The Sight of 10,000 mutton birds charging towards you, fluttering, diving and screaming, can be very daunting as you get ready to belt another cast out into the maelstrom of activity they are heading for.
If you are careful, or lucky, you will come up solid on another striped tuna or salmon. If you are unlucky, you will get another slimy mackerel, large yellowtail or a scratching, biting little bird that will poop in the boat as you untangle it before it flies off to get back into the feeding frenzy.
There is an abundance of surface activity off the coast at the moment and you only need to look for the birds to get into the action. There are great flocking hordes of them ripping into baitfish – mostly the little clear glass eels that are so abundant at this time of the year. Small lures are a must to have any real chance at the striped tuna, salmon and bonito, while a live slimy mackerel cast into the cauldron often comes up trumps with one of the large yellowtail kings that seem to shadow these schools.
A good catch of striped tuna will take care of the snapper bait situation for the next few months, so a morning tossing lures can be great fun and a very effective way of getting top bait. Salmon, too, are prevalent in these schools with some fish over 4kg stretching the skills of any angler using light tackle.
It is also an often overlooked fact that this surface activity really stirs up the flathead down below and they have been on the go of late. Bag limits (20 of tiger and other flathead, minimum size 33cm; dusky flathead 37cm, 10, one fish only over 70cm) of fish up to 2kg have not been uncommon but enjoy them while you can – the trawlers generally cut a swath through them towards the end of November. Then you have to fish the sand close to the edges of the reefs where the nets don’t go, or the smaller sand patches, to get a feed.
Snapper have been a bit quiet with only the odd few smaller fish coming in from the shallow reefs, although some better fish have been taken by those anchoring over the gravel in about 40 metres and using a lot of berley – when the current is not too strong.
The bottom bouncers have been doing well with the flathead and, along the reefs, quite a few nice mowies, small reds, trevally, pigfish, samson fish, tailor, sweep, leatherjacket and even the odd trag. This month could be well worth a look on the known trag bumps for some early action before the word gets out and you have to buy a ticket to get a spot on the reef.
Farther offshore there has been a bit of action on the yellowfin tuna front with some smaller fish out around the shelf and one capture of a 60kg-plus fish recently, so it could be worth a look.
The odd striped marlin is about but you can burn a lot of fuel trolling for zilch this time of year so grab a few live baits and drift. It is much more cost-effective and you also stand the chance of a big ’fin grabbing a live bait. There are plenty of makos and blue sharks to keep you busy if you pump in berley while waiting for a billfish to show up.
Back in on the beaches it is time to dust of the long rods ready for the Summer run of whiting, bream, flathead, tailor and salmon. That is unless you are chasing jewies, which means you would have had your gear well oiled for the two months or more that the jewies have been on the boil.
Heaps of jewfish up to 28kg, with plenty in the 10kg to 20kg range, are being captured almost daily, with some anglers hooking several fish per session. Even anglers who have put in many fruitless nights over many months are scoring several fish a week.
You don’t hear a real lot about these captures because the underworld of mulloway angling seems to be very hush-hush but take a tip: Pick a good gutter on any beach north of Wollongong, use fresh bait and hang on. This is one species that seems to be increasing in numbers locally, rather than going backwards.
On the whiting scene we will see how it goes: Last year the season got off to a good start and then died, which may have been in some way affected by the closure of Lake Illawarra. There have been some whiting on Windang Beach so we will see how it goes. The lake, on last reports was still open – just.
There is some flathead action in the main channel with good catches falling to the ever-increasing numbers of anglers using soft plastics.
I am still trying to come to grips with casting in among the shrubs and small trees that popped up when the lake dried out. They have died and are still on the flats, now the lake is full again, and is a bit like casting for bass among the timber and pulling out flathead.
Blackfish are taking weed and squirt worms along the drop-offs into the deeper water, while a few bream have been taken during the evenings around the bridge and at Berkley.
Some big whiting are taking worms, particularly down around the lakes entrance, and if there is some tidal influence there should be a few prawns moving on the next dark.
The Minnamurra River has blackfish along the weed beds and some flathead action along most of its length. Poddy mullet are the key here but if you don’t want to go to all that trouble, lures are scoring a few fish.
Off the rocks there is enough action to keep most happy, with the pelagic combatants coming in close enough to some of the deeper ledges of Port Kembla, Bass Point and Kiama and producing a bit of fun on lures. Although not always lasting as long as some would like, salmon, bonito, the odd striped tuna and some kings have all made a show.
If you’d rather soak a bait then there are still a few drummer on royal red prawns but you are more likely to hook trevally and bream, particularly around the whitewater at the deeper ledges early in the mornings.
There are always a few blackfish around the harbours and quiet bays if you berley.
Striped tuna are red-hot on light tackle and make great bait for anything that swims.
Break out the fly gear because the salmon are thick all along the coast and are suckers for small flies – if you can get past the muttonbirds.
Give the kids some soft plastics and let them throw them around Lake Illawarra and this could well be the result – happy kids and a nice feed of flatties.Reads: 600