Make the most of what’s left
  |  First Published: May 2008

The cold days aren’t that far away so this month you will have to get stuck into the fishing to make the most of what remains of the warm water before the cold currents take over.

Everything from kings to whiting seem to be bigger at this time of year after feeding well over the warmer months in preparation for the leaner times ahead.

The offshore scene is still looking rosy for at least a few more weeks, with some yellowfin tuna starting to show out wide accompanied by schools of striped tuna. The odd striped marlin is popping up to smack trolled lures and a big blue marlin is always a chance around the canyons in May.

Don’t hold your breath for a black marlin this month because it was a shocking season with very few blacks marlin hooked, let alone caught.

The FADs seem to be turning up a few stray small dollies but I wouldn’t rush out there expecting to catch one because they are sporadic at best.

Sticking close to shore should provide the best results, with kings patrolling all the recognised spots like the islands and Bass Point. Live baits are as always the best option with early starts the key to success.

Having that livie in the water and working at first light is right on the money and the action tapers off as the sun comes up and gets even slower mid-morning.

Solid bonito are mixing it with the kings and they go well on light tackle but it is hard to scale down when there are kings that will smash anything under-gunned.

Trevally are big improvers. Even though their numbers have dropped dramatically over the past few years, schools still gather over the inshore reefs in Winter and Spring.

All you need is a good berley trail. Pilchard fillets, lightly weighted with a small split shot and fed back down the trail, will do the rest.

Remember to use a net to land your fish because trevally have very soft mouths and lifting them into the boat often results in lost fish.

Berley over the inshore reefs will also attract small snapper and the odd larger fish as the leftovers from April and early arrivals for the cuttlefish feast a few weeks down the track start schooling over the same reefs.

Sometimes the reds outnumber the trevally so you may have to use slightly larger baits if there are better fish about.

Over some reefs you will get ambushed by samson fish that pull way beyond their weight. You rarely encounter only one and they generally show up in schools and are great fun. They rarely get much over 3kg, a far cry from the monsters elsewhere in Australia.

The shallow bays, inlets, and around the islands are producing good bream. Pilchards and tuna pieces are the go and a bit of berley will get fish right up to the boat, particularly on a calm day. In these conditions you can visually pick the fish you want as they swim around.


May is always a good month for surface action as the salmon really get stuck into the baitfish. There are still a few frigate mackerel zipping around the place and schools of bonito mixing it with the salmon, giving the ocean a washing-machine effect when they really get going.

The mackerel tuna that were about last month seem to have grown a bit with 5kg fish turning up and even better ones showing for the rockhoppers.

Some warm-water species will still be encountered, particularly around the islands and bommies. Small giant trevally, rainbow runners and the odd cobia and spotted or Spanish mackerel are possible, with a pearl perch or two in deeper water.

The bottom bouncers are getting decent bags of small reds and mowies, heaps of sweep and leatherjackets, pigfish, samson fish, trevally and fair catches of flathead over the sand.

The estuaries have slowed down markedly over the past few weeks – with the exception of bream. The creeks, rocky foreshores and islands in Lake Illawarra are holding some ripper bream for lure-tossers and baiters alike.

Small soft plastics are working well and they are a hell of a lot less messy than bait, although some of the scented softies do have a bit of a pong to them.

Flathead have slowed but there are enough about to keep you interested and they are generally a by-catch when targeting bream this month.

Some large whiting are hanging around the entrance to the lake and the Minnamurra River but live worms are a must. You could try poppers.


The rocks are firing, with warm- and cold-water species mixing. Those hunting big fish on the deeper ledges can expect more big kingfish action on live slimy mackerel, yellowtail, frigate mackerel and live squid fished close to the rock face early in the morning.

Get the live baits farther out and mackerel tuna to 8kg can be expected, along with plenty of the bonito and salmon that are also partial to metal lures.

The longtail tuna season should be a good one in this part of the world if the action of the Mid North Coast is anything to go by. Large swells, muddy water and bad weather for most of the Summer kept the pros at bay and large numbers of longtails poured down the coast.

Watching a square kilometre of big longtails smashing gars is an awesome sight, particularly when it goes on for several days. If they manage to run the gauntlet of netters further south then they will hit this part of the coast this month, conditions permitting.

There are plenty of bream in the washes and quiet bays during the evenings and the washes also offer some thumping drummer and good numbers of quality blackfish. A bit of green weed and a bag of royal red prawns will cover the bases for bait.

Steer clear of uncooked imported prawns for bait because they can carry all types of diseases that could destroy our fisheries. How they can get into Australian markets as uncooked prawn meat defies logic when you think about the howls of protest over uncooked salmon products. And we have seen what damage imported pilchards have done to our local stocks.

On the beaches there is more good news with big tailor mixing with the salmon during the evenings. Pilchards on ganged hooks are working well while large fillets of fresh mackerel and yellowtail are accounting for plenty of small to medium jewfish, although there have not been too many big fish about.

Large soft plastics are scoring plenty of jewie action as well as the odd big flathead. Softies also seem to minimise the frequency of shark hook-ups, with small whalers making a nuisance of themselves after dark on bait.

Big whiting are still about on some beaches but you will have to some footwork to get them. Beachworms are a must.


Silver Trevally start to gather over the inshore reefs as the water starts to cool.

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