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Worth getting excited
  |  First Published: March 2009




I get excited just thinking about March. Maybe I should get out more, but the angling opportunities are endless this month because it doesn’t seem to matter where you go, there are fish out there waiting to be caught.

Offshore it is red-hot with all game species lining up to have a crack and you never know what you will hook next.

Kings are popular at the usual spots out around the islands and Bass Point but the rats, as always, are in the majority.

Can someone tell me why, when the limit was 60cm, most of the fish you caught were 59cm and now the limit is 65cm, most of the fish are 64cm? No one seems to be catching any more legal fish than before because everyone is saying the same thing.

Never mind, there are enough legal kings out there and a legal fish now is a heavier fish and able to put up a better tussle, so they are a lot more fun to catch.

Live baits, as always, catch bigger fish and at this time of year attract other northern visitors so don’t be surprised if a cobia latches onto your livie – a few to 20kg just pop up anywhere each year. If something resembling a shark swims up to the boat, get a bait to it fast.

Rainbow runners pick up small live baits like yellowtail and often turn up around the rock at Bass Point when the current is running.

Casting lures or pilchards on ganged hooks around the washes will produce plenty of tailor and salmon with the bonus of big-eye and giant trevally. You just don’t know what will grab your lure or bait.

Further offshore, the fishing is at its best with mahi mahi proving popular around the FAD where it can get crowded. Live yellowtail will catch more and bigger fish than lures or pilchards.

If it is crowded, you could head out to the Trap Reef, where I am told there are still a few traps and their floats.

While you are out that far you can troll lures and live baits for black and striped marlin or head out to the shelf for the big blues that are at their peak for the next two months.

Tackle in the 36kg class is the order of the day when chasing these monsters because fish over 300kg are hooked and sometimes landed each year.

BABY BLACKS

For me, the blacks over the close reefs are the way to go; fish to 80kg are much to handle on 10kg to 24kg tackle. It is the same deal as last month, with Bandit, Wollongong Reef and the South East Grounds all top spots.

Or try anywhere you find schools of slimy mackerel, often rippling on the surface.

The bonus over the close reefs will be the chance of a sailfish picking up your live bait and giving you the aerial display only a sail can.

If your hook is snipped off, there are several possible culprits with wahoo and sharks high on the list. Wahoo often knock off small to medium lures and the only way to keep the costs down is to use a wire and stinger hook in the lures. Then keep trolling the same area because wahoo often hang about in small schools.

Sharks are abundant, with hammers and whalers everywhere. It is a rare March day when a hammer doesn’t grab a live bait or a whaler doesn’t pick up a snapper bait.

Sharks have received a lot of press locally due to the fellow who was bitten in Lake Illawarra. Sharks sell papers but the garbage that is written on the subject by so-called experts is woeful.

One ‘expert’ said that sharks are fairly rare on our beaches and that shark nets are a great barrier to prevent attacks. I suppose this is just to reassure the public that swimming is safe.

But every beach jewie fisho knows that there are dozens of sharks on every beach every day – they are usually gone by sunrise so the odds are you won’t see one but they are never far away. Most are up to 1.5m but a good number of big bities are present as well.

Early morning and late evening swims are something to be avoided and stay out of dirty water. And a 2m hammerhead will bite you only if you put your hand in its mouth, they are not ferocious predators unless you happen to be a baitfish or squid.

REDS PICK UP

Snapper will proliferate over inshore reefs during the next few weeks so some pick-and-berley fishing is in order. You can cover a lot of bases in one go by setting up a berley trail over an inshore reef for snapper and put out a few live baits, one on top and one deep.

Now you have the kingfish, jewies, marlin and sharks covered while pilchards and cut baits of mackerel (slimy and frigate) will catch snapper, samson, trag, more sharks, trevally, mowies, bonito, tailor, salmon and a bunch of other species.

A bite-off may not come from a shark or big tailor; the hot water often brings a few spotted and the odd narrow-barred mackerel this far south. Put on light wire to find out what the culprit is, it may be worth the effort.

Flathead are hungry over all the sand patches and they have been excellent in size and numbers this year and still have a few months to go.

BEACH BONANZA

On the beaches it is all good news with school jew during the evenings on the high tide, but you have to be in the know or work hard to find them.

Whiting are easier, they seem to be everywhere if you have some fresh beach worms. Bream are showing in increasing numbers and good-sized flathead are being picked up in most catches.

Throw in a few tailor and salmon and the odd trevally and a spot of beach fishing can be really rewarding.

The estuaries are the same with flathead still going off in Lake Illawarra and the Minnamurra River on soft plastics, poddies and live prawns, whiting over the shallow sandy banks hunting nippers and squirt worms while bream seem to be appearing all over the place.

Blackfish are gathering in greater numbers along the weed beds and are taking squirt worms and green weed.

Bread or bran for berley will attract plenty of willing garfish and mullet and a dead frigate mackerel fished around the bridge pylons on a run-out tide during the evening could produce a shark or two, who knows?

ROCK ACTION

Things are just as good on the rocks with the blackfish starting to get going on most headlands.

Fresh green weed and a good sand and weed berley mixture put you in business. A few nice drummer are always on the cards when you use weed so be ready for the occasional bust-up.

Bream and trevally are in the washes but the big attraction is all the game fish action on the deeper ledges.

Bombo, Kiama, Marsdens, Bass Point, Honeycomb, the port breakwalls and Coalcliff are firing on all cylinders with salmon, mackerel tuna, kings, bonito, tailor, trevally and frigates chasing metal lures.

If you step up to live baits then there are some solid kings around early in the mornings.

Live frigates are the top bait but they seem to attract a lot of unwanted attention from the hammerhead population, but they pull hard too and a hammer from the rocks is a notable catch in itself.

A marlin is still on the cards using live frigates and if you can’t get frigates then slimy mackerel and yellowtail will do, although the salmon will give you a hard time when using smaller baits.

If salmon miss them there are mackerel tuna up to 8kg and a good chance of a longtail tuna to 20kg later in the month.

Or if you just want a bit of fun with the kids, chase the frigates as they zip in and out around the harbours and protected breakwalls at Port Kembla, Bellambi and Shellharbour, or down around the gravel loader at Bass Point.

It’s all go this month so get out and have some fun.

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