Snapper at their peak
  |  First Published: July 2009

My first two weeks of August are always dedicated to chasing snapper before the cuttlefish run slows and the reds move on to greener pastures.

As with late July, this is when the snapper are at their peak and while the weather is not always friendly, you make the best of the good days.

By now you should have a good supply of cuttlefish tucked away in the freezer so bait is not an issue and cuttlefish also comes in handy when chasing the kings which gather over the inshore reefs in a few weeks’ time.

Good snapper are all over the Illawarra’s northern reefs and there are still plenty of cuttlies popping, so you have the option of anchoring and berleying or casting at the floaters.

You don’t get as many fish chasing the floaters but it is great fun and never gets boring.

While you are looking for the floaters, you may well come across schools of striped tuna working close inshore. If you can tear yourself away from chasing reds to flick at the speedy stripies, you’ll have fun.

Sometimes the snapper just get so full of cuttlefish they just turn off, but they can’t resist a cube of fresh striped tuna in a light tuna berley trail. That can turn a mediocre snapper day into a sensational one.

Striped tuna are worth their weight in gold at this time of the year.

They are great to catch, especially when pelagics have been a bit quiet over recent months, and can really test light tackle to get your skills back in shape for the oncoming warm water.

Stripies over 10kg are not uncommon in August and can destroy you on light gear so up the line to 6kg or 8kg. You won’t get as many hook-ups because you will have to increase lure size to get good distance with the heavier line but you at least have a chance of staying connected.

Small lures work best as the tuna are feeding on the eel-like bait that fills the water at this time of year. Trolling will catch a few stripes but mostly will only put the fish down and off the bite.


Salmon also exploit the abundance of these small baitfish and gather in large schools in coming weeks.

North of Stanwell Park, the breakwalls around Coniston, the islands and Bass Point will have schools working regularly, particularly if we get a few early north-easters to push the bait into the southern corners of the beaches.

If the schools hang about for a few days you will get heaps of rat kings moving in, to the point where they become a nuisance – most are lucky to be 50 cm.

Try casting live yellowtail into the schools because larger kings lurk below, even in shallow water, and will hit a live bait while ignoring every lure.

Let the small lures sink to the bottom or use small plastics and you can have a ball on the silver trevally that gather under the schools and there are even a few stray bonito about.

The drifters are still doing it tough but things are on the improve with small snapper and the odd larger fish grabbing a bait as it bounces over the bottom.

Flathead are still mostly tucked away in the sand but a few have been taken up at Stanwell Park and off Port Kembla Beach, so they might get an early start this year.

One saviour is the pigfish: Usually you get only one or two a day but there seem to be more around lately, with up to a dozen per boat. Throw in a few mowies and trevally and you come away with a feed.

There have been reports of yellowfin tuna and albacore on the continental shelf but weather dictates the terms at this time of year. Southern bluefin tuna were reported just down the coast so they are more than worth a look and there are always plenty of big mako and blue sharks to play with during August.

If you miss out on the tuna there are plenty of trevalla and gemfish to test your cranking arm.


On the rocks it is drummer time so grab some cunje and royal red prawns and work the washes on your favourite headland.

You can just cast into the washes with only a small split shot or use a small bobby cork float and hang on.

Drummer really put up a stink in this type of close-quarters fishing, with most of the fish often right at your feet in the rough whitewater.

Long casts are not necessary and the closer you are to the rocks, the better the chance you have of keeping them from getting you into a cave or under a ledge.

A 2kg fish on 6kg line will smash you in second in the wrong country and a 3kg or 4kg fish is a trophy.

You can go up in line class but we fish for the fun of it and a feed is a bonus and there is no skill in catching drummer on 15kg line.

Fishing the washes should provide a few bream and trevally and if you take some pilchards there are nice tailor and salmon in the same washes, particularly if there is a bit of deeper water nearby. A stray snapper isn’t out of the equation, either.


The beaches are mostly quiet but salmon and tailor are about at dawn and dusk, taking pillies, garfish and mullet strips. If you get a few stray picks, it will probably be a bream so drop down in hook size to catch them.

Windang, Bombo, Coniston, Fairy Meadow and East Corrimal have all had fish lately.

On the northern beaches there have been reports of some jewies but they are very hit-and-miss and, strangely, there have been some very small fish of around a kilo – odd for this time of year.

The estuaries require a lot of work for little reward. There are bream up in the feeder streams of Lake Illawarra in the snags, where bait is the best option, but if you like a lot of casting you might be able to trick a couple with lures.

Some decent flathead come out of the lake and Minnamurra this month but take photos rather than fillets – they will all be females.

You could chase a few salmon in the entrance channel of the lake on an early-morning run-out tide.

No. 1

Big, ugly snapper will be up munching on cuttlefish in the first few weeks of August.

No. 2

Anchor and berley over the inshore reefs and there are plenty of fish like this on offer.

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