Bread and butter off the rocks
  |  First Published: August 2003

If you fish the rocks during the cold temperatures of August you are obviously a very keen angler and you earn every fish you catch, so let’s have a look at what is about.

As mentioned last month, drummer are one of the bread-and-butter fish this time of year and they are still being caught off most of the local rock platforms. Solid fish to 3kg have been caught, with most fish averaging around a kilo.

The bonus is that trevally are starting to build in numbers, so a bread and pilchard oil berley thrown in around the deeper ledges, like the southern side of Bass Point, Bombo or Kiama, will often attract trevally willing to bite on unweighted pilchard pieces or pieces fished under a bobby cork. The Port Kembla southern breakwall could be worth a look, too.

Bream are pretty scarce at the moment but a few have been showing up around the rocks early in the mornings and late arvos in some of the more sheltered bays. The same times have been producing a few salmon and tailor around the washes off some of the deeper ledges, particularly around Honeycomb and up at Coalcliff.

On a sad note it looks like one of the Angel Rings standing guard over a local rock spot may have to be removed by the local sportfishing club. After continuing vandalism and theft, the ring under the lighthouse at Wollongong will probably be decommissioned and removed as the costs of replacing rings and making repairs becomes just too costly.

What cost do you put on a life? The sad fact is that it costs money to replace rings and posts and at $200-plus a shot, the funds dry up when you lose one a week. Then there is the cost of maintaining all the others in the area, so if you see anyone tampering with these life-saving devices, call the police unless you can think of another way of persuading these vandals that it is not in their best interest to damage the rings. After all, the next life it saves could be yours.

Minnamurra, Lake Illawarra and the feeder streams should start to come out of their Winter hibernation over the next few weeks. Bream are still available in the lake feeder streams of Macquarie Rivulet and Mullet Creek but they are more a bait than a lure option. Although they do still take lures, they are much harder to entice than they were back in May. Stick to flicking unweighted peeled prawns among the snags if you want better results.

Big momma flathead can be encountered in the local streams at the moment and although they are good-sized fish that bolster an angler’s ego, at this time of the year they are breeding so should be gently released so they can get on with producing the next generation. By all means grab a snapshot – it lasts longer in the brag book and is proof you are not just telling another fishy tale.

The beaches are all hit-and-miss this month as the water has been a bit cold and this tends to really shut down the beach fishing, but a week is a long time in fishing and things can change dramatically particularly if the temp lifts only a degree or two. How’s that for being non-committal? Sounds a bit like a politician.

There are some salmon about on the southern beaches right on dawn, with Windang and Warilla the best bets, while tailor are on the northern beaches just on dark. Fairy Meadow and Corrimal have some nice tailor and should fish well on the second weekend of this month, as we have big high tides right on dark.

These tides should be the first of the season when the mulloway anglers start to get serious and, as I said earlier, if the water temperature lifts just a little we could well see the first solid jewies of the season start to move.


On the offshore scene it is a bit of a mixed bag with the seasons starting to turn and many species, both desirable and annoying, all getting an early start into Spring.

On the annoying side there are hordes of large slimy mackerel over almost every reef and berleying means they arrive in their thousands, devouring every bait you put in the water. They make great bait themselves for just about everything but when there are this many mackerel about, nothing else gets a look in. They have multiplied in numbers over the past decade to a point where even the old-timers can’t remember seeing so many.

Their numbers seemed to increase in the inshore waters as the kingfish stocks declined and hit rock bottom – something to ponder there about the checks and balances of nature being tampered with by humans.

Another critter not all that welcome is the barracouta, with its razor teeth chopping off hooks and sinkers and slicing off lures without so much as a bump on the line. They are particularly aggressive over the flathead spots, chopping off sinkers as the lines are retrieved.

Still on the nuisances, small mako sharks have turned up over the inshore reefs, putting the snapper off the bite whenever they decide to show up. At least they keep the slimy mackerel at a distance for a while and they don’t taste all that bad on the barbecue.

Then we have the seals, and if they don’t scare everything away they will steal the fish off your lines and eat them right in front of you. Their cute appeal disappears when they knock off a nice snapper.

Whales are another creature that will be present in ever-increasing numbers over the coming months so keep an eye out while travelling because they don’t get out of the way and hitting a whale can be damaging to all involved, including the poor old whale.

Isn’t nature wonderful, but it can be a bloody nuisance when you are trying to fish!

On the flipside, there are still a few nice snapper about looking for cuttlefish or a tasty berley trail, particularly over the shallow northern reefs, and there are plenty of pan-sized reds to keep you occupied between the larger fish.

If there aren’t any mackerel or snapper in your berley, chances are you will attract a few trevally for a feed. Most of the shallow reefs have a few blurters hanging about, with the islands around Port Kembla starting to produce a few fish. The northern side of Pig Island and the eastern side of Gap are worth a look.

While you are at the islands, keep an eye out for the flocks of seagulls hovering over the water, which signal that there is a school of salmon below in feeding mode. Don’t bother trolling through them, as you will put them off the bite. Pull up and cast small lures into the school and if you don’t get a hook-up in half a dozen casts, you don’t have what they want so go and chase something else.

Seagulls hovering over feeding fish denote salmon but at this time of the year a small flock of terns eagerly pursuing an unseen school of fish generally means tuna and, more often than not, they will be striped tuna. The odd school of big mackerel tuna to 8kg can also show up. Some of the stripeys are XOS, up to 10kg, and they really get the cobwebs out of your tackle after a quiet Winter. They can pursue the baitfish right into the back of the surf, so be prepared for them to pop up anywhere.

For the bottom-bouncers things are a bit quiet but there are a few mowies starting to show along with some nice black-spot pigfish, but the most prolific fish over the reefs at moment are the leatherjackets. Scale down hooks to No.4 long-shanks and use squid or cuttlefish for bait and you can get any number of them over some reefs and a good feed over the others.

Some flathead have come on the bite but they seem to be a day-to-day affair and not in great numbers, but the quality has been good. To make amends there are plenty of small snapper around the place so a decent bag is on the cards, particularly north of Bellambi and out around Wollongong Reef.

For the game fishos, August is a bit tentative. The early makos and blue sharks arrive on the shelf along with striped tuna and a few yellowfin and albacore if you are lucky, while the Kiama Canyon area and just inside the canyons can even turn up the odd southern bluefin tuna by trolling small lures.

Weather warning

The trouble is you have to contend with the weather and August in the Illawarra means wind, and if you are more than a few kilometres offshore in a small boat, or you’re inexperienced, then you are in trouble. It is surprising how quickly a five- or six-metre boat shrinks and you feel a whole lot less secure when confronted by 40- to 50-knot winds and chop two metres high and only two metres apart.

Back in June, three anglers lost their lives off Kiama in just such sea conditions when the waves from a westerly overwhelmed their craft. They even had the good sense to put on life jackets but hypothermia doesn’t take long to set in once you are in the water so be warned: Watch the weather and if in doubt, stay at home.

Report Pics


Drummer are a firm favourite in late winter and even smaller specimens like this put up a fight.


There are still plenty of small to medium snapper about and when you get a good school in the berley double headers are not uncommon.


Small mako sharks can be pests at this time of the year and they come in very close to the coast. This little fella was only 100 metres or so off the islands.

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