Unless you are a chronic, beach fishing generally finishes in May when the water and air get appreciatively chilly – then even the chronics put on waders.
But it is now November so pack away the waders, dip the toes into the Pacific and have a crack at the Summer species that are gathering all along the Illawarra coast.
One of the great things about fishing the beach is it doesn’t require a tonne of tackle. One rod and the rest of the gear will fit into a bucket or small tackle box, so it is quite cost-effective and the whole family can get involved.
Your partner can have their own gear and the kids don’t get the ‘I’m bored’ syndrome because they can build sand castles and play on the beach. You never know, if you start catching a few fish it could lead to bigger things – like your wife might let you buy a boat!
Anyway, this month sees whiting and flathead move along the beaches with the bonus of bream, salmon, tailor, dart and even a few stray trevally. The other attraction is that smaller mulloway increase dramatically in numbers over the next few months so there is plenty of scope for the keen angler to achieve some excellent catches.
Bait is always a crucial factor when fishing the beach and far and away the best is the beach worm. If you are to be successful on most species they are a must.
Whether you catch them yourself or buy them it doesn’t matter but have them you must, for whiting and dart while salmon, flathead, bream, trevally and mulloway can’t resist them.
A few pilchards won’t go astray, nor will some fresh mullet or mackerel just to cover all bases.
Dawn and late evening are the best times to catch most fish but you can still catch plenty during the middle of the day, particularly whiting and flathead.
Most anglers tend to fish with line that is way too heavy for small fish. Six-kilo line will handle most fish with ease and allow you to get good casting distance if required.
In most cases you don’t have to belt the bait at New Zealand to have good catches as whiting, flathead, mulloway and bream travel and feed right behind or in the shore break. Skills of a tournament caster are not required and heaving a great lump of lead into the distance is another misconception.
Just enough lead to get the bait down and let it move around a bit is all that is required. Anchoring it in one place limits the bait from covering ground and finding the fish, rather than the fish finding the bait.
Some of the better beaches include Coalcliff for tailor, bream, and mulloway and Thirroul for the same with a few salmon. Bulli has most species right in front of the caravan park and Corrimal has all species and is noted for its large mulloway.
Fairy Meadow fishes well in the deep gutters, particularly at Puckeys and Coniston, is legendary for its great tailor, salmon and school jewfish.
The primary whiting beaches are Port Kembla, Windang and Warilla. The out flow of lake Illawarra seems to stimulate the area as all species are present in excellent numbers and at times it is difficult to get a toehold on any gutter when the fishing is hot.
Further south, Shellharbour and South Shellharbour have most species and Minnamurra has a good run of flathead, whiting and bream. Bombo beach produces plenty of tailor, bream and salmon and some very solid jewfish most of the year.
It’s time to break out the live-bait gear again as a few decent kings have been around the deeper ledges at Kiama, Bombo, Bass Point and Hill 60. Live squid, if you can get them, are the bait but slimy mackerel and yellowtail will score. If there is an early run of frigate mackerel, these are almost guaranteed to get a look.
Don’t forget the spinning gear as there are plenty of salmon along most of the platforms and a few smaller kingfish.
If you berley there are a bream about and some trevally to occupy you while waiting for the live bait to get eaten. With bread berley there are still some solid drummer around.
Lake Illawarra is fishing well for flathead with the main channel producing a lot of fish and getting a bit crowded on weekends. Just about everyone is using soft plastics. They get the tick of approval from Mum and the kids, too, as they keep them busy and they don’t smell like bait.
The Summer whiting have started to show near the entrance and should increase in size and numbers. Squirt worms are the top bait.
Up in the creeks there are a few bream for the lure-tossers and some big mullet have started to show an interest in bread fished under a light float.
Down in Minnamurra the flatties starting to hit their straps along the whole length of the river, with whiting, mullet and some nice blackfish feeding along the edges of the ribbon weed beds.
Don’t forget the prawn run in the lake during the dark this month. Traditionally the early months produce the biggest runs and scooping a good feed of prawns and a few for bait is a great way to spend an evening.
Offshore fishing is improving with good catches of flathead up to 2kg over most of the sand. Small reds are being picked up on the harder ground along with some nice mowies and pigfish.
Leatherjackets are still on the menu but they’re not as thick as they were during most of last season, and there are some nice snapper coming from the deeper reefs when the current is slow.
There is still plenty of surface action with salmon slashing the water to shreds all along the coast. A few bonus yellowtail kings are grabbing lures and live baits along with bonito, tailor a few striped tuna and the dreaded barracouta.
The islands have a few trevally around Pig and Gap but berley is a must and there are some bream if you work hard casting unweighted baits into the washes.
Further offshore, there are a few striped tuna to play with so it is worth stocking up on snapper bait and berley for the Summer as they don’t hang about for as long as they used to and are far less prevalent.
Out around the continental shelf a few yellowfin tuna have showed but they are very patchy and a day-to-day proposition. You may get lucky but don’t count on it.
Until the mid-’90s, late November and early December was always big yellowfin tuna time on reefs like Wollongong, Bandit and the South East grounds. These were the jumbos from 60kg to 110kg. The odd few fish still show up in snapper berley trails.
It is worth a look but you have to be there every day and then be lucky to score a hook-up.
There are a few striped marlin getting about. Trolling plastic about will get results but live slimy mackerel trolled around the traps off Port Kembla or the 60-fathom reef and out around the Kiama canyons is a good way to prospect.
The 100-fathom line has plenty of makos about but the demise of the blue shark has been astounding. Very few blues are about these days due to longline pressure.
The sad fact is around one in three blues that were spotted had a longline hook in its mouth and these were the ones that had escaped. They are a spectacular-looking shark but not the greatest fighter and there is little eco-tourist money to be made from blues so they will probably go the way of the dinosaur before long.Reads: 2099