A disappointing season
  |  First Published: June 2003

This column generally is dedicated to giving you as much information about what you might catch over the next few weeks and where to catch it, as well as what has been caught over recent weeks.

There will be some of that later but I just want to take a few paragraphs to reflect on the past year and look at some of the happenings that have affected the local area and farther afield. The past year was relatively quiet overall, possibly due to the lack of rain, but for the most part catches left a bit to be desired. The bream run was finished before it started and the jewfish were late and down on numbers on previous years.

The kingfish trickled in and didn’t deliver after promising so much with large numbers of undersized fish in the area 12 months ago. Bonito were notable in their absence and marlin captures were meagre, to say the least. Even mahi mahi were not as abundant.

During the early part of Summer it was GPS-fishing only as smoke blanketed the Illawarra for weeks on end as the disastrous bushfires created havoc everywhere.

Then there was lake Illawarra, still producing a few fish but drying up before your eyes. Blame it on the drought if you like, but damming the entrance with a rock wall didn’t help. Getting the flow back is not rocket science but you would reckon it was, with scientists now on a committee to fix the lake. The thing is, it wasn’t broken until the clever people started messing with it to make it ‘better’. It was tidal, just like the little lake just south of the main lake and the Minnamurra River. These waterways flowed throughout the drought and are still tidal but, then again, they weren’t messed with.

Elsewhere along the coast a strange thing happened this year: There were no poddy mullet in most of the creeks until early Autumn, when we had some rain and some very small mullet started to show up. You would normally see fish of this size in the creeks around November. They should be much larger at this time of the year to allow them to get through Winter. Only time will tell if these small fish last to get on with life next season, as they are the life blood of most estuaries.

One event this year could have grave repercussions – the creation of the fishing exclusion zones to protect the grey nurse shark. These areas were created with little or no scientific data on the creature they are trying to protect and with no regard for any anecdotal evidence. For example, I know of only two captures of grey nurse sharks by line anglers and one was by a bloke who spent months to see if he could actually catch one, and he had to travel to the Far South Coast to do and then he let it go. And that was 20 years ago.

I had the disappointment of towing my boat 600 kilometres to South West Rocks, where I have fished Fish rock for the past 23 years, only to find I could not go anywhere near the place with anything except lures. What made matters worse was the fact that on some days there were up to 10 boatloads of divers, up to 40 at a time, crawling all over and through the grey nurse sleeping caves.

If that is not detrimental to the normal routine of the sharks and not causing stress, there is something wrong with way we select the criteria for the complete well-being of endangered species. If you are fair dinkum, everyone should be excluded to let the fish have an unspoilt run at re-establishing themselves. But, then again, if the numbers don’t improve there is just cause for letting the anglers back in and giving the divers the flick.

There are several places in the Wollongong area where there are small populations of grey nurse and always have been. They are heavily fished and, as yet, undiscovered by the eco tourism divers interested only in a quick dollar. I have been reliably informed that the nurse numbers are as they were 15 years ago. Where are they? Not on your life, we don’t want these turned into sanctuary areas. These are great fishing spots and so far no one has caught a nurse in living memory, and the places are diver-free.

Promising tides

Enough dome and gloom. We have some big tides in the middle of this month right on dark and into the evening. Even though there have not been that many mulloway about, if they are around, these are the nights you stand a good chance of a big fish. There are some good gutters on Bombo Beach and Windang and Coniston are always good for a throw, while the northern beaches are regular producers of big fish at this time of the year.

Fresh bait is best and you may need a bit, as there are a few bream in the surf to pick your baits to bits. Just remember, if you are copping a hiding from the bream stick at it with the big baits because Murphy’s Law dictates that the moment you scale down your tackle for the bream, the big jewie will hit.

Salmon and the odd tailor are taking pilchards on the southern beaches but, other than that, it is a bit quiet on the beach scene.

On the rocks it is much the same with a few salmon off the deeper ledges and the odd small king taking live yellowtail. Around the washes there are some nice bream and drummer, with a bread berley and royal red prawn baits give good results. A few trevally could be encountered, particularly around Bass point.

Offshore, there are bream in the washes around the islands, along with salmon and trevally. Again, berley will bring the best results. Many of the protected bays and inlets are worth a look for bream this month – just anchor in the shallows early in the morning and berley. If they are about you should see them feeding in the berley in no time. Fish light for best results – 4kg line is usually too heavy.

Most of the reefs have plenty of leatherjackets starting to show up, ready for the cuttlefish at the end of the month. With the cuttlefish will come the snapper, the target of most anglers over the coming weeks, particularly over the northern reefs.

The bottom-bouncers are having a lean time, with the flathead thinning out and only a few mowies, pigfish, leatherjackets and the odd small snapper keeping things alive. Out farther, around the shelf, there have been reports of a few small yellowfin tuna taking small skirted lures, and a few hook-ups on striped marlin.

Down in the lake, things are pretty dismal as the flathead that were about during the warmer months have dried up. You could chase some bream on lures in the feeder streams if you have a very small boat or canoe. At the time of writing there was not much water in parts of the creeks.

Minnamurra has a few bream and the odd trevally in the deeper parts and some blackfish along the weed beds but you will have to work hard for them.

It’s not the best of months to wet a line but it can only get better and, with a bit of thought, you can still pick up a feed or even a big jewie, which would brighten up even the dreariest winter day.


Trannie No.1.

There are a few bream about this month as Steve found out fishing in the shallows around Bellambi with light gear.

Trannie No.2.

Get up early and throw baits at the cuttlefish and this is what you get. That’s the way to go in the latter part of this month.

Trannie No.3.

Winter isn’t that bad that you have to let the weeds grow over your tackle. A little bit of TLC will be needed before this gear goes back into service!

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