It’s still Winter but a few warmer days are starting to have an effect on the fishing. Put it down to global warming or whatever but the last month of Winter over the past few years has had more than its share of mid- to high-20° days.
They don’t last long as we get a quick reminder that Spring is still a month away as the warmth is wiped out by the strong south-westerlies that blast down from the Snowy Mountains, but the warm days do heat the upper layers of the ocean and the shallows in the estuaries, starting new life and food for the larger predators.
These large predators take the form of big mamma flathead on the shallow tidal flats. It’s probably not the best time to target them as undue stress could prevent spawning from taking place but if you do hook a big flattie, a quick photo and speedy release may not be too compromising.
Over the coming weeks as the water warms, these new tiny fish will become the mainstay of flathead catches a season or two down the track.
Bream are the main target in the lake and the streams this month with most of the good fish around the rocky areas of the islands and lake foreshores or well up the feeder streams like Macquarie Rivulet and Mullet Creek.
Peeled prawns fished on light lines with no lead at all around the deeper snags score well, as they do around the rocky foreshores. In the lake proper, incorporate a little berley like bread and pilchard oil on a calm evening and you will do well.
Down around the entrance, if it is open, blackfish will be around the edges of the weed beds but with green weed generally scarce at this time of the year, squirt worms are the bait of choice.
I’m not sure how the worm population withstood the big dry-up of 18 months ago but alternatives of commercially available tube worms or even beach worms will do the trick. Small bream can be a problem using these baits but a quick release will see them off safely with the next bait a chance of a big luderick.
Along the rocks it is still a bit scratchy with drummer the mainstay, particularly after rough weather.
Most of the exposed headlands hold drummer in the whitewater around the bommies and ledges but you must, as always, keep an eye on the water for larger than normal waves. I’m yet to see a so-called freak wave when fishing but I have seen plenty of set waves clean up anglers over the years, often due to inexperience, poor timing, poor positioning and the biggest threat, over-confidence.
Chasing drummer can put you into some rough country but remember that no fish is worth a life-threatening swim and there will be other days if you go home or move to a sheltered spot, rather than take on the ocean.
The deeper ledges have a few salmon in the mornings taking pilchards on ganged hooks, with trevally and bream taking pilchard pieces if you add them to a bread berley. The calm days during a westerly are the time to target them, with the pick of the rock spots this month being Windang Island.
Windang has probably the best calm and semi rough-water attractions over the coming month with salmon, tailor, bream, trevally, drummer, groper and even snapper on the right day.
Don’t forget the blackfish in the bays and harbours when the sea gets too rough to fish anywhere else safely.
Offshore, the beginning of the month should see the snapper run in full swing before tailing off towards the end of August. Cuttlefish is the bait of choice and most inshore reefs should have fish, it is just a matter of getting out there and putting in some time and berley and quality reds will come your way.
Leatherjackets are the next-best thing as they seem to be in droves over most of the same reefs and a lot of the sand if some of the reports are correct. Smaller long-shanked hooks baited with cuttlefish will bring them undone and it is common to get your limit of 20 in a very short time over most reefs.
Trevally are also starting to manifest themselves in the berley trails over the shallow reefs around the islands. Again, a good berley trail will see them right under the boat in no time if there is a school in your area. Small baits of prawn or pilchard fished light will get you as many as you need.
Schools of salmon are starting to move along the coast chasing the tiny baitfish that arrive this time each year. The flocks of hovering seagulls will indicate these schools but stealth and tiny lures are required to catch these finicky feeders.
Towards the end of the month small kingfish will start to mix it with the sambos but they are rarely of legal size. They can be a nuisance, wasting a lot of time as they give you a tough fight on light tackle before you let them go.
Larger kings will start to gather over the slightly deeper reefs like Bandit, Wollongong and The Humps off Shellharbour towards the end of the month so dropping a weighted live bait to just above the bottom can be productive.
For the bottom-bouncers it is again not a great month but things will improve from here on with the beloved flathead just starting to wake up. But I wouldn’t get too excited yet.
Small reds and the odd larger fish are the best bet over the inshore reefs but you have to run the gauntlet of the leatherjackets, sweep and slimy mackerel that seem to be prolific at the moment.
Then there is the appearance of the dreaded pick-handle barracouta that bite off every hook and sinker that comes their way, so it can become frustrating on some days just trying to keep a bait in the water long enough for a decent fish to find it.
Further offshore, the Kiama Canyons have been producing plenty of gemfish with blue-eye trevalla a bonus on the bottom, while a few albacore and the odd yellowfin have been reported on top.
Mako and blue sharks in various sizes have been knocking off a few fish and will become more numerous over the coming weeks.
On the beaches it has been a bit quiet for most species apart from salmon. They have been on most beaches with good gutters, particularly Windang, mixed with a few tailor and the odd stray bream.
The teaser is the appearance of a few jewfish along the northern beaches with the bait scoring the best results – you guessed it – cuttlefish. The floating dead cuttlefish often get into the surf zone if there is any easterly wind. There are often dozens of cuttlefish bones washed onto the beach and regularly whole cuttlies so it stands to reason the mulloway will take full advantage of the easy pickings.
Warm clothes and a good pair of waders will see off the evening chill when fishing for jewies this month.
Trannie No. 1
It’s time to put a few live baits down deep for kings like this 7 kilo fish in late August.
Trannie No. 14
Just like last month it is still snapper time in the Illawarra with average fish like this quite common.
Trannie No. 24
Not a whopper but satisfying when you score a couple of kilos of red on a white soft plastic.Reads: 525