March has long been a favourite month of mine. The water is still hot, while the blistering heat of the Summer sun has waned enough to make a day on the water more comfortable.
Daylight saving is just about knackered, so you can fish into the evening and be home before midnight and you don’t have to get up at 3am to beat the sunrise. I must be getting lazy in my old age...
But even better than all these seasonal changes is that there are fish of all species out there just waiting to be caught, and heaps of them, so let’s get into the action.
If you are a rockhopper, this is your month because just about everything is available. If you want frantic action, head for the breakwalls at Port Kembla, particularly if there has been a bit of a north-easter the day before.
The baitfish seem to gather close to the rocks particularly along the northern wall and the predators know it and move in for breakfast at daylight. Bonito, some up to 4kg, mackerel tuna, salmon, tailor, frigates, trevally, kingfish and even a few striped tuna get in on the action. Small lures work best but when the fish really get going, anything up to 75mm long will catch fish, as will a fly behind a bobby cork. This method is popular in this area.
But you will have to pick your day, because the Ports Authority is doing maintenance on both walls until June during selected weekdays. On these occasions the walls will be closed to the public for obvious reasons. You don’t want to be under, one of the 40-tonne blocks when they drop it into position. With luck they might create a few more good, flat fishing platforms.
Other deep-water spots working well lately include Honeycomb at Port Kembla but be careful – no one has been drowned there lately so we are due for one. Kings up to 6kg have been taken with some better fish ledging unsuspecting anglers, while the plentiful bonito and salmon are taking lures, pilchards and live baits.
At Bass Point it has been more of the same, along with mackerel tuna and even some reports of the odd cobia. Down at Kiama, live baits have produced kings, salmon, mack tuna bonito and a few hammerhead sharks. Pick up your live baits in the harbour and carry them out to the point in a sealed bucket.
If you are tossing bait around the washes, there are some nice drummer about taking cunje and royal red prawns. Prawns are also enticing bream and trevally with good catches coming from many of the local ledges.
If it is a feed of blackfish you like, now is the time to hit the rocks as the big bronzies are starting to move and over the next two months. Cabbage or green weed and some berley fished at your favourite spot should be rewarded by fish up to 1.5kg. For best results, fish light but that makes it difficult when the drummer get in on the action and cause a few bust-ups. Take a few extra floats along, just in case.
On the beaches there are plenty of salmon moving about but they are hit-and-miss, being at one location only for a day or so then moving on. Tailor have been patrolling the deeper gutters during the evenings with Windang and Coniston the pick of the beaches for both species.
Most beaches have a few bream, whiting and flathead if you work the tides using fresh bait. If you are chasing jewies, it has not been the best season although there are still quite a few coming in around 6kg to 12kg with larger fish prominently absent They have been few and far between.
On the estuary scene the lake is still a sorry sight with a few whiting and blackfish about and some quality mullet in the feeder streams if you like to try a bit of fly-fishing on a calm day.
The Lake Illawarra Flathead Classic was held in a stiff southerly wind with water levels in the lake still very low and no tidal movement. Numbers were down due to many tourists holidaying in other areas because of the low level and unsightliness of the lake, so only 127 anglers competed.
There were 86 flathead caught with the best going 67cm, so it was still a successful comp considering the conditions. Hopefully it will be bigger and better next year, conditions permitting.
Minnamurra seems to be coping a bit of a flogging because many anglers who would normally fish the lake are turning to the river for some action. Flathead, whiting and a few bream during the evenings are there but it is only a small waterway and the better spots quickly become crowded and the catches are suffering as a result. The fish are there but they have become very angler-wary.
Offshore is where it is all happening and it doesn’t seem to matter where or how you fish, there is something for everyone. For bottom-bouncers there are plenty of flathead up to 2kg. A few small hammerhead and whaler sharks are giving the flattie fishos a hard time, picking up baits on the bottom.
Small snapper are over most reefs and there seem to be a few mowies with them. If you are in the right spot there has been the odd trag about and even tailor and a few kingfish have been coming up from the depths.
If you anchor and berley over the reefs there are the ever-present small sharks and the snapper are starting to improve with a few nice fish coming in. Small samson fish, trevally, tailor, bonito, kingfish, small jewies and even a few rainbow runners have been swimming up the berley trails – if you can get through the slimy mackerel.
If you are fishing the deeper reefs for snapper, there are still some marlin floating about so put out a live bait just in case. It doesn’t mater what it is because marlin aren’t all that fussy. They love sweep and nannygai but a live slimy is hard to top.
Speaking of marlin, there have been some big blues hooked wide of the continental shelf along with blacks and the odd striped marlin and even some spearfish and wahoo – so anything can happen.
Mahi mahi are, as always, the flavour of the month so head to the traps or the wave-recorder buoy for plenty of action. Closer in there are kings around the regular spots like the islands, Bass Point and Rangoon Island. There are heaps of salmon in the same areas and plenty of bonito grabbing whatever moves.
Head for the traps if you want to get a few mahi mahi like these.
Kings are always about during March This is an average fish and fell for a live bait fished near the islands.
There are still a few billfish about and they’re not choosy about what sort of live bait they like.
Rainbow runners are one some of the northern visitors that come down the coast on the warm currents at this time of the year. Brian Taylor scored this one on a live yellowtail.Reads: 470