Summer seemed to take forever to arrive this year and it is not all beer and skittles just yet. We have some nice warm water and some nice fish out there but, as happens every year, we will get that icy current that precedes the ‘hot’ water so get into it before the water goes cold for that week or so.
When the cold water goes and the tropical water pushes through in a rush, look out – the action really starts and just gets better over the next few months.
For the moment we have a mixture of hot- and cold-water species and it is a matter of getting out there and seeing what is happening. The fishing has been a lottery on any given day.
At least the estuaries have been consistent, with fluctuating water temperatures around the entrances but in main body of Lake Illawarra and up the Minnamurra River have been fishing well, particularly for flathead.
There are plenty about up to 60cm with the majority in the high 30s and low 40s. Soft plastics, live prawns and poddy mullet are the most reliable offerings while the small blades seem to do well but cop a bit from the weed on the falling tide, particularly at the entrance to the lake.
If the water is warm, poppers are taking some cracker whiting over the entrance sand flats in the river and the lake, but squirt worms, if you can get them, are scoring the majority of fish.
Blackfish are picking up the worms as well and when it takes off, a blackfish over a kilo makes you think you have the mother of all whiting.
For a bit of fun, try prawning during the dark of the moon just before Christmas. The kids love it and they’ll sleep in the next morning, giving you time to cook the catch and try a few before they demolish them for lunch.
Nothing beats a feed of Lake Illawarra prawns. The farmed variety from the fish shop, just don’t hold a candle to fresh lake prawns.
As always, keep a few prawns live, wrapped in a heap of ribbon weed between the folds of a wet hessian bag. They will stay alive for a few days if kept cool in this manner.
The bream in the snags of the feeder streams and the flatties on the flats love them, too.
On the beaches, things are looking good.
Starting at the top of the food chain, now is the time to chase big jewies. From Bombo in the south to Stanwell Park in the north, there is a chance of a big mulloway on any beach this month although the usual hot spots of Windang at the lake entrance, Coniston, Fairy Meadow, East Corrimal and Coalcliff are the places to start.
A big fella might not come your way but there will be plenty of schoolies, salmon and tailor to keep you busy.
The pesky little whaler sharks seem to have increased with the warmer water but you have to get used to them if you chase jewies.
During the day and at twilight, there are plenty of whiting on most beaches, with bream and more than a few nice flathead.
The rocks are firing for just about every species possible. The cooler water has kept the drummer on the bite while the warmer currents have brought the baitfish we wait for at this time of year and those all-important garfish.
Garfish are an underestimated quantity when it comes to chasing larger fish off the rocks and the general rule is no gar, no pelagics.
Everything eats them and they are a great indicator of what is happening under the surface. Showers of chrome needles flashing out of the water or one lone gar greyhounding across the surface tell you there is something out there hunting. The bigger fish chase the gar and we chase the bigger fish.
Bonito, salmon, tailor and kingfish are all chasing baitfish along the rocks and towards the end of the month, if the warm water comes in, around Kiama there is every chance of a marlin off the stones.
In the meantime there are kings to 15kg around the southern headlands which will take a live pike, slimy mackerel or squid in the wash on daylight. Getting them out is another matter.
In the shallow bays, over the bommies and around the headlands, there are some nice bream and, if you use bread or green weed, some quality blackfish.
Offshore is good and getting better, with the flatties on the bite over all the sand patches. They may have a quiet day here and there if the water temp drops but for the most part they are going great guns.
On the reefs there have been plenty of small snapper for the drifters and the pick-and-berley brigade.
Mowies are turning up in good numbers and there have even been a few trag. Throw in trevally, samson, heaps of leatherjackets, sweep, pigfish, kings and even the odd pearl perch and things are looking good for Christmas.
From not until Autumn, serious sportfishos don’t head out without at least a few live baits in the tank.
There are kingfish over the deeper reefs and around the islands and a live bait on the top and one set deep while you jig covers all the bases. The deep livie is often the one that goes off first.
Around the islands there is a good chance any hooked king won’t make it to the boat because there are about 100 seals on Gap Island. The fishing has gone from good to poor in this area; steer clear if you want to catch fish.
There have been a few striped marlin out wide and the warm currents can turn up any time now, bringing the black marlin.
Last season they were late, arriving en masse on January 31. There had been nothing about on the northern reefs prior to this apart from tonnes of slimy mackerel and lots of boats with live baits out. At 9.35am, the blue current boiled through and you could see the whole scene change within a few minutes.
Fish were going everywhere and all five boats in the small area I was in had single or double hook-ups on black marlin almost simultaneously. All were over 100kg with some fights lasting five hours and one monster fish over 250kg eventually won the battle after eight hours.
The marlin hung around for a week like this with every boat getting hook-ups, until the current changed and it was back to reality.
Farther offshore there are still some nice yellowfin tuna and even some albacore. Trolling is finding the fish and taking most of the albacore, while pilchard cubes are scoring ’fin to 35kg.
The mako sharks are on the decline, being overtaken by whalers, tigers and hammerheads.
Striped tuna are schooling from the shelf to the backs of the beaches and are great fun on light tackle and great bait for anything that swims. Use them live for marlin and sharks or in small pieces for snapper, bream and flathead.
A fresh piece of stripy fished off the beach at night will entice even the most cautious of jewies and every whaler shark within cooee.
Stripies are also mixed with the schools of salmon, bonito, kingfish and trevally. The frigate mackerel, which are even better bait than stripies, shouldn’t be far away so it all looks great for Christmas – have a good one.Reads: 4363