Hiding from the westerlies
  |  First Published: August 2008

Winter's almost over and it seems there's light at the end of the tunnel of cold and dismal weather at last. But August is well-known for its howling westerly winds that can blow for days on end, so don't count your chickens yet.

Those winds can be a real pain if you're an offshore angler but don't automatically think fishing is off the agenda. There are a few options in a westerly so let's look at what we can do.

Obviously the further you get offshore in a strong westerly the worse it gets, with capping wind waves and rough seas. I've had to punch home into a few westerlies over the years and it's never much fun.

Last Winter we headed out in a 10-knot breeze that turned into almost 20 knots and the trip home from the continental shelf took more than two hours. We got hammered and I promised myself that I wouldn't head out wide in any westerly.

By far my worst experience was 25 years ago when we took our Haines 445F centre console to The Banks in a 10-knot westerly that was puffing at 20 to 25 knots by the time we got out there.

Travelling with it, we didn't notice the increase in strength and got caught out big-time. It was that windy and rough that we couldn't even head straight back into it so we had to virtually idle back into Currarong at 5 knots, which took two hours.

We got hammered on that trip back and ended up completely soaked with wind spray.

We were probably lucky back then because I know of several cases around here when anglers have gone wide without getting a weather report and were caught out badly.

There have been several fatalities as a result of small boats fishing in strong westerlies. If you own a trailer boat from 5m to 7m then never go out wide if a westerly about 10 knots is forecast. They have a habit of increasing in strength unexpectedly and area a real trap for young players.

At this time of year always get an accurate weather report and if you are heading out, log in with VMR Shoalhaven on channel 90 on the 27MHz band.


The good thing about westerly winds here is you can often fish in the shelter of a headland or cliff and enjoy a good session without being blown all over the place or having to tough it out.

Unfortunately, the only bit of shelter in Jervis Bay during a westerly is in close around Vincentia or around in Boat Harbour near Target Beach.

Getting over to Target can be a chore so you don’t usually see too many boats out fishing JB in a strong westerly.

In under the cliffs at Currarong is a better option and even along the back of Currarong, Culburra and Shoalhaven Heads beaches is worth a go.

There are a few reddie reefs off Currarong around Kinghorn and Tilbury Cove fishes well for squid and reds in a westerly.

Even out the front of Crookhaven Heads is worth a throw for a reddie so put a bit of thought into these options when the westerlies blow up.

With the flat seas that westerlies produce you can often get out and fish the local rock platforms in complete safety.

August probably isn’t the best time of the year for blackfish but you should be able to rustle up a few drummer or bream, or even have a fish for a groper with fresh crabs.

Get in under a bit of cliff height and you'll never even know it's blowing.

Same goes for a spot of beach fishing. When the westerlies stop blowing, you often get a ‘kickback’ swell so be careful of this when fishing a few days after strong winds.

So let’s have a look at the other options if the winds aren't blowing. This time of year isn't the best for fishing so let's get that out there straight away.

It's cold and many anglers find it difficult to get motivated at this time of year and because many species are absent or not playing in August doesn't help when you need a reason to get keen.


We've caught some reasonable reds in August if the cuttlefish are still running. July is the prime month for the cuttlefish run but there are usually still a few about now so it won't hurt to get out and fish some floaters or soft plastics over the inshore reefs.

Out wider may also be worth a go but only if those damn leatherjackets aren't around in plagues.

The last few times we've fished deep out wide we've lost just about everything we've dropped down and given up in disgust.

Out real wide is also worth a try now if you can get a few days of decent weather. The currents are very slow and it makes chasing a blue eye or hapuka easier.

There should also be a few yellowfin moving around now. The past few seasons in August and September we've had some good fishing for yellowfin and albacore.

Winter produced some good fish so it should just get better as we run into Spring.

Most techniques will work including trolling, cubing or even live-baiting so just keep your ears open and get out when the weather is suitable.

Another August option is the old Jervis Bay calamari so if all else fails and it's not blowing from the west, get out and catch a feed of fresh squid.

I love fresh calamari in egg and bread crumbs so this is a great option that my family loves. Take a picnic, enough clothing and some warm soup or coffee and make a day of it.

The kids will have a ball and you'll get a few free feeds of squid into the bargain. If all else fails and you just can't get motivated, do some boat, trailer or tackle maintenance.

I've just finished re-spooling a couple of Tiagras and getting our shark and cubing traces in order. September will see some yellowfin and makos about and I'm looking forward to that already.



Elspeth Finney with an 18kg yellowfin taken on a live slimy mackerel in 600 fathoms. She was pretty happy with three of these for her first yellowfin experience.


The author with a kilo brown from Eucumbene back in May. Fishing the spawn run was great fun and something completely different.


Scott Sharpe from Culburra Tackle with a solid red on a plastic. Now's the time to be out chasing snapper on with rubber.

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