Seek shelter from the wind
  |  First Published: August 2008

Blustery, windy, blowy, gusty, call it what you will, the powerful air movement at this time of the year makes it damn difficult to fish in comfort but fish we must, so we have to use the weather to our advantage.

This on many occasions means the offshore options can be limited for all but the foolhardy, so the land-based alternatives have to be explored for best results.

Even though the water in the estuaries is cold at best, there are still some good fish. This is the time the big flathead leave the backwaters and head to the lake, river and creek entrances, giving you chance to chase them in open water.

They are not abundant but the fish you catch are often big, so you chase them with the goal of a great picture and then a safe release. The big fish taste like crap and a good picture will stay with you for a lifetime.

Live bait is the best bait but gathering anything that will tempt a big flattie this month is nigh on impossible, so big soft plastics are the go.

Work the edges of the deeper holes, the drop-off and under the bridge in Lake Illawarra. You will have to work hard for your fish but the ones you do catch will almost certainly be memorable.

If you don’t like flatties then head to the lake’s back creeks and chase the big Winter bream. You can keep out of the wind under the sheltered banks and if you use berley then you should get a few fish.

Good old mullet gut is still a top bait, as are peeled prawns, but be prepared for some epic battles with monster eels in some places.

Small soft plastics work well during the early mornings and late afternoons if you can get a boat into the creeks.


The beaches are a good option at the beginning of a blow, when they are calmed by the strong westerly winds. The gutters are easy to pick and the fish often swim close to shore in the calm conditions.

Big jewies start to make their presence felt over coming weeks so some warm clothes and a good pair of waders to insulate you from the evening chill could pay dividends.

Salmon are always a great standby and there will be no shortage of them this month on all the beaches. Throw in a few tailor during the evenings and some bream and the beaches don’t feel so cold.

The flipside is about 36 hours after a big westerly blows up, the sea comes back and makes the beaches almost unfishable.

So if you are now thinking about fishing the rocks, forget it and do some tackle maintenance, it’s just too dangerous. No fish is worth being dragged by a large wave over barnacle-encrusted rocks before being sucked into a freezing cauldron of whitewater to be held under until you drown.

Even if you survive, hypothermia sets in quickly this time of year and you are a goner anyway.

If you must fish the rocks, try the sheltered bays for blackfish, drummer and bream. The fish aren’t stupid, they hide as well and pick up an easy feed in the calmer water.

At the beginning of a westerly blow the rocks can be very calm, allowing you to get into places you normally can’t to fish for big drummer and groper. But the clear water will make the fish very touchy so berley is a big help.

The deeper ledges will have salmon, tailor and rat kings with a few better fish starting to show at the end of the month, while bream and trevally will be hanging around the washes.

You get a day at the beginning of a westerly before the sea starts to bump so at the first sign of any swell, get off the rocks and find somewhere safe to fish.


If it is not blowing and you can get offshore then the fishing is starting to improve.

The snapper should still be at their peak inshore early this month as they give the cuttlefish a working over. Cuttlefish is the best bait and stay in close over the northern reefs for best results.

Trevally should be plentiful around the islands and Bass Point. If you use bread and pilchard pieces for berley it shouldn’t be long before you have them in the trail and right up behind the boat.

Flocks of seagulls should be starting to appear over schools of feeding fish in coming weeks as the tiny baitfish start to arrive.

Striped tuna, salmon, rat kings, bonito, barracouta and trevally move in for the feast and August is notorious for the extra-large striped tuna. Last year fish over 10kg were landed, making them more than a handful on light tackle.

If you have a big boat and some good weather, a trip to the continental shelf can be on the cards and yellowfin tuna will be the targets. They seem to be on the increase as the longliners fall victims of rising costs, removing thousands of hooks from the ocean each year.

Yellowfin live for only 10 to 12 years so if we get good recruitment of small fish over the season then it takes only a few years for the inshore biomass to increase in numbers and size and we will get a decent recreational tuna fishery again.

There were plenty caught during April and May so let’s see if they are as numerous on the downhill run during Spring.

While you are waiting for the ’fin to show up you could drop a line to the bottom for gemfish, trevalla, hapuka and other assorted deep-water ooglies. Chances are when you hook one and bring it to the surface, a mako or blue shark will show up as they too will be on the increase over the next few months.

Closer to shore, the bottom bouncers will pick up plenty of small snapper and the odd larger fish. Throw in a few mowies and heaps of leatherjackets and there is some hope for a good catch. Wollongong Reef, the Southeast Grounds and Coalcliff are good spots to start.

Many will be turning their efforts to the groper if they can get some crabs and if we get a few days of calm seas, allowing the groper chasers to get in close to the bommies that are usually inaccessible. This can be fraught with danger as the swell picks up very quickly after a blow and can catch inexperienced anglers in shallow water with obvious results.

Spring is nearly here so keep warm and remember that if all else fails, you can always go down to the local breakwall or harbour with a squid jig and catch a feed of calamari.

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