THIS IS kick-start time for the weather and the fishing – from here on over the coming months they just keep getting better.
The first of the gentle north-easters will start to blow down the coast, mixed with the inevitable howling westerlies that flatten everything in their path, so the weather will be a bit of a lottery, as will the fishing, particularly pelagics.
Over the next few weeks you can cast a lure into the schools of fish tearing the ocean apart chasing the tiny baitfish and you take pot luck as to what species will grab it.
Salmon, tailor, bonito, barracouta, trevally, kingfish, striped tuna and some XOS slimy mackerel are on the cards. All these are great fun on light tackle and the barracouta can really put on a show when you get a school that is really excited.
These guys will jump half a metre out of the water to grab a lure dangling from the rod tip and will actually jump into the boat when they really get worked up. They are not the most popular sport fish in the world but it is fabulous entertainment when you find a school in this mood.
As for the rest of the surface speedsters, keep the tackle light –4kg will handle just about everything you hook and still allow long casts with the small lures needed for consistent results.
Just keep your eyes open for the flocks of seagulls, terns and mutton-birds hovering over the schools and you are in business.
Farther offshore there are some yellowfin tuna and the odd albacore out wide on the shelf but as yet there has been no word as to whether any southern bluefin have showed this Spring. There were some large yellowfin about in late July and early August but there seem to be only a few school fish to 30kg about at the moment – but that can change over night. Just keep an eye on the weather if you are heading wide.
Sharks, particularly big makos and blues, should be prevalent and numerous so if you ever wanted to take on a solid shark, the next month or so is the time to do it.
If you want to chase the smaller makos, stay in close over the shallower reefs. There have been quite a few of these aggressive little bities swimming up berley trails recently.
They can be a nuisance, pinching the odd fish and having a chew on the motor, but they are relatively harmless and go well on light tackle.
The major fish thieves at this time of the year are the seals and if one shows up next to your boat, it is time to move – it will knock off every fish for the rest of the day. Seals are great for the eco-tourist trade but, once you have seen one smelly seal, you have seen them all.
Seals love to take snapper off your line and there are still a few about over the inshore reefs, but they are now moving out to deeper water so start working the reefs in 30 to 40 metres. Good fish to 5kg are on the cards and there are still good patches of smaller fish to a kilo over many reefs.
Bandit, Wollongong, wide of the islands, One Tree and the South East Grounds are all worth a try. These spots are also home to yellowtail kings, too. The best method is to drop a live yellowtail, pike or mackerel to the bottom, then wind up a few metres of line so the bait is suspended a few metres off the bottom.
Trevally are still prevalent in the berley trails over most of the shallow reefs and bommies and should remain so over the next few months.
For the bottom-bouncers, things are starting to look a whole lot better as the flathead increase in numbers over all the recognised sand patches. The small baitfish seem to stimulate these guys into action as much as the surface species.
Mowies have started to appear more regularly in catches and the small snapper have been padding out the boxes as well. The leatherjackets that have been so numerous and ferocious over the past six months are still about and there are some whoppers among them.
Be prepared to lose a few rigs in some places because between the jackets and the couta, you won’t stand a chance. Pigfish, sweep, trevally, parrotfish and a few groper are also being taken.
The rockhoppers are going alright with a few bream in the washes along with trevally if you berley. Drummer are in just about every bit of whitewater and wash with abalone gut, if you can get it, and royal red prawns the top baits.
On the deeper ledges, the surface species are coming in close to give the lure-tossers action, while the live-baiters can expect a few kings and even the odd large mackerel tuna very early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Top spots are around Kiama, the Southern side of Bass Point and Hill 60 at Port Kembla.
If you are using live yellowtail the salmon will knock off most of your baits.
The beaches are getting better with some nice tailor on most beaches with good gutters. Salmon and bream are about but while the bream are few in number they are large, with many fish better than a kilo.
Jewies didn’t really leave during the Winter with plenty of schoolies staying on the beaches. They were patchy but common enough to keep most anglers keen. Bigger fish over 15kg should appear over the coming weeks. The weather will be warmer but the starting times later as the days get longer.
Lake Illawarra will start to fire towards the end of the month as the flathead begin to hunt, particularly if we have an early run of prawns on the dark.
Some decent whiting are in the channel on the beach side of the bridge but don’t expect a bagful. There are still bream in the creeks and under the bridge at night and some nice blackfish along the weed beds.
The Minnamurra River has a few bream around the bridges at night with some good sized flathead starting to show in the deeper holes.
Now I have to say my two bob’s worth on this grey nurse shark debacle. These sharks inhabit some of the better fishing spots in NSW and, due to declining numbers, we anglers face heavy restrictions on what we can do in these areas – to the point that we are virtually prohibited from wetting a line. This was to see if the sharks would return.
Divers, particularly the so-called eco-tourism professional operators, have no such restrictions, so with anglers excluded and the divers still in the sharks’ faces, guess what? the sharks are still not coming back, so it looks like it may not be the anglers’ fault after all.
Last October I made some observations in this column why the sharks are so scarce and have been for some decades. Celebrity divers made an absolute fortune for themselves making movies about massacring these ‘killer sharks’ with powerheads. And the eager viewing public loved it.
These people are the ones responsible for the decline in shark numbers, not the poor old amateur angler. I speculated last October whether these super-hero divers would have the audacity to make a big-bucks TV documentary on the struggle of the now endangered grey nurse shark.
Well bugger me, just the other Saturday afternoon there it was, a documentary with one of those same diving legends filming the remnants of the grey nurse! They had a special close up of one that had a hook in the corner of its mouth and went on about the sorry state of their numbers. But I didn’t see one frame of a nurse in its death shiver as it spiralled to the bottom of the gutter to pile up on its dead relations with blood pouring from the gaping wound in its head made by a 12-gauge cartridge.
I wonder if any of the proceeds from this documentary went to research into the nurse population its makers had done so much to deplete.
Recently it has become fashionable – and very profitable – to allow tourists to dive with these not-so man-eaters.
So now the fishermen, amateur or pro, are the bad guys. If the powers that be are fair dinkum they will exclude everyone from these areas and let the sharks be, not the half-baked measures they have now. But there’s more: They want to make the exclusion zones for anglers up to 1.5km.
How will that affect your local area? And the divers will still be there in their hundreds, flashing cameras and charging through the gutters where the sharks are trying to sleep. I wonder if the scientists know that it is difficult to hunt at night when you haven’t been allowed to sleep during the day – nurses do most of their hunting at night.
Could that be why there are so few sharks in these ‘popular’ spots? There are other gutters in deeper water where they can relax and would it be that outrageous to think that the sharks just might go there to get away from the divers?
There is plenty more to say, but not here. Have a think and write a letter because our fishing future is in the balance and maybe some day commonsense might prevail. But then, ‘government bureaucrats’ and ‘commonsense’ are rarely used in the same sentence.
Striped tuna are great fun on light tackle, great bait and they are just off the coast right now.
There are a few yellowtail kings lurking over the reefs this month. If you sink a live bait down near the bottom, you are in with a chance.
The lake should start to produce a few flathead towards the end of the month. This one is about average.Reads: 552