Top conditions, great fish
  |  First Published: April 2009

Early morning westerlies giving way to dry, warm calm days are what May is all about.

These are fantastic fishing conditions where there are still a few chances of catching the odd Summer visitor, although hopes quickly evaporate over the next few weeks as Winter begins to tighten its grip.

A lot of the fishing will be done in close as the calm conditions and clear water allow you to work the shallow areas along the coast.

Bream are starting to move and a berley trail of tuna or mackerel started early in the morning in one of the many protected, shallow bays will have them right up behind the boat and ready to catch.

Austinmer, Bellambi, close in around the islands and the gravel loader at Bass Point are all good spots that produce heaps of bream. Light lines and small chunks of tuna or mackerel fished with little or no weight are the way to get results.

Silver trevally, salmon and even a few nice snapper and jewies also often turn up in the trails looking for an easy meal.

The calm seas also bring groper into the equation and with a few sea urchins for berley and some crab baits, you can often see them in the clear water right under the boat, munching on the urchins and waiting for that crab.


The sport fishos will still have a good time this month: There is still plenty of surface action with schools of salmon to 3kg popping up all along the coast. They go hard on light tackle and aren’t all that hard to find on calm mornings.

All the regular spots for kingfish are worth a look this month. In coming weeks there should be plenty of good fish around the islands and Bass Point; they seem to gather over shallow, rough ground before virtually disappearing over the colder months.

Live slimy mackerel are the baits of choice with yellowtail next best. The kings come into shallows chasing the dwindling baitfish schools and the increasing numbers of squid so get a few live baits, set up a berley trail and catch bream while waiting for the kings.

A few of the live baits will probably get knocked off by the big bonito that are hanging about the reefs at the moment. Whole pilchards work well for them in close while out on the deeper reefs a berley trail of pillie cubes will get them going – and any snapper in the area.

You will probably lose a few livies to big salmon so dropping the anchor, berleying and laying out live baits can really pay dividends this month.

Around the headlands and along the backs of the beaches you may see garfish launch out of the water to escape their attackers. The culprits are probably longtail tuna; there was a large run of fish moving down the coast a few weeks back and quite a few regularly find their way into local waters.

They run harder than yellowfin of similar size and never give up, making them a great sport fish. Longtail kebabs in satay sauce on the barbecue aren’t too bad, either.


In the deeper water it’s time for yellowfin. During the 1970s and 1980s Autumn was sport fishing heaven as anglers put aside all other species and went in pursuit of big ’fin over the close reefs like Bandit and Wollongong and to the north The Peak and The Banks and Montague Island to the south.

Schools of ’fin from 10kg to 100kg hammered sauries, garfish and anything else small all along the coast. Things have changed but old habits die hard and the few coastal fish that are in the system still visit these areas, but you really have to be in the right spot on the day to cross paths.

It is a bit different out on the shelf as the oceanic yellowfin move on the currents. As the cooler waters push up the coast, the ’fin will be right on the cool side of the temperature break and May still produces good fish on the shelf.

Kiama and Stanwell Park canyons seem to hold the most fish, while there will be schools scattered all along the shelf and beyond.

Not all who venture wide will be looking for ’fin; big blue marlin are moving with the schools of striped tuna and yellowfin.

Most anglers troll lures for the blues but live striped tuna trolled slowly work exceptionally well. To hedge your bets, set a large slimy mackerel down at, say, 60m and you double the chance of a blue or deep tuna while you drift and cube for yellowfin.

If you like trolling lures, there are still some striped marlin to keep things interesting while waiting for that big blue.

In closer, the snapper have started to thin but any fish are generally good so a berley trail over the close reefs and hard ground fished with lightly weighted fillets of mackerel or tuna should get any reds about.

Things are starting to slow for the bottom bouncers as the cool water arrives.

Flathead have dwindled but the quality is there if you can get onto a patch. Mowies seem a bit patchy but some nice pigfish have taken the place of trag and trevally, while there are always plenty of sweep and those ubiquitous leatherjackets.


On the rocks May can be pretty special as the pelagics seem to hang around the headlands just that bit longer than they do offshore.

There is usually not much swell and the prime target for the land-based game fishos this month must be longtails. They hug the coast and more are caught from the land than out of boats in this region.

Live slimy mackerel and yellowtail are the top baits but spinning with larger chrome lures will score. All the usual LBG platforms will produce but you can also expect mackerel tuna to 8kg, solid bonito, salmon, tailor and some ripper kingfish if you get on the rocks well before dawn and soak a live pike in close against the ledge.

You could berley with bread in the washes and get smashed by some of the big pigs (rock blackfish) that are back around the ledges.

Bream are on the increase and some nice trevally have appeared in close. Throw in plenty of blackfish and you can have a really good session on the rocks this month.

The beaches are still worth a shot before they become the realm of the specialised angler who targets species in the cooler water.

I still like to chance my luck this month as there are some patches of nice whiting taking worms.

There are tailor up to a kilo on most beaches with the odd school of fish well over 3kg.

Salmon are on most beaches along with a few school jewies and some very solid jewies, particularly on the northern beaches. I wouldn’t mind betting there are some good fish on Bombo Beach down south, too.

If you are fishing bigger baits for jewies take plenty of hooks because there are heaps of small to medium whaler sharks in the gutters after dark.


In the estuaries it is bream time from the creeks down to the entrance. Small soft plastics and hardbodies are scoring good fish, as are bait and berley in the creeks and along the rocky shores.

There are some nice whiting down at the entrance and blackfish along the weed beds on green weed and on worms over the sand. There are a few flatties still getting about but this month should see the end of them.

Finally, Leisure Coast Bait and Tackle, on the road to Bellambi boat ramp, has new owners. They have heaps of new tackle and bait so if you haven’t been in for a while, take a look. They are open early til late to look after us fishos.

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