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Make the most of the calm breaks
  |  First Published: August 2004



AUGUST is a bugger of a month, with its cold, howling westerlies creating a cauldron of whitewater and massive swells making it difficult to get near the ocean let alone get a feed of fish.

There are a few benefits from the westerlies, though. You often get a day or so of calm before the groundswell kicks in so you have to make the best of what you get. If you are fishing from the rocks, you must be even more diligent because large waves can come at any time.

Trevally are pretty much the saviour offshore because they school over the inshore reefs and around the islands and along deeper shore-based rock ledges.

Berley is the key to scoring a good catch of ‘blurters’. Using the right berley in the right spot, you can attract them literally by the hundreds to just under your boat.

Then it is just a matter of casting a lightly-weighted pillie fillet or prawn on a No 4 hook into the berley.

This is probably one of the factors that have contributed to the downsizing of the trevally population over the past decade. Although they are still around in good numbers compared with other species, they are nowhere near the masses you would see in the 1980s and they are much smaller on average.

These days a 1kg fish is quality with 600g the norm. Not so long ago 1.5kg fish were the rule rather than the exception. They grow slowly so their stocks can be knocked about by over-exploitation.

During the ’80s and ’90s I tagged hundreds of trevally for the State Fisheries research program and had quite a lot of returns. Most of the fish were recaptured locally within 12 months of release and had grown only slightly, if at all.

One fish was out for over five years and was captured in, of all places, the upper reaches of the Shoalhaven River. In that time it had added only about 500g of weight to be around 1.4kg, so they grow very slowly.

Some of the better places to chase trevally are around the islands, usually within 100 metres of the rocks, the shallow reefs around Bellambi Point and down around the shallow reefs at Bass Point.

Off the rocks, again the southern side of Bass Point is a good producer, as are the deeper ledges around Bombo and Kiama.

Berley usually consists of a couple of loaves of bread with a few chopped slimy mackerel thrown in, and a few drops of tuna oil. Use it in small amounts often and you should have any trevally in the area right behind the boat in half an hour. Bream and snapper will also sneak in for a feed so don’t be too surprised if you hook a few.

REDS ON THE REEFS

Snapper are still around, particularly over the northern reefs where the cuttlefish are popping to the surface, and they should stay for at least another few weeks before tapering off.

There have been some good catches of the seasonal 2kg to 5kg fish with a few bigger ones thrown in. As always, anchoring over one of the northern reefs and using berley early in the morning or late in the afternoon has been very productive.

Those chasing reds under the cuttlefish don’t get nearly as many fish but the satisfaction gained from spotting and nailing a surface red more than makes up for the quantity.

Don’t forget, too, that the cuttlies will gradually disappear over the next few weeks so grab a few and freeze down the good bits for later on as cuttlefish is great bait year round. Let’s face it the massive decline in albatross numbers over the past few years means many of the cuttlefish are just rotting on the surface before the flesh falls off the bone and sinks.

Elsewhere there are plenty of salmon right along the coast and they are starting to gather in schools on the surface to feed on the tiny glass eels that gather in coming months.

Just watch for the seagulls packed on the surface looking for a cheap feed. Also with the salmon are a few bonito and even some early (or late, depends how you look at it) yellowtail kings.

Some are feeding on the baitfish while other larger specimens are feeding on the salmon so it often pays to throw a live bait among the throng to see what happens. It’s always a pleasant surprise when a big king grabs it.

The tiny baitfish also attract striped tuna so keep your eyes open for the terns feeding on the fleeing bait – they often accompany the tuna. A session casting small lures at stripeys is a real eye-opener as these pocket dynamos almost break the sound barrier on their scorching runs on light tackle.

Still offshore, the bottom-bashers are doing OK this month with plenty of small to medium snapper coming in, particularly from the Wollongong Reef area.

Leatherjackets, dare I mention the word, are still thick almost everywhere. For some reason they have been in plagues this year, biting off lines, hooks and sinkers. They have been likened to green toads they have been so ferocious.

Flathead are just starting to make a move and if you work at it or are lucky enough to land on a patch, you can get a good feed – if you can keep away from the jackets.

Mowies, pigfish, sweep, groper, parrot fish, tailor, trevally and even the odd early samson fish have been about. It is amazing how the cuttlefish run stirs all manner of fish into feeding mode.

On the continental shelf there has been a bit of action but not many venture out at this time of the year. Blue and mako sharks have started to show, some in larger sizes, with striped tuna and a few albacore and yellowfin. But you have to be there on the right day.

There have also been reports of a few southern bluefin getting about so a run to the Kiama Canyons could be worthwhile. If you miss the tuna you can always drop to the bottom for gemfish, blue-eye trevalla or hapuku cod. Deep-water bottom-bouncing seems to be getting more popular and when you go that far, you might as well catch something. And most deep-water fish are very tasty.

ROCKS FISH WELL

Back on the rocks, drummer are the main target and they are in good numbers around most of the popular ledges. The bream seem to have tapered off and the resident blackfish are still in the harbours, particularly after a big sea.

On the deeper ledges, try for groper on the calmer days with red crabs, or toss lures around the edges of the washes for salmon and tailor. Berley should attract those trevally, too.

On the beaches, it is quiet time. A few salmon, bream and tailor can be picked up late in the evening and there is the odd jewie getting about, although they have been small. This is strange for this time of the year but the faithful are out there and trying.

It is much the same in the estuaries with bream up in the feeder streams of the lake and even they are touchy when the westerlies blow. A few blackfish in the channels of Lake Illawarra and the Minnamurra River are also on the cards.

1

It’s cold but if you get out there early the first bait in the water under a cuttlefish often scores a winner.

2

If you miss out on the tuna, the long haul to the continental shelf can still be worth it when you pick up great bottom-dwellers like this hefty 28kg hapuku.

3

Salmon are still a staple catch at this time of year, as Matt ‘Nitro’ Fraser found out.

Trannie No.22.

Silver trevally like this are the main target this month.

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