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The return of the king?
  |  First Published: September 2005




Kingfish seem to have increased over the past few seasons so it would not be too outrageous to make the assumption that they could get back to their old habits.

That means during the Spring the bigger fish could gather over certain reefs off the Illawarra coast, particularly those that hold large concentrations of slimy mackerel. Places like the Church Grounds and Humps off Shellharbour were legendary for heaps of monster kings.

One Tree off Windang and the deeper sides off Gap and Pig islands, Wollongong Reef and of course Bandit and The Hump off Stanwell Park all once produced solid kings during Spring.

Live bait is a must but jigging did score a few fish so it would be well and truly worth a stickybeak at any of these locations over coming weeks. Large kings are hard to find and even tougher to land and a big fish is well worth spending a little time hunting.

If you don’t score big kings, chances are there will be smaller ones in close with salmon, bonito, tuna, trevally and tailor chasing the small baitfish. They show up every year about the same time, gorging themselves on the tiny glass eels that seem to be everywhere.

This sort of action is tailor-made for the legion of lure-casters but not great for the trollers. I have lost count of how many times different people have come over for a chat at the ramp, saying that every time they looked we were hooked up or letting another fish go while they couldn’t get a strike.

When you explain that they were trolling large lures straight through the middle of a school of fish feeding on tiny bait, and that they were scaring the fish down and giving them little chance of seeing their oversized offering attached to butcher-cord lines, they seem puzzled.

Then you explain that you have to use stealth and the right size lures to get hook-ups and often the next time you see them they are casting into the schools and having a ball.

If you don’t like casting your arm off there are plenty of trevally about over most of the close reefs. The Crankshaft at Bass Point and Coniston Reef have been producing, as have Gap and Pig islands.

Snapper are still about but the cuttlefish have all but disappeared for another year. Those smart enough to freeze down some cuttlefish and use it over coming months will still get reds as the stragglers hunt the reefs for a feed. A bonus is that kingfish love cuttlefish so you enhance your chances on both species.

Things are starting to look up for the bottom-bouncers as the flathead get into feeding mode. There probably won’t be bag limits but a feed should be available over most of the sand patches towards the end of the month and steadily improving.

The target of the month would have to be leatherjackets and while not great favourites of mine, they are good on the plate and easy to catch and are over every piece of reef this month. Two No 6 long-shank hooks on droppers baited with squid above a sinker put you in business.

There are still plenty of sweep about to steal your baits and heaps of slimy mackerel up to a kilo. A lot of fishos are extolling the slimy mackerel as a smoking fish and will take as many as they can get their hands on so there is something to try next time they swarm into your berley trail.

CRANKY MAKOS

If they do swarm this month the chances are there will be a cranky little mako shark nearby. Most average around a metre and don’t mind a feed of hooked snapper, much to the disdain of the fishos.

Out around the shelf it is big mako time and the game boats will be out on the canyons pumping in the berley for that monster mako. Blue sharks will be present but they seem to have rapidly declined over the past decade, probably because every second or third fish has a longline hook in its mouth.

It is a staggering statistic when you consider that these are the ones that escaped – how many are being killed? They frequent the same water as the tuna, which should be around the shelf this month. Yellowfin and albacore are worth chasing so keep your eyes open for the diving gannets and muttonbirds.

Trolling small to medium lures will find fish and when you get a hook-up, throw in a couple of handfuls of pilchard pieces and you could get the whole school under the boat. There is even a chance of a few striped marlin this month.

On the beaches the fishing is starting to improve with a few more bream mixing it with the tailor and salmon. Even the odd early flathead and a few stray whiting have started to show already.

The strange situation over Winter of school jewfish hanging around has been welcomed but that was at the expense of the normally good numbers of larger fish, which didn’t seem to show.

Divers tell me they are there but to date only a few have been landed. Small fish up to 10kg have kept the keen ones interested and they are still about if you put in some time with fresh baits during the evenings.

Most beaches with a good, deep gutter will hold fish at some time. They are moving around so you just have to be persistent.

LAKE IMPROVES

The estuary scene is improving with a few flathead starting to show in Lake Illawarra but bream are still the main target. The bridge pylons in the evenings on a run-out tide is producing on with fresh prawns, as are the feeder streams with prawns or lures.

There has even been the odd estuary perch picked up by those working the deeper sections of the creeks – not a common catch in the lake.

In the main channel some nice blackfish are taking weed, now that there is some tidal flow again.

On the rocks there are salmon, kingfish and tailor off the deeper ledges and in the washes, while a little berley should produce trevally. The quiet bays have had some nice bream in the early mornings and late evenings with abalone gut and royal red prawns the baits of choice.

The same baits can be used for the best rock fishing option this month – big drummer. Most good washes will have some big pigs lurking. Try unweighted baits or a small bobby cork and hang on.

Don’t forget to dust off the live-bait gear and head down to Kiama because September has always been the start of the land-based game season. Mack tuna, big kings and even an odd yellowfin can be on the cards and there are always salmon to knock off your live yakkas.

Facts

R.I.P. THE PIPE

It is with sadness that I report that a local icon is no more. The sewage outlet at Bellambi, better know as the Sh*t Pipe by all those who have fished it, has belched its last effluent into the ocean.

It has been closed for a few months and I have waited to see how it would affect the fishing. Sadly, the fish have gone with the smell. The effluent still gets pumped into the ocean rather than being recycled but it all now goes to the Wollongong outflow.

Gone are the hordes of bream, trevally and tailor that gathered at the end of the pipe and around the concrete structure that held it in place. Masses of blackfish would cover the concrete on the rising tide, rolling into deeper water as the waves receded.

The big jewfish and snapper have gone, too, but the biggest disappointment is the absence of the ever-reliable monster drummer. Pigs better than 3kg were commonplace and 5kg specimens occasionally.

It was only fishable from half-tide down and the end of the pipe was as slippery as an ice rink. Even at low tide it took skill and nerve to fish the place.

This was one of those places where local kids cut their teeth, not to mention, knees, hands, elbows and any other part of their anatomy that hit the deck when they copped a wave after staying too long on the rising tide.

Rock fishing is dangerous and I can’t condone taking risks anywhere but the joy of The Pipe was the water was only waist-deep most of the time and if you were washed off, you just stood up and climbed back on. Considering most of the keen guys wore wetsuits and sandshoes, there really was little danger unless you got a mouthful of the smelly brown water.

Your wetsuit never quite smelt the same after you fished The Pipe a few times – and those who fished The Pipe never quite smelt the same, for that matter.

I remember when 10 of us were on The Pipe and the tide was getting to where we should have been gone 15 minutes beforehand but the bream and drummer just kept coming.

An extra-large wave materialised and we all knew what was going to happen. I got into the slipstream behind big Gerry, who could grip the barnacles with his size 13 sandshoes and almost make him immovable, but not this time.

We ended up 10 metres along the pipe, still upright, and when the foam had cleared there were eight fewer anglers on The Pipe. They all stood up, gathered their hats, scrambled out of the water and we all called it a day.

The Pipe was the scene of many epic battles of one sort or another and the blooding of some very good young fishos. It probably won’t ever fish the same now the water is clear but it was good while it was there – for fishing, rather than environmentally.

RIP The Pipe.

1

Fat striped tuna like this have blistering speed and put up a great fight on light tackle.

2.

Try the continental shelf for larger makos like this 137kg fish caught last September by Travis Anderson.

3

The islands off Port Kembla are generally good for a few decent kings this month.

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