Like I’ve always said, this is the best month of the year because the fishing and the weather are just spectacular.
Along with the normal species, we often get a chance at some of the more exotic northern species that get swept down on the warm East Australian Current and hang about, taking in the local atmosphere.
Cobia show up every year but you have to be one of the lucky ones in the right place at the right time. Usually those fishing with live baits for kings score a fish or two but those fishing the beaches with big fresh baits for jewies also hook up.
The cobes are not always small, either. A few years back fish to 20kg were taken from a school living for a short time on a small reef just north of Wollongong.
Spotted mackerel are often picked up this month, too, but due to their teeth, most hook-ups and subsequent bite-offs are put down to tailor. So if you get bitten off when fishing with pilchards over one of the close reefs, try some very light wire and you may well be rewarded with a spotty or two. They came down the coast in masses a few years back and made it all the way to Batemans Bay.
When the current runs you can find rainbow runners around the islands and Bass Point, while these same currents will deposit small giant trevally (that doesn’t sound right!), sweetlips, amberjack, longtail tuna and you might even see a turtle or two. In the estuaries, there’s the odd mangrove jack.
Offshore, don’t be surprised if that Christmas tree or small skirt put out to catch bait isn’t picked by a stray spearfish, wahoo or even a sailfish.
I scored a sail on a live bait on Bandit Reef a few years back. I thought it was small marlin when it first came out of the water but got a shock when it turned out to be sail.
Exotics are really just bonuses when chasing the local species, of which there are plenty to choose from.
Kings are over all the recognised spots and live baits early in the mornings or fresh squid will do the trick. Fish one live bait free-swimming on the top and one on a sinker near the bottom for best results.
Snapper can be caught over just about any reef at the moment, as long as you berley. Little or no lead on the line will allow the bait to sink naturally and score more hook-ups.
The end of the month on the full moon running into Easter will see the big snapper move into the shallows during the evenings, in some places in less than 1m of water. Local knowledge helps here as waves can and will break in shallow water so fishing close can only be achieved in favourable conditions.
The full moon will also be favourable for teraglin, if anyone fishes for them any more. They are a rare commodity these days locally but available if you put in the time over the olden-day ‘trag bumps’, if anyone still remembers them.
Flathead flounder and gurnard are still numerous over the sand while the reefs have all manner of fish, including mowies, snapper, samson fish, trevally, pigfish, kings, a few pearl perch and sweetlips with the usual jackets and sweep.
If you just want some fun, this is the time. Just about every pelagic is about offshore.
There is plenty of surface action for the lure-tossers as schools of fish seem to be boiling all along the coast. Salmon, tailor and bonito are the main culprits but there are more than enough striped tuna, small mackerel tuna and frigates to keep you busy.
Drop a soft plastic in the size of the baitfish they are feeding on and you will be surprised how many small to medium snapper, trevally and kingfish are moving along below the surface schools.
Further offshore, there is still plenty of action with the mahi mahi big and small on just about every floating object. These will be chased by all three species of marlin, from blacks just behind the breakers to the shelf and beyond with striped and blue marlin in the deeper water.
Small yellowfin tuna should be grabbing small skirts out wide and a few may show up over the close reefs, as they used to before the longliners hammered them.
The beach fishing can be inspirational with flathead, bream, salmon, tailor, trevally heaps of whiting and some very nice jewfish.
Whiting are on every beach; you only need some beachworms to get in on the action. A few pilchards will get you just about everything, else with some nice flathead coming from the gutters on most beaches.
Evenings will produce salmon, bream and tailor and it is always handy to keep a few lures in the bag now as salmon, tailor, trevally and even kingfish will ball up baitfish in the surf.
The action can be fast and furious with fish going in all directions and baitfish landing on the sand at your feet as they try to escape the predators.
It can last for hours or be over in minutes but you will remember it forever if you are on the spot.
During the evenings the jewies will be on the move with plenty of schoolies about and more than enough fish over 15kg to keep the diehards happy.
The rocks are hot as well with bream, trevally and drummer in the washes taking royal red prawns while the blackfish are just starting to school and move along the coast.
On the deeper ledges there is still the chance of a marlin down around Kiama but your live bait is more likely to pick up a big kingfish, longtail tuna or big mackerel tuna.
Hammerheads and whaler sharks will be nuisances while the pillie-soakers and lure-tossers will have heaps of fun with smaller kings, particularly on poppers. Conventional lures such as crystal eyes will score salmon, tailor, trevally and small mackerel tuna.
Don’t forget the frigate mackerel in the harbours, they’re great fun for kids, mums and dads using small lures and light lines.
The estuaries are cooking, with heaps of nice flathead, bream in healthy numbers and big whiting around the entrances and over the shallow flats.
Throw in a bread berley and you will have heaps of solid mullet and garfish around in no time.
I had a strange thing happen while launching my boat down at St Georges Basin over Christmas, I met a gentleman with his little daughter watching the fish in the clear water at the end of the ramp. He enquired as to what I was chasing and when I said the big flathead that the basin is renowned for he told me all the best spots and the best lures and tactics.
I thanked him for the advice and mentioned I had a mate who does well down here, Ian Phillips and it turns out he fishes with Ian too.
His name is Greg (good name, that) and he runs Bay and Basin Sportfishing Tours. Now this guy is a pro who didn’t need to impart any information to a complete stranger, but he did and I am very grateful for that – blown away as a matter of fact. Fishos can be very secretive.
I did some homework and have since found out this guy is pretty good, having won the Basin Flathead Classic with Ian in January with a 90cm-plus flathead and a stack of other good fish and he regularly gets fish between 80cm and 1m along with big bream, whiting, jewfish and the monster tailor that the Basin is famous for.
So if you ever wanted to catch that flattie of a lifetime, give Greg at Bay and Basin Sportfishing a call – his ad is hereabouts in the mag.Reads: 2031