It’s July again, that lean time of the year that is difficult to fish and even more difficult to write about and get some form of consistency where you can go fishing and actually be confident of a descent result. So we will start at the bad end of the ledger and work toward the exciting stuff, and yes there is some descent fishing during July but only on a select few species.
Fishing the estuaries is tough in the depths of winter, with just about everything shut down except for a few bream in the lake feeder streams, they are not that keen to hit lures but a little bit of berley applied around a selected deep snag in conjunction with some good quality peeled prawns could get you a feed.
Now there is a bit of a problem with prawns these days. They are imported from all over the world. When using prawns for bait use only prawns that come from Australia, as imported prawns that are purchased cheap at the fish market and used for bait could bring in diseases that are detrimental to the crustaceans living in our waterways.
If we get a disease that decimates our prawns and shrimp (in much the same way the virus imported in pilchards fed to caged tuna in South Australia wiped out the pilchard population) it could have disastrous effects, so just keep that in mind the next time you go to buy bait.
On the beaches things are a bit better - but only just - with the good old salmon rallying to the cause to keep you warm with a bit of action. Pilchards on ganged hooks fished in the deeper gutters will get the bites and it doesn’t really matter which beach you fish, as the sambos seem to be roaming all over the place at this time of year. They aren’t hanging around too long in the one place, as there are not the schools of bait about to hold them.
If there are pickers about shredding your pillies, bream that will be the culprits so drop down to a smaller single hook and fillet of pilchard to catch them.
There are still some nice tailor in the deeper gutters as well, but as usual they are most abundant during the evenings and there are some fish over 2kg about. Coniston Beach as well as Fairy Meadow have been consistent.
The rocks can be hard to fish during July with some big blows coming through, making the area where the ocean meets the land a dangerous place. On the good days, the deeper ledges can be berleyed for trevally and some decent snapper if things are right.
There may well be a few bonito still hanging about for the lure tossers, but the salmon will be the most common catch this month.
The main target should be the big rock blackfish that come out to play when the water gets cold and bubbly from the pounding of the winter surf. Cunje or royal reds fished in the washes around the bommies and ledges under a small bobby float (or with just a small pea sized sinker) will get plenty of bites. Use a bit of bread for berley and any bream and trevally in the area come in to play as well.
Bring along a few extra floats and extra hooks, as these guys can be brutal, burying you in the caves and bombies in seconds - particularly if you find a school of solid fish of two kilos plus. Fish below this size shouldn’t create too much havoc in the tackle department unless you are fishing some very rough country and lines of 4-6kg should suffice, enhancing your hook-up rate.
If the water gets too rough it’s time to hit the harbours like Bellambi, Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama, because the fish do also.
Blackfish are the main target. If you can get hold of some green weed, these sheltered waters can really produce some top fishing with anglers all rugged up against the cold, battling for the best spots and catching bag limits of big fish.
You aren’t limited to blackfish either, as a bit of bread berley will get the bream, trevally, drummer and even the blackfish on the bite while they take a rest in the sheltered waters.
Offshore it gets a little better, but it is still tough fishing with only a limited number of species available compared to the warmer months. The bottom bouncers do it pretty tough with a few mowies, pigfish, trevally, the very odd flathead and, of course, plenty of leatherjackets and sweep.
The one shining light is there are plenty of small snapper about over the reefs, making life a little more bearable. For best results this month pick your favourite shallow reef spot, drop the anchor, get the berley going and chase the snapper. Towards the end of this month it all happens as the snapper get stuck into the cuttlefish as they spawn over the shallow inshore reefs off the Illawarra coast.
I rattle on about this every year but it is a great opportunity to catch that big snapper that everyone aims for in their fishing career and you don’t have to go far to do. You can start just a few hundred metres from the ramp at Bellambi or even off the break wall itself.
Cuttlefish is the only bait to be using and on the quieter days during the week, if there is a light westerly blowing, cruising from one spent cuttlefish to another casting baits close to them as albatross gorge themselves on the rich flesh you can score some ripper reds of all sizes. This is arguably one of the best ways to catch big reds.
Soft plastics work well, but every Sergeant Baker, rock cod and wirrah in the world seems to know about the feast of cuttlies as well. You’ll just get sick of catching all the rubbish on plastics and move back to using the slow sinking cuttlefish baits.
If you berley you should get plenty of trevally stirred up to catch while waiting for the snapper. Also, there are some good salmon in the washes around the islands and Bass Point taking ganged pilchards. There’s even the odd quality kingfish if you put out a live mackerel under a balloon (so you know where it is and keep it from swimming around and tangling the snapper baits).
Further offshore if the weather permits there have been some nice yellowfin tuna on and beyond the Kiama and Stanwell Park canyons. Fish to 35kg have been caught and bigger fish to 80kg have been seen jumping in the pillie trails but as yet, they have eluded capture.
Albacore to 13kg have been taken as well, so the game fishos have something to smile about in the depths of winter.Reads: 2877