In my June 2004 column I was pleased to announce the placement of the new FAD off Wollongong and it has been a roaring success.
The FADs installed by DPI Fisheries along the coast have been so successful that you virtually have to que up to get a bait in the water anywhere near them. Mahi mahi, as expected, were the main attraction but there were many hook-ups on marlin as well.
I have fished three of these attractors, at Wollongong, Shoalhaven and South West Rocks, over the past 12 months and the fish-attracting ability of these devices is outstanding.
We have hooked mahi mahi and marlin at each one, with the South West Rocks FAD producing some amazing action on large mahi mahi, black marlin and a monster blue marlin that towed a small tinnie almost to the continental shelf. And with no end in sight, the angler with some difficulty upped the pressure and busted off the big blue while he still had enough fuel to get home.
Seeing they have been such a great success, would it be too much to ask to have a bit more of our licence money spent on placing a few more in the heavily-fished waters off the coast? After all, it’s our money and it has actually been spent on something we can see working.
That way, the pressure on each FAD would be lowered and anglers would be able to have a better chance of catching some fish. Realistically, they are so popular that it is not uncommon to have 20 boats at a time jostling for position and under this weight of numbers it doesn’t take long before the fish go off the bite, so only the early few actually get fish.
The FADs are a little ray of sunshine in a gloomy fishing environment around Wollongong where the once sensational local yellowfin tuna fishery is now non-existent, the kingfish population is a poor remnant of a decade ago, snapper are now seasonal, while most other popular species are getting to the point where you could never reach a bag limit with one exception – flathead.
Even flatties are targeted in certain areas by trawlers at different times of the year and decimated in those areas.
So these FADs and the mahi mahi they produce help keep the marine dealerships, tackle shops and a host of other businesses healthy, with anglers spending dollars to get out and fish. A couple more FADs around the place would be licence money well spent.
It will be interesting to see if they attract any stray yellowfin tuna that may swim past, albacore or even a few sharks. The next few months will tell.
This month one thing is for certain: It will be cold and windy. But there is a bright side – it will be better than next month!
On the beaches it is a lean time of year but generally when you get fish they are quality. There are some good bream on most beaches with the early morning high tides your best shot.
Salmon are still common mornings and evenings and a few tailor are mixing it with the salmon during the evenings. Coniston, Windang and Fairy Meadow are all worth a look.
The large evening tides this month give a top chance of picking up a big jewie but you will have to be dedicated or very lucky. They are not about in great numbers but they make up for that in size.
No one remembers the bloke who catches bream, but everyone remembers the person who caught the monster jewie and if you have an ego, and few fishos don’t, this is the month for big jewies on the local beaches.
Off the rocks there are a few salmon, tailor and the odd bonito on the deeper ledges of Bass Point, Kiama and Honeycomb early in the mornings, while most of the washes are holding bream and drummer. Use berley and if there are any trevally about they will soon find it.
If you are looking at fishing the estuaries, forget it. There are a few bream in the feeder streams of Lake Illawarra and around the rocky shores of the islands but you will work hard for some pretty ordinary results.
Offshore this month it will be tough with bumpy seas and cold spray. If you stay in close there are plenty of bream in the sheltered bays and headlands but you have to get in shallow water and berley hard early in the mornings for good results. Royal red prawns are good at this time of the year and they will pick up just about any fish in the vicinity.
The good news is the snapper should pick up at the end of the month as the cuttlefish gather over the inshore reefs. The water is still slightly warmer than it has been at this time for some seasons so when it drops the snapper should be on the job. They will be better next month, so there’s something to look forward to.
Drop the pick over your desired reef and hit the berley as the reds are not on the cuttlies yet, so you will need to bring them to you rather than chase them.
If the weather calms and the sea is smooth there is always the option of chasing a groper. Many of the Summer flathead fishos turn to the groper during Winter and do quite well. Remember, the limit is two per angler, which is one too many because a single decent groper goes a long way.
The toughest part of groper fishing is acquiring the crabs for bait and no crabs means no groper.
Bottom-bashers will face lean times for the next few months. There are still a few flathead about with the water not yet down to its usual Winter levels but they could shut down any time. Small snapper have been a day-to-day proposition where you do well if you hit a patch of fish, but the odd larger fish is on the cards as they gather for next month’s cuttlefish feast.
Morwong have been scarce and even the sweep are starting to thin out but the leatherjackets are on the increase so small hooks and squid baits could save the day, but remember the small hooks often let go when a snapper grabs the bait – so it is a trade-off.
The sportfishos do it tough this time of the year with only a few salmon and the odd bonito and kingfish to stretch the arms, while further offshore there is the chance of albacore and the odd yellowfin if they show up.
Keep your ears open to the fishing grapevine for any info on the offshore scene and try the FADs if the weather permits.Reads: 859