing some salmon off the deeper ledges but the focus will be on live baits off the deep ledges around Kiama, Bass Point and Honeycomb. Salmon, bonito, kings, mackerel tuna, hammerheads and even an early longtail or a marlin hook-up are on the cards.
Persistence is the key and a warm, overcast drizzly morning with a light south-easter blowing and a live slimy under a balloon about 80 metres off Kiama’s Blowhole Point sounds pretty good.
In the estuaries it is all systems go – if you can get a spot, that is. The tourist season is in full swing.
Lake Illawarra is producing good flathead in the main channel, the drop-off and well pretty much anywhere else you want to throw a bait or lure.
Bream are around the bridge during the evenings and in the deeper holes up the creeks. Blackfish are along the weed bed edges but it is difficult to target them when the lake is closed because there isn’t any tidal flow. Who knows whether it will be open or closed this January.
Whiting are down around the entrance on the sand flats, with squirt worms the top bait, and the are plenty of chopper tailor about to keep the kids happy.
Mullet and garfish are about too if you want to berley some of the quieter waters in the early morning when the water is calm. Use light floats and small baits of worm, prawn or bread to have some fun.
Don’t forget the annual Wollongong Sportfishing Club-Dean’s Bait and Tackle Flathead Classic on January 19. There are some fabulous prizes in a heap of categories. It is great fun for all the family and the barbie at the presentation and the gear give-aways are always fun. Entry forms can be picked up at Dean’s.
Minnamurra is much the same, with flatties into gear along with whiting, blackfish and some bream and the odd decent trevally around the bridges during the evening.
If you like tossing lures around you could even run into one of the stray mangrove jack that call in from time to time.
It is a great time of the year to fish the beaches with just about every species lining up.
Whiting are the main target and most beaches have a good supply. You just have to find which gutter or flat they are on.
Finding the right gutter often involves a bit of looking but while you are moving about you are picking up flathead, salmon, trevally, dart and bream. Often you have a good catch before you even hit a single whiting. The easy way is just look for a crowded spot and fish that area.
Evening is mulloway time and the schoolies seem to be quite numerous. Fish up to 10kg have been regular but the big ones can show up at any time on any beach. You just have to persist.
Which beach is best? Any beach with a gutter at the moment, as the jewies seen to be all along the coast. Don’t get too excited with every hit you get as there are plenty of stingrays and small whalers to keep you guessing.
Finally watch out for the sunburn over the Summer break. Wear a hat, long-sleeved shirt and apply plenty of sunscreen.
Casting small lures on light tackle is great fun this month. It’s funny how fish of the same size will school together even though they are different species. These kings and salmon were all in the one school.
Good mulloway like this 17kg specimen will be on the beaches this month.
Casting pillies into the washes should result in a few nice tailor.Reads: 1203