Make the most of your chances
  |  First Published: July 2004

THE WESTERLY wind is howling outside as I write and the sea, although millpond-calm only a few hours ago, is now a white frothing crush of turbulent waves with sheets of spray lifting high into the air before falling back onto the surface hundreds of metres away.

When the sea settles back over the next 24 hours the swell will make fishing in all but the most sheltered of places impossible. But when the swell dies back, the fishing will be great for a few days before the calm again sets in.

These few days are when you make the most of your chances because fishing at this time of the year is tough and by now everyone knows that the big snapper bite best the few days after a big blow.

The cuttlefish have been around for a few weeks but are yet to start popping to the surface. Over the next few weeks it will happen and if you are not out there when it does, you will miss out until next year.

For the best results put down the pick and berley over just about any of the northern reefs. The snapper are often there in schools but they are yet to make their presence felt by moving to the surface and feeding on the floating dead cuttlefish.

When this happens it’s time to do a bit of sight-fishing for the reds, casting to fish feeding on the surface. Let’s not get too carried away, either; they are not all monsters. Fish smaller than a kilo will venture to the top for a feed and they hit a bait as hard an old grandaddy snapper.

For a little variation, try flicking some white soft plastics and stickbaits at the cuttlefish carcass and see what you can flush out. You will be amazed at the variety of species that you encounter.

Reds are not the only thing about, but they are the most popular. Silver trevally are starting to show up in the berley trails and should increase in numbers in coming months.

Leatherjackets can be taken by the dozen over most reefs along the Illawarra coast. You need to use small, long-shanked hooks and squid or cuttlefish for bait but it can be worth it. Some of them have been monsters up to 2kg – almost big enough to take a finger off with their bolt-cutter teeth.

For the rest of the outside scene it is pretty quiet with only the odd flathead about, probably due to the colder water. A few mowies have been coming in along with some sweep.

Nice tailor have been around for a few months in close to the headlands and along the backs of the beaches. Try trolling some Christmas trees or minnow lures along the backs of the breakers. Windang, Coniston and Coalcliff are always good producers.

For the game fishos there has been a good early run of yellowfin off the shelf with fish to 60kg coming in from Shellharbour and Kiama. But they seem to have tapered off and of late all there has been is the odd blue and mako shark.

That is not to say that the ’fin will not make another run but you have to be out there to take advantage and the weather can be unpredictable and is rarely good enough to make the trip out wide.

If the tuna are not there it can be worthwhile dropping a bit of heavy tackle to the bottom, particularly around the Kiama Canyons, for blue-eye trevalla to 20kg, gemfish and even the odd frost fish or hapuku cod.

It’s not a bad way to bring big mako sharks to the top as they often follow the hooked fish to the surface and regularly grab a free feed.


The rocks have seen some quality drummer on the move but those waves can be non-existent one day and huge the next. Be careful because a building sea is unpredictable and will catch you out if you are not vigilant every moment you are on the rocks.

There are tailor and salmon on most headlands and silver trevally off the deeper spots. Try using berley and solid snapper are a chance off any of the northern rock spots.

The best time on the beaches is early evening and the westerly winds make for very cold fingers. I might be getting soft but waders are a must if you fish the beach at the moment.

There have been reasonable salmon and tailor from all the open beaches with good gutters but the bright spot is there are still a few small jewies about. They are not whoppers, between 2kg and 10kg. They should have disappeared weeks ago, to be replaced by the larger fish which are yet to front up. They could show any time, it is just a matter of putting in a few hours at prime time and see what happens.

Lake Illawarra and the Minnamurra are pretty much no-go zones unless you are chasing a few bream in the feeder streams or along the rocky shorelines and islands. It can be a lot of hours for little result.


The annual Wollongong Sportfishing Club Bream Classic was held on May 23 on Lake Illawarra in absolutely perfect condition with 74 anglers competing. Although there were heaps of fish caught a week earlier, they just did not front on the day.

Word was that the pros had netted all the feeder streams only days earlier (which they are entitled to do), which made for some very poor fishing.

Only 30 bream were brought to the weigh station, all caught on lures and none on fly. The largest fish of 35cm was caught by Shane Ashton and the largest aggregate length of five bream for 1515cm was by Greg Ashton.

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