It has been a long, long time coming but for some reason big southern bluefin tuna decided to make a run up the South Coast within range, if only just, of recreational anglers.
This phenomenon has not been seen for decades and had the angling world abuzz. There have been incidental catches of small fish over past years, usually during Spring, but this time they were in solid schools mixed with yellowfin in the middle of Winter.
They stayed for a while before heading south but not before fish from 40kg to 150kg-plus were taken.
Longliners have been catching big southern bluefin well off the coast for many seasons when the quota allowed, but they have so far been too far offshore to be targets for weekend anglers, except for that golden few weeks.
They may come again this month and there won’t be any shortage of anglers out there trying, but they might just have to settle for yellowfin from 30kg to 60kg – nothing to turn your nose up at!
Trolling seems to be the way to get the big blues but cubing is having best results on the yellowfin. Throw in some hefty albacore and the scene is set for a great early start to the game season.
Tuna are not the only targets for the game fishos: Spring is time for big mako and blue sharks. Most of the larger ones are encountered around the continental shelf and beyond but a big mako can pop up anywhere.
Closer to shore, the action is getting moving with a few kingfish starting to gather over the deeper reefs and around the islands.
Just on daylight is the best time so you have to be up early to get live baits and be on the spot at dawn.
A few snapper are still hanging about the inshore reefs, stragglers still looking for left over cuttlefish. Those using large soft plastic in up to 40m of water have been getting their share.
Silver trevally are now the dominant species in the berley trails, if you discount the sweep. A feed of trevally is a good option and they fight well on light tackle.
Salmon are hunting baitfish all along the coast, just look for the birds. Mixed with them are more trevally, undersized rat kings, bonito and the dreaded barracouta.
Schools of striped tuna are in close as well, if you can get a lure into their midst as they feed at high speed.
Try tossing a live slimy mackerel or yellowtail into the melee for the large kings that shadow the schools, or try big poppers around the edges. Now and then one of these monsters decides to play and 24kg braid on a big spinning reel evens things up a bit – sometimes.
Bottom-bouncers are seeing better results with snapper to a few kilos, a few more mowies and some nice pigfish.
Flathead have started to bite but it is getting almost impossible to fish for them because the yellow leatherjackets seem to have taken over the flathead areas. They are ferocious and take a lot of tackle in a very short time so many flathead chasers give up in disgust.
The rocks are fishing well with good drummer in the whitewater taking cunjevoi and royal red prawns. Throw in a few bream and if you add berley, some trevally, and you can have a good session off the rocks this month.
It’s time to look at Kiama, Bombo, Marsdens, the deeper ledges at Bass Point, Port Kembla and Coalcliff with live baits for mackerel tuna.
Don’t ask me why but they always seem to show this month and only for the rockhoppers.
There’ll also be big kings early in the morning and even the odd striped tuna for the lure-tossers, as well as salmon, tailor, bonito and even a few couta.
The beaches don’t really warm up yet but there have been the usual salmon and tailor in the evenings and a few whispers of jewies up to 12kg from the northern beaches.
Lake Illawarra has a few blackfish along the weed beds and around the entrance on squirt worms, while there are some nice bream in the creeks and along the rocky foreshores, especially around the islands near Berkley.
Towards the end of the month we should see flathead become more active in the lake and Minnamurra and a few salmon have been coming into the lake entrance on the high tide.
BE CAREFUL OUT WIDE
The boys from Wollongong Sportfishing Club have been heading wide chasing anything, as long as it is big. Kev Ward almost bit off more than he could chew when he attempted to pull an estimated 250kg-plus and still very much alive mako aboard his 5.5m boat.
Problem was, it got stuck in the transom door but there was a gap under the shark and a lot of water can pour into a small boat very quickly with this much weight on the stern.
Luckily, they managed to get the shark back into the water to relieve that sinking feeling but not before they were up to their knees in water. Technically, you could say they had sunk – 60km to sea and late in the afternoon.
With no way of getting the fish back to shore, they let it go. The bilge pump emptied the boat and they made it home to fish another day.
Many more small boats are heading wider in pursuit of large fish. They say Browns Mountain, off Sydney, can be like Pitt Street and on a good day all will get home in one piece.
But Mother Nature is very fickle and has a habit of sending down storm and tempest without notice. And if it comes from the west, as it can, there could well be a tragedy.
In a big wind your boat’s capabilities shrink dramatically and you can be in a whole lot of strife in a very short time. No one nearby could be much help, especially if they are doing their level best to get in as well.
So be very aware if you must go half-way to New Zealand, help is at least two hours away even if you activate your EPIRB.
Have a survival strategy in place. Keep all your safety gear, and some extra, in good condition and ensure your engine is very reliable.
Kev and crew last season scored striped, black and blue marlin to 170kg-plus, a 73kg swordfish, some thumping yellowfin tuna, big mahi mahi and the inevitable sharks, tagging most fish.
The temptation to go wide is very inviting but not worth your life, so pick your days carefully.