This month signals the real start of the whiting season on the beaches and in the estuaries.
They have been about in limited numbers over the past few weeks but in the lead-up to Christmas these tasty little battlers really hit their straps. Good to great catches will start to be recorded by those who regularly chase them, then it will be a free-for-all as they school over the surf flats and gutter edges and the estuary shallows.
You will find them on most beaches but, like all species, some areas always fish better than others. Windang, Port Kembla and Warilla beaches are always the top spots, with MM Beach firing well later in the month.
The shallow flats at the entrance to lake Illawarra will have standing room only, particularly when the school holidays start.
To be in the hunt you have to have the right bait and that means worms. Sure, whiting will eat pipis and nippers but using beach worms in the surf and squirt or blood worms in the estuaries will be the difference between the odd fish and good catches.
If you can’t catch beach worms, and it is an art form that needs to be learnt by all good beach anglers, you will have to buy them from the few local tackle shops that keep live worms.
Spending an hour or so gathering your own can be as much fun as catching the fish. Crushing the heads of worms with pliers limits the time they will keep fresh, while live worms caught with fingers and treated correctly will last for days in the fridge veggie crisper.
Whiting aren’t huge and they generally feed right in the shore break so you don’t need heavy line or tackle that will hurl a lump of lead to New Zealand.
A light outfit with 4kg to 6kg line will subdue any whiting you will encounter and land any bream, salmon, dart or small jewies that at times are a by-catch. Fish the shallow sand banks and gutters close to shore for consistent results.
The other big movers this month are beach jewfish on the big evening tides with fresh bait.
It puzzles me how many anglers use rod holders on the beach when fishing for jewies. Every week I hear someone say, “I nearly lost a rod last night when something ripped it out of the sand and dragged it towards the water.”
Putting the rod in a holder means you miss a lot of hook-ups. I never put the rod down when there is a bait in the water. The bump and bite, the feel as the fish holds and takes the bait and the hook-up are some of the best parts of fishing.
Losing a good fish while the rod is in a holder is pretty poor form because big fish are much harder to find these days.
The northern beaches have been the pick for jewies but they seem to have spread over most of the coast over the past few weeks.
There are still plenty of bream, tailor and salmon at dawn and dusk. Throw in a few nice flathead, the odd dart and even a few trevally and the beaches are looking pretty good.
Fluctuating inshore water temperatures are hampering consistent results from the rocks but there is still plenty about.
Some days there are kings, bonito, salmon and tailor churning the water to foam then the next you will have to settle for blackfish, bream and drummer when the water cools.
Bass Point and the Kiama area are fishing well for all species while Honeycomb at Port Kembla has been turning on the surface activity.
In Lake Illawarra and the Minnamurra River fishing has really ramped up with plenty of flathead on plastics and live baits and whiting, bream and blackfish in good numbers on the right baits and tackle.
Most anglers are having good catches but if you are not, keep an eye out for those catching fish and watch what they are doing – it always helps.
Offshore, things are starting to happen but it’s not jackpot time as the water temperature is still messing about. Flathead are biting well off Port Kembla, Stanwell Park and wide off Bulli Sands.
Small snapper are mixing it with mowies over the inshore reefs and gravel patches while some nice snapper are coming from the reefs in 45 to 60 metres such as the Southeast Grounds.
Slimy mackerel are still thick over many reefs but they will soon have the jitters as the water heats up and marlin and sharks arrive. A few hammerheads have been about so the hot water isn’t too far away.
A few kingfish are still on the inshore reefs along with some good trevally and on the next full moon could well see a few trag.
Further out there has been some yellowfin action around the Kiama Canyons but it is hit and miss, while there have been the odd reports of a few early mahi mahi around the FAD and the traps and the odd striped marlin in the same areas.
Around Christmas we should see the first of the black marlin, peaking in late January and early February, so if you haven’t already tuned up the game tackle, do it now.
THE STINK AT STOCKTON
There is something very disturbing about how we anglers are perceived by our administrating bodies, and I am referring to the clever guys who a few weeks ago received a great deal of publicity by catching great whites from Stockton Beach at Newcastle.
They were not targeting great whites, it was just a fact that these protected species were all they could catch. This is extraordinary because this species is almost an enigma by the simple fact that it can never really be associated with any certain area apart from some places in south Australia and South Africa, making them very difficult to study and gather information on their movements.
These guys stumbled onto a constant supply of juvenile whites that would be invaluable to study. They were treating them gently and tagging them with research tags which for the past 30 years Fisheries have been telling us yield priceless information in the study of many species.
So what happens? Within four days of the information hitting the Press, the minister bans the use of heavy tackle and the targeting of sharks on Stockton beach and adds that because these guys are not scientists, they shouldn’t be tagging the fish and should leave the research to the scientists.
I took offence at this and I believe every one of the thousands of anglers in NSW who have participated in the NSW Fisheries tagging scheme for several decades should as well.
I am not a scientist but I know that at the latest count the almost 4000 game fish I have personally tagged (with multiple returns of yellowfin tuna, salmon, kings, mahi mahi, trevally, bonito, mackerel tuna, cobia and sharks) have yielded valuable information on fish migration and growth rates.
Add the hundreds of thousands of fish tagged by my fellow anglers and at no cost to Fisheries except the tags and it makes the minister or those that are supplying him with information look like idiots.
If the minister and the dills advising him had half a brain they would send in some keen young scientists to have a good look at this phenomenal gathering of juvenile whites – or would that be just too obvious?
Why not try talking to the guys catching the whites to gather information because they are doing a hell of a lot better at finding heaps of whites than most of the scientists.
As for banning these fellows from trying to catch big fish from the beach, no one can guarantee what species will pick up your bait anywhere or at any time. We pay heavily for the privilege of fishing and should not be punished when something out of the ordinary happens.
My bet is some grubby politician will be the first to have their picture taken with the scientist who unravels the mysteries of the great white using information gathered from the guys on Stockton beach.
Whiting will be on the beaches this month all that is needed is a light rod and a few beachworms.
This is what happens to a 30 kilo hammerhead when a great white gets hungry. The hammer was taken right next to the boat, giving Jayne an experience most anglers never witness.
Although not common this far south, dart sometimes mix it with the whiting on local beaches.
There are still a few mowies over the inshore gravel and reefs.
Possible cover as discussed
Brian Taylor with his first Spaniard.Reads: 3789