Get out there and get into it because this is the start of the best three months of fishing you will get each year. If it has fins, it’s out there – but where do you start?
Offshore there is plenty of action, starting with everyone’s favourite, mahi mahi. the dolphin fish. The traps, wave rider and the new Fisheries FAD are all holding fish to varying degrees; it just depends on how hard they have been fished.
Live baits are of course the top producers but pilchards and lures are taking their fair share.
Often the dollies are quiet due to a predator hanging about and the prime predator at this time of the year is the black marlin. Don’t be too surprised if, as you drift away from the dollies, a marlin eats your bait.
February is always the best month for billfish so if you want to catch one, even if you have only a smaller boat, grab a few live slimies or yellowtail and head for one of the closer reefs like Bandit, Wollongong or the South East Grounds. Drop the anchor, feed out a live bait and wait.
If there are any about it shouldn’t take too long to get a hook-up; the rest is up to you.
Blacks are the most common marlin encountered over the close reefs but they are not confined to these places – they can be picked up anywhere. Further offshore around the traps and FADs, striped marlin start to come into play, while out around the shelf the big blues mix with the other two. So it does, at times, happen that you can catch the grand slam of all three species in one day.
While the hot water is pouring down the coast sailfish, wahoo, small yellowfin tuna, extra-large mahi mahi and even the odd short-billed spearfish is possible.
More often than not the current will be raging from the north so slow-trolling live baits or dragging plastic will be your only options over the wider reefs.
Closer in, action has been hot with heaps of kings around all the recognised spots. Trouble is they are mostly just under the legal length of 60cm but they should grow over coming weeks, making for some excellent Autumn fishing. There are some decent fish among them with a few 5kg and better.
Some big salmon showed up a little while back with plenty over 3kg. Bonito have been notable by their absence. In past years they have been swarming at this time of the year but they seem to be very scarce. All this could change if a large number of bonnies ride down on the current over the next few weeks.
There have been a few exotics reported recently in the form of rainbow runners, amberjacks and the usual tropical trevally species and you know there is hot water about when schools of barred long toms start gathering about the islands and Bass Point.
With luck the current could bring with it some spotted or Spanish mackerel, as it did a couple of years back. The odd one usually shows up this month anyway, as do a few cobia, but you have to be lucky and in the right spot at the right time.
Other surface speedsters are out there including mackerel tuna, frigate mackerel and striped tuna, so you can have a great fun session chasing these with light tackle and small lures.
Some nice snapper have been around the reefs in less than 10 metres. They are not a certainty and you have to put in time and berley but they are generally quality fish over 5kg. With the berley comes the sharks particularly during the evenings – heaps of hammerheads and even more whalers.
For the bottom-bouncers there are plenty of flathead although they have copped a hammering over the northern sand by the trawlers. But if you can get a drift along the edge of the rock, but still on sand, you can pick up some very nice flatties.
Over the reefs, and it is often the close in reefs due to excessive current out wide, there are mowies, trag, kingfish, samson fish, trevally, pigfish, sweep, leatherjackets and some quite good squire to 2kg.
There have been some reports of green toads snipping off lines so if you run into these dreaded pests, move before you lose a lot of gear.
Closer in, there are some nice blackfish around the washes. Green weed and cabbage have been working equally well. Those using a bread-and-tuna-oil berley early in the mornings have been coming away with some nice Summer bream and a few trevally but the fishing is usually all over half 30 minutes after sun-up.
Pilchards and lures have been successful in catching salmon and tailor early in the mornings and in the evenings off the deeper ledges and around the wash-covered bommies.
Those taking the time to get live baits have been catching some large salmon, quite a few legal kingfish and the odd mackerel tuna.
The target for most fishing the Kiama area is marlin. As yet I haven’t heard of any captures but this month is your best chance to hook a marlin from the local stones.
Beach fishing is at its best this month with everything lining up to have a crack at your bait. Whiting are a popular target on most beaches with Port Kembla, Windang, Warilla, The Farm, Woonona and Thirroul all top spots.
Dart are a common by-catch and although not as common as they are further north, they certainly put up a good scrap on light tackle. Flathead, salmon, trevally, tailor and bream are all common at the moment with beach worms the premier bait.
Throw in a few pilchards and you just about have all the bases covered – is unless you want to tackle a jewie. For these you will need some fresh squid or fish bait like mackerel, yellowtail or mullet.
Just about any beach with a good gutter will produce fish with Coniston, Coalcliff, Fairy Meadow, Windang, Shellharbour and Bombo all worth a look.
Take plenty of hooks with you as there are heaps of hungry little whaler sharks looking for a quick bite.
In Lake Illawarra and the Minnamurra River it is all go as well. Minnamurra has plenty of flathead along its entire length taking the usual assortment of soft plastics. Does anyone use bait for flathead any more?
Whiting are taking nippers and worms along the main straight with some nice bream under the bridges at night. Blackfish are feeding along the weed beds but as yet they seem to be small. If you put away the weed and berley with bread there are some sizable mullet and garfish lining up for a feed.
In the lake it is much the same with flathead all over, particularly in the main channel and at the drop-off. Some nice bream are around the channel markers and under the bridge of an evening using live prawns.
There are heaps of mullet in the creeks and feeder streams and whiting taking worms down near the entrance and in the main channel near the bridge. The prawns will be worth a look this dark as well.Reads: 1020