It’s slowdown time around The ’Gong as the fabulous fishing of the past three months starts to wind up for another year and the cold water rolls up the coast, pushing ahead of it the last of the warm-water species.
All is not lost, though, as there is still a little life left in the ocean just yet, but this is definitely your last shot before Winter really sets in.
Kingfish are still prowling the inshore reefs and islands so a live slimy mackerel slowly trolled around these areas is well worth a try.
The islands seem to be turning up a few fish, as are The Humps down at Shellharbour. Live baits fished with weight near the bottom are working best at The Humps. There are still a few rats about but the majority of kings seem to be from 60cm legal to 6kg specimens.
Your live baits will pick up some big salmon, particularly around the islands. Some of them have been over 4kg so a good fight can be expected on light gear. Most of the bigger fish seem to be incidental catches but there are still plenty of schools working the surface all along the coast.
Mixed in with the salmon have been a few bonito, tailor and the odd mackerel tuna so you can have a fun morning tossing lures into these schools to catch a feed as well as some snapper bait.
A nice, fresh piece of mackerel tuna or bonito floated back down a berley trail laid down over one of the shallow reefs during the evening would be hard to beat if you were looking for some nice reds.
The northern reefs up around Coalcliff and Stanwell Park have had some nice fish on them of late and with the calm seas and still evenings, these reefs can be accessed very quickly from Bellambi ramp.
The trouble with berleying the close reefs is they seem to be infested with yellowtail and sweep at the moment, making it hard to get a bait through to the snapper.
There are also more than enough small whaler sharks about to give you a hard time as well but the reds are there. Sometimes you just have to work a little harder to get them.
Another species attracted to the berley will be silver trevally as they start to increase in numbers as the waters cool. They’re not always welcome if you are chasing snapper but if the reds don’t turn up you could do worse than a feed of trevally.
It isn’t all doom and gloom for the bottom-bouncers just yet, either, as there are still some flathead about. Granted, you will work a bit harder and longer for your fish but they seem to be better than average size and there are very few little spikies mixed in, so just about every fish is a keeper.
Most of the bags over the reefs have been mixed with snapper, trevally, pigfish, improving numbers of mowies and, of course, sweep. Throw in the odd tailor, kingfish, leatherjackets, samson fish and small jewies and you have the makings of a good catch.
If you have a boat that will safely get you there and back then you can do some serious deep-water bottom-bashing out on the Kiama Canyons.
This month is noted for its long calm spells so a trip out wide is worth a look and the current has generally slowed at this time of year so it makes getting to the bottom in 100 fathoms all that much easier.
Gemfish and blue-eye trevalla are the targets but you could score any number of strange ooglies in this depth, including monster nannygai and the ever-present green-eyed sharks.
Back in closer, I seem to have forgotten it’s bream time all along the coast with every wash around the rocks, quiet inlets and all the good beach gutters holding concentrations of yellowfin bream.
Berleying your chosen spot will score plenty of fish but just walking and working the washes around the headlands and beach gutters will get you plenty of fish.
The usual baits of fresh mackerel, beach worms or prawns will get you into the action.
Apart from bream on the beaches there are still plenty of salmon and tailor working the gutters just on dark, much to the annoyance of the jewie anglers. The jew are not thick but they are quality fish and each time a salmon or tailor grabs a bait, it means less time in the water and less chance of hooking those elusive big jewies.
Another pest on the beach after dark is the proliferation of small whaler sharks that seem to be about. These guys don’t just take your bait, they take the hooks as well, creating even more out-of-water time for the jewie angler.
Sometimes they don’t bite you off and you have to fight these stubborn little – and sometime not so little – creatures into submission to get your gear back.
During the day there are still a few stud whiting around but you will have to work for them with half a dozen fish a good catch.
The rocks are still fishing well for bream in most washes along with trevally and even the odd snapper. On the deeper ledges there are still quite a few pelagics about including mackerel tuna, kingfish and even the odd northern bluefin so it is well worth floating a live bait this month.
Salmon and tailor are taking ganged pilchards or lures early in the morning while those chasing blackfish have been having great success.
Green weed or cabbage weed are working well as bait and most places are holding fish from the sheltered harbours like Wollongong, Port Kembla and Bellambi as well as the open rock platforms.
A good berley mix of weed and sand helps get things going.
On the game scene things have slowed right down but you are still in the hunt for a marlin. A few blacks will hang around until June if the food is available but you are more likely to get a striped or blue marlin trolling live baits or skirts out wide of 80 fathoms.
A few striped tuna have been reported so that will encourage the larger fish in and there is always the chance of a yellowfin this month if you put in the work.
Just keep your eyes out looking for gannets diving; they usually show the presence of ’fin chasing sauries. Cubing with pilchards in the area works, as does slow-trolling live slimies or yellowtail.
Back in the estuaries things are slowing right down unless you are looking for, you guessed it, bream. The lake feeder streams and lake proper have plenty of bream on offer but not a great deal of anything else.
A few blackfish should be about but they are not as thick as out on the rocks and the flathead seem to have slowed right down as the water cools.
There are a few whiting still taking worms around the entrance to the lake and Minnamurra and that is about it.Reads: 939