DECEMBER is a bugger of a month around here, with hot water full of life boiling down the coast one day, then freezing arctic water rolling up from the depths the next, putting a stop to all the activity.
It is a bit of a lottery but persistence is the key. Persistence on the beaches over the next few weeks could result in a trophy mulloway. They have been on the bite since late September but is has not been a free-for-all where anyone who cares to toss in a bait will catch a big jew. If it were that easy it wouldn’t be fun, would it?
It can at times be that simple but at the moment those who are putting in time are the ones scoring. When they locate fish they are getting one or more each night until the school moves on. Hefty mulloway to 26kg have come in but the majority are between 5kg and 10kg.
The northern beaches have been productive but so have some of the beaches central to Wollongong, right under the bright lights, so any good gutter is worth a throw with fresh bait.
Jewies aren’t the only things in the surf after dark: There have been plenty of whaler sharks and there are even more of those heavy-duty, back-breaking monster stingrays that just refuse to come in.
Some nice tailor are cruising just about any beach with a good gutter early mornings and late arvos. Windang, Bombo, Coniston and Fairy Meadow have had tailor and some hefty salmon taking pilchards on ganged hooks.
Chasing a few whiting during daylight hours has been on the cards at Port Kembla, Windang and Warilla beaches but the fish will extend along most beaches by the end of the month.
On the rocks there is action around the deeper spots with salmon, small kings and bonito chasing small baitfish around the headlands. A high-speed spinning session is always good fun and you never know what you might hook. If you want to get more serious, a live yellowtail will score the salmon and put you in with a chance of a bigger king, as well as plenty of undersized rats.
There are a few bream around the washes and an onion bag full of bread and pilchards tied off to the rocks where you are fishing should improve your chances. Any trevally and drummer in the area will also be impressed with the free offerings and get into the action right at your feet. Royal red prawns are as good as any bait and they come at the right price. Try a bobby cork about the size of a 20-cent piece and set it at different depths until you find where the fish are feeding. It can make for exciting fishing, timing the strike to hook-up as the float vanishes into the depths at high speed.
In the quieter waters of Lake Illawarra, it’s flathead time and the next few weeks are your last chance to get some action before the holiday crowds arrive. The main channel has been fishing well for lizards up to 2kg with the odd larger specimen. The drop-off out near the last navigation post is a good spot, as is in front of the old power station. Live poddy mullet are the No 1 bait but the various soft plastics are almost scoring as many fish these days.
Whiting are down around the entrance but you need squirt worms for any real success, while there are plenty of blackfish along the edges of the weed beds with a fish of over 2kg caught recently. Makes you wonder how it managed to dodge the nets for so long to allow it to grow that large.
Big mullet are active in the deeper holes in the lake feeder streams and an afternoon berleying and fishing with fine lines and a light float or light fly gear can provide exiting fishing.
The Minnamurra River has much the same with flathead all over the system and some nice bream around the bridges and down around the rock near the bends. There is even a chance of a small mangrove jack in these places through the Summer. There are nice blackfish along the weed beds and heaps of mullet and garfish if you berley with bread on the falling tide along the area where the sand meets the weed in the main channel.
Offshore is hot and cold with even the flathead affected by the temperature changes. One day they are abundant and the next – not even a bite. If you persist on the tough days you will still get a feed but most days will provide you with a more than enough to meet your needs.
On the good days the reefs are producing small snapper with the odd larger fish, small samson fish, mowies, trevally, sweep, leatherjackets, small kingfish and even a few trag. On the subject of trag, the next full moon will be worth a shot over the known trag bumps as they seem to fire best early in the season and taper off as Summer gets into full swing.
In close around the washes there have been good salmon and tailor on pilchards along with the odd kingfish. If you take the time to pick up a few live baits there are kings around the islands and in the deeper water out on Wollongong reef.
The schools of pelagics are still working their way through the baitfish all along the coast, popping up and thrashing the water to foam before disappearing and hitting the surface again up to a kilometre away. The striped tuna are the most frustrating as they move at incredible speed in pursuit of tucker and it can be hard keeping up.
Farther offshore, you could put down berley over the deeper reefs when the current is minimal for solid snapper, but the hammerhead sharks and whalers tend to put them off the bite when they show up. The first of the black marlin should be close by the end of the month, while a few striped marlin have been trolled up out around the shelf along with small yellowfin and sharks.
Scott Lear picked up this jewie of more than 20kg on Christmas Eve 2002 while waiting for Santa. Not a bad Chrissy present!
Yellowtail kings like this fella have been around their usual haunts but live bait is a must.
Blackfish are a good standby for the kids in Lake Illawarra and the Minnamurra River.Reads: 621