You just have to love January. Holidays, warm weather, warm water and, best of all, heaps of fish of all descriptions lining up to have a crack at your offerings.
Shoals of baitfish have turned up close inshore, making the ocean in some places resemble a washing machine as salmon, bonito, kingfish and various tuna species gorge themselves on the easy pickings.
Watch out for seagulls and mutton birds packed over the feeding fish, then cast small metal lures into the mass and hang on. Sometimes birds may not be in attendance because they are so full by mid-morning they just sit on the water and digest their meal before an afternoon session.
Soft plastics in larger sizes cast into the boiling fish and worked close to the bottom have produced quite a few above-average trevally and nice snapper feeding below the surface pandemonium. Just don’t get too frustrated when you score sergeant bakers by the dozen as well.
As usual, a live slimy mackerel or large yellowtail cast into the mass will pick up any large kingfish in attendance so fishing these schools of bait is somewhat of a Pandora’s box – you just don’t know what you will catch next.
Larger predators take advantage of all this action as they join in the feasting. Marlin will be on this month, really hitting their straps in a few weeks.
Black marlin can be found all along the coast from just behind the breakers to beyond the continental shelf but prime locations like Wollongong Reef, Bandit and the South East Grounds off Shellharbour are where you should be targeting them.
Bandit went berserk last year as marlin milled around the balls of slimy mackerel for several weeks and all those with a desire to catch their first marlin did so and often went on to score several more. Fisheries tag supplies were given a hiding.
They weren’t tiddlers, with many over 120kg and they fought like they were on steroids. If it’s half as good this year it will be fantastic.
Striped and blue marlin are also present and at times the stripes variety can be quite prolific, particularly in early January before the really hot water comes down.
This is also when the big blues are targeted out over the shelf line and around the Kiama Canyons. If the current isn’t too fierce, the canyons are where you could score the slam of black, blue and striped marlin in one day, a feat not often achieved but always on the cards.
There are still a few yellowfin tuna out wide but they can be hit-and-miss at this time of year, while wahoo and large mahi mahi are a better bet.
The FADs off Wollongong and Kiama are magnets for dollies but the traffic around them can put the fish off the bite very quickly and there are always those who like to sit right on the FAD, rather than rotating with the other users. So sometimes catching a few can be difficult but they will be there, you just have to fish smarter.
In closer, kingfish are around the islands and Bass Point, among lots of other locations. For the larger fish a live frigate mackerel slowly trolled around is deadly. If you can catch a frigate around dawn in the desired location, you will virtually be guaranteed a hook-up. Whether you get the big king out of the water is another story.
There are plenty of fish from 3kg to 5kg and a live yellowtail will do the job on these.
Most reefs have a few small snapper with the odd large red late in the afternoons on fresh tuna bait fished in a good berley trail. A trail will also attract kings, samson fish, trevally and the less desirable small whaler and hammerhead sharks.
The same fish can be taken on the drift along with heaps of leatherjackets, sweep, the odd trag, mowies and pigfish but most of the attention will be on the flathead so popular with the local bottom-bashers. Flatties are on all the sand patches from Stanwell Park down to Kiama.
Wollongong has heaps of great beaches and this time of the year you can catch a great variety of species, with the current main targets whiting. If you can’t catch beach worms they can be bought at Windang bait suppliers if you get in early. Without them you are pretty much wasting your time and should chase other species.
Windang, Warilla and MM beaches are the pick spots but all beaches hold whiting at this time of year. If you can’t get worms there are plenty of flathead, bream, tailor, salmon, trevally and school jewies to keep you occupied with other baits.
As always, the jewies are best hunted during the evenings. Large soft plastics seem to be taking their fair share.
One dynamic duo, Kev and Russell, found the beach too crowded so they launched their boat and cast into the surf from behind the breakers.
Their score was over 20 jew to 18kg over several days and they have the pics to prove it.
The guys on the beach scored only a couple of small fish so hats off to the lads’ ingenuity.
The rocks are fishing well with more jewies coming from some of the northern platforms on plastics but the focus is on the pelagics chasing bait along the headlands.
Salmon, bonito, kings, tailor and frigates are being caught with the Port Kembla breakwalls turning on some great action.
Kiama has some large kings hanging about in the mornings with live baits a must but the big chance this month is a shot at a marlin off the rocks around Kiama.
Put out a live frigate mackerel or slimy mackerel under a balloon and be patient when hammerheads, kings and bonito keep knocking off your baits.
There are some nice bream around the washes if you use berley. A bonito, sliced up and dangling in the wash on a rope, is a good way to attract them.
The estuaries just don’t get any better than this month, particularly Lake Illawarra. Whiting are a prime target and with good flow through the entrance there are plenty about. Squirt worms and nippers are catching the majority of fish with some of the larger whiting falling to live prawns during the evenings.
The main channel and east of the bridge is the busiest area.
Flathead are everywhere, grabbing plastics, live poddies, prawns and whitebait. There are some nice bream in the creeks along with plenty of big mullet.
Garfish are around the drop-off when they are not being harassed by the chopper tailor and there are good gatherings of blackfish along most of the weed beds.
Minnamurra has much the same with flathead along its entire length right up into the mangroves, whiting around the entrance and bream at the bridges.
If you can’t get a feed or have some fun this month you’re not trying.
This is what you are after around the FADs – a solid dolly.Reads: 2290