Blackfish are not everyone’s favourite fish but you have to give credit to the dedicated band of anglers who target these tough little fighters.
To a blackfish angler there is only one species that matters and the specialised tackle and methods used can be just as technical as hunting down a finicky brown trout on fly in a gin-clear alpine stream.
So if you are into blackfish, or their correct title, luderick (who the hell gave them that name?) now is the time to hit the rocks, harbours and bays with a bag of sand and weed berley and the trusty blackfish gear and have a shot at them.
Schools of big bronze fish up to 2kg travel along the coast during Autumn looking for a feed and can be berleyed right up to your feet.
Watching that float and waiting for it to slip under the surface has a mesmerising effect that is quite relaxing, even in the whitewater around the rocks.
If you are chasing blackfish from the rocks, the chances are the bloke next to you will be thrashing the water to foam with lures chasing the multitude of surface speedsters that are all along the coast this month.
All the deeper ledges, and on some days the corners of the beaches where the schools of bait are hiding, turn to foam as schools of frigate mackerel, bonito, salmon, tailor, kings, mackerel tuna and trevally smash through the bait balls.
Early morning on the northern breakwall at Port Kembla after a strong north-easter can be wild with fish smashing the surface everywhere.
If you are trying to live-bait the deeper ledges at this time of year it can be frustrating as because salmon and bonito knock off every bait you put in the water. Solution: put out a frigate mackerel or a bonito and hang on because the big kings just love small tuna, particularly if you can spin one up before sunup.
Kiama Blowhole, Marsdens Point, Bombo, Cathedral Rocks and the south side of Bass Point are all top spots this month. If you can get large slimy mackerel or yellowtail that the salmon and bonnies won’t touch, there is an excellent chance of a longtail tuna from any of the above ledges and there are still plenty of sharks as well.
With all the berley in the water from pilchard and anchovy scales there are plenty of bream and trevally in the washes and bays picking up the scraps.
Soft plastic prawn imitations or a good old pilchard piece fished in a bread and pilchard berley will get you plenty of fish off just about any deep ledge.
April is one of the best months to fish the local beaches. Big and small jewies on plastics and bait are about in good numbers, contrary to what the jewie fishos will tell you.
Plenty of whiting are still being taken and they seem to get bigger this month. Beach worms are the prime bait but local beaches seem to get a hammering from the so-called ‘pro’ wormers, so remember the bag limit of 20. It can be difficult getting worms on some beaches.
Flathead are still busy on the beaches and you can’t beat a walk along any beach flicking plastics into the surf on a calm afternoon – you get exercise and a feed.
There are plenty of salmon, big tailor and bream during the early mornings and late afternoon on just about all beaches, with Windang quite popular at the moment.
If you want some fun after dark, pick a deep gutter on a rising tide and use fresh slabs of tuna or mackerel and a short wire trace. The trace will limit the jewie opportunities but you will have heaps of fun on the many whaler sharks that move onto the beaches when the sun goes down.
Many years ago I gave up surfing when the sun got low, mainly because of all the sharks – not all small – I hooked when chasing jewies.
The estuaries are still going well with bream really getting motivated into hitting lures in the mornings and bait in the afternoon.
I prefer live prawns cast to the rocky foreshores of the lake and the deeper holes of the Minnamurra River; you just don’t miss and you score some ripper flathead and whiting into the bargain.
There are blackfish along the weed beds and over the sand taking squirt worms, flathead on plastics and plenty of mullet and garfish if you berley with bread around the back of the caravan park in the lake.
If you really want to get the adrenalin going, head offshore. The mahi mahi are still around the FADs but they are mostly smaller fish – but good fun, nonetheless.
While the dollies are about there is still a chance of black marlin around the closer reefs but most of the game fishos will be looking further offshore for the big blue marlin around the shelf. Fish of 300kg-plus are encountered over the next two months –formidable adversaries on any tackle.
Throw in a few striped marlin and you could well score the grand slam of all three species in one day.
There should be a few yellowfin tuna starting to show out wide and possibly on the deeper reefs but if the current is boiling down the coast then wahoo will be a good bet.
In closer the odd cobia and spotted mackerel is still on the cards, but a better bet will be the monster bonito that show up in April. Wollongong Reef, Bandit and the islands seem to be the places they like and fish between 5kg and 7kg are not uncommon.
Small live slimy mackerel and yellowtail work well, as do pilchard cubes fished in a cube trail.
The bonus is you pick up some really good snapper right in close to the bommies and headland washes. Anchor and berley during the evenings and fish unweighted slabs of mackerel or frigate in the berley trail for best results.
There are still plenty of sharks attracted to the berley but small whalers and a few hammerheads don’t the big snapper off the bite.
If you like casting lures, look for the flocks of birds over schools of salmon, frigates, bonito, kings, mackerel tuna and trevally along the headlands and backs of the beaches.
Larger kingfish are about at the islands, Bass Point and Rangoon with live yakkas and slimy mackerel early in the morning scoring the biggest and most fish. There are some bruisers over 15kg taking slow-trolled live frigate mackerel but most are only 3kg to 6kg.
There are plenty of flathead over all the sand patches from Kiama to Bolga with gurnard and flounder in the mix as well. The dreaded leatherjackets are still in plagues but most anglers seem to be used to them now and change rigs to catch a few and then move before they lose too much gear.
The reefs are a smorgasbord of species with plenty of smaller snapper coming in on the drift with the odd larger fish. Mowies are about in fair numbers, mostly good fish, along with pigfish, samson, trevally, tailor heaps of sweep, a few trag and even the odd stray pearl perch.
So get out there now, Winter is not that far away.Reads: 1971