It’s all happening
  |  First Published: February 2003

As they say in the cricket, it’s all happening, and over the next few months if you are not catching fish, you aren’t trying.

Kingfish are back in the news for all the right reasons with nice fish up to 4kg in pretty good numbers at all the recognised locations including Bass Point and the islands.

For best results you will need to pick up some live yellowtail or slimy mackerel and fish them around the bumps and drop-offs. You will get a few if you troll minnows like Rapalas and Bombers but livies are the go. Early in the mornings has been the best time.

Don’t be surprised if the odd larger fish gets in on the action, as there have been a few fish to 10kg spotted following smaller hooked fish. And if you have a few livies left, you could do worse than head out to the traps and chase some dolphin fish. They don’t go off the bite as much, particularly if you have a few live baits.

The wave recorder has been firing, as have the ever-faithful traps in 60 fathoms off Port Kembla. The average fish are around a kilo but you can strike it lucky when a school of boof-headed dollies up to 1.5 metres long come charging out. Most of these larger fish are encountered in deeper waters when you find a large floating object but they do regularly appear around the traps and the wave rider.

These same areas are marlin hangouts at this time so a couple of extra-large slimy mackerel or a striped tuna trolled live can give you a great chance at scoring a billfish. Don’t troll small live baits as the dollies make short work of them.

Striped marlin and blacks can be taken but the small blacks are the most prevalent. You really don’t have to go all that far to catch the marlin as the close reefs such as Wollongong, Bandit and the South East Grounds off Shellharbour all hold fish.

There are still a few nice snapper around the close reefs but you have to work hard for them with plenty of berley during the evenings. Anchoring and berleying over the gravel in 45 to 50 metres is worth a try but if there is any current, it can be very difficult to fish.

During the full moon there are still a few trag about but they have not been biting their heads off.

For the drifters there are plenty of flathead about but some spots up north of the ’Gong seem to have been dragged clean for the fish markets so if you don’t get any virtually straight away, move to your next spot. There are still plenty of smaller sand patches that are not trawled. Over most of the reefs there are a few mowies taking prawns, with some samson fish up to 3kg.

For the sport fishos anything is possible over the next couple of months. There have been lures snipped off by possible wahoo recently and if this year is anything like the past couple, it won’t be out of the question to see spotted mackerel and a few cobia –the water is certainly warm enough.

Inshore salmon

There have been salmon and tailor chasing baitfish along the backs of many of the local beaches (just look for the birds) and there are frigate mackerel, mackerel tuna, bonito and a few striped tuna mixed in. So when you hook one if it doesn’t jump and heads for the horizon at high speed, you’ll know what you are into.

Queensland fisho Matt Fraser and I did some testing on the new Black Diamond range of rods, giving them a thorough work-out on local salmon, and they came up trumps. If you are a dedicated angler looking for a new state-of-the-art outfit, you can’t go past them. They are Australian-designed and carry the best components on quality US blanks. They are in selected tackle stores and well worth a look.

With all this activity happening on the surface, it is inevitable that the nasty boys in brown won’t be far away. Hammerheads are making nuisances of themselves by grabbing live baits and even small baits meant for flathead.

Small whalers are even more numerous, particularly if you berley during the evenings. One trip chasing snapper recently we hooked 17 over two hours, three hooked in the corner of their mouths. They were about a 1.5 metres long, fought pretty well on light tackle and went extra well on the barbecue. .

There are some very large whalers, hammers and tigers up to 250kg around the continental shelf.

In around the rocks there are some nice blackfish showing up so it is worth trying a bit of cabbage or green weed under a float.

Pelagics have been chasing baits all along the recognised deep-water spots like Kiama, Bombo, Bass Point, Honeycomb and the Port breakwalls. Around daybreak has been the best time but they can show up any time so keep your eyes out for the birds feeding over the fish.

Those soaking live yellowtail around Honeycomb and Kiama have been picking up a few kingfish and bonito and there is always a chance of a land-based marlin at The Blowhole or Marsdens at this time of the year.

There have been a few jewies up to 12kg taken around the northern breakwall at Port Kembla. If you can’t get any livies they are getting a few on fresh mackerel fillets.

Beach jewies

The beaches have been going well with the best jewfish so far 26kg but there have been plenty of 15kg to 20kg fish along with the smaller schoolies on just about any beach along the coast with a good gutter. Those getting them are working for them but the results, shall we say, have been better than a fish every three trips – a good average when it comes to jewies. Of course all the activity has been nocturnal and fresh bait is a must.

Elsewhere, the tailor and salmon that are chasing the baitfish along the backs of the beaches during the day are cruising the gutters during the early mornings and evenings, providing some good fishing.

During the day there are whiting on most beaches although they are not as thick as they have been, along with dart if you are using worms for bait.

The estuary scene, particularly in the lake, was quite bleak at the time of writing. There are still flathead being captured and some bream but there wasn’t much water left unless there has been a deluge since this report was penned. You can throw a rock over the main channel and what looks like sand is acres of sun-scorched seagrass beds.

The bulldozers went in before Christmas to open the entrance but it did little, with the entrance closing back up to halt the trickle that lasted a few days. The result is that Minnamurra is copping a flogging from anglers who would normally fish the lake, but some nice flathead and blackfish and big mullet are being taken, nonetheless.

Minnamurra is only a small estuary with nowhere near the volume of the lake and it doesn’t close up – but, then again, its entrance hasn’t been messed about with by engineers…



More at home in Queensland chasing bream or bass, Matt Fraser had never caught a salmon and got the shock of his life when he put the pressure on and the fish just kept on going. Eventually this fine fish was subdued on 2kg tackle.


Poppy Clarke with a nice king taken on a live yellowtail off Wollongong. There are plenty like this around at the moment.


The entrance to lake Illawarra looks more like a desert than a magnificent waterway.


This whole back channel area used to be over a metre deep and a haven for prawns and bait fish in its prolific seagrass beds. Now it is a barren, scorched desert.

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