This is the new beginning, so brush the cobwebs off the rods, add a few drops of oil to the squeaky bits on your reels and load up with new line, the season starts in earnest this month after Winter hibernation.
Not everything has been shut down completely, because there have been some early starters this year but for the most part the fishing just gets better with every passing week from here until March.
First to get going are the inshore pelagics. Schools of salmon, trevally, kingfish, striped tuna, bonito and barracouta are prowling the coast looking for swarms of tiny, clear, eel-like baitfish.
When they find them it is a free-for-all as the predators gorge themselves on the surface. This can be frustrating because they are so focused on this one particular bait that they will ignore all other offerings, so you have to be right on the money with a lure that very closely resembles what they are eating.
This generally means very small lures and to get any distance with a tiny lure, light line is required to make a cast far enough to get to the feeding fish.
This means that when you get a hook-up you get maximum fun. You might lose a few but it’s better to lose a couple than use heavy line and not get a hook-up at all.
The fish are easy to find, just look for the seagulls, terns and muttonbirds on the feeding fish or out of place ripples on the surface from travelling pelagics.
Some of the regular producers are along the breakwalls at Port Kembla, between the islands again at Port, Coalcliff and Bass Point.
If you want larger pelagics there are still rumours of yellowfin out beyond the shelf along with a few albacore and they should become more abundant as the month goes on. Throw in a few 50kg-plus southern bluefin tuna and it could be worth a run out wide if the weather permits.
The blues have made a welcome return to local waters this season and while they are not in great numbers, it is good to see them on the comeback trail after being gone for so many decades.
The fish have been quite wide, so start at the canyons and work your way towards New Zealand – just remember small boats a long way from shore are not for the inexperienced or foolhardy. Pick your day and watch the weather, because it is a long, punishing trip home when the wind gets up and conditions can get nasty very quickly. A 20-knot westerly can be deadly 40km to sea.
If you like sharks then now is the time to start banging on the berley pot because makos and blues really start to respond this month and get better over coming weeks.
A big bait set deep will also put you in with the chance of a big whaler or even an early tiger, if you like a couple of hours of getting stretched.
If things are slow you can always drop a bait to the bottom for trevalla, gemfish or hapuka, Just remember what goes down must come up and there is a lot of winding involved.
The deeper reefs and the islands start to host to some solid kingfish on live baits fished near the bottom, particularly on Bandit and Wollongong reefs. While you are waiting for the livie to get eaten, try some high-speed jigging to get the kings worked up.
Although they are past their best, there are still some nice snapper in close among the washes and bommies and out on the deeper reefs as they spread out after the main run of the spawning cuttlefish finishes for another year.
Cuttlefish is still the best bait as the reds scramble for the last remnants.
Anchor and berley for best results and if you don’t get snapper, odds are you will find plenty of trevally in the berley trail. Scale down the hook and line size and move to pilchard pieces and you can have a tonne of fun.
Bottom-bouncers are still doing it tough but not for much longer, as the ever-popular flathead start to get going towards the end of the month. The leatherjackets are a problem but many anglers seem to be targeting them now to try to thin them out. They aren’t bad tucker but when you are chasing something else they can be a nuisance.
Mowies are also starting to pick up in numbers and there are enough small snapper to keep most anglers happy.
Throw in half a dozen pigfish and a few trevally and you have the makings of a decent catch.
The rocks fish well this month as the seasons start to cross over. Berley the washes with bread and pilchard pieces but don’t use quality bait pillies, buy a can of pilchard cat food and add it to the mix, it is just as good and heaps cheaper and you can always keep a few cans handy for berley when you need it in a hurry.
The berley will attract bream, trevally, drummer, salmon, snapper and a host of other species. Even predators like big kingfish are attracted to the yellowtail and other baitfish that come to your berley.
The deeper ledges have had some solid kings but you have to have that live slimy or squid in the water before daylight. Once the sun comes up you might as well go home. Bombo, Kiama and Marsdens all hold good fish.
While you are waiting for the big kings, you might toss a few lures about for smaller kings, bonito, salmon and even the odd big mackerel tuna or striped tuna. Try the northern sides of the deeper headlands and breakwalls after a north-easter because the bait seems to congregate there and the larger fish follow.
The estuaries are still slow but will pick up towards the end of the month. Bream will be the main target along the rocky shores and right up the creeks. They won’t be great in numbers but the quality should be there.
A few flathead start to appear at the end of the month in the lake and Minnamurra but give it a few weeks before you start putting in a big effort.
The sand on the beaches is still cold but the water is warming a bit and there are some tailor up to 3kg around Windang beach, Bombo, Coniston, East Corrimal and Coalcliff.
Salmon seem to be the main catch off most beaches along with a few big bream on the early morning high tides.
Reports of a few schoolies are starting to filter through already, mostly on soft plastics. The odd large fish is falling for big lumps of cuttlefish but they are still a bit scarce and will only get better over coming months.
A mate called me one Wednesday in July and said, ‘You won’t believe this, there is a black marlin around 50kg in Allens Creek under the bridge chasing bait – grab your camera and get down here’. It was not sick, it was feeding and it just defied logic – but it was there.
A marlin in July is one thing, but in Allens Creek, in virtually brackish water only a few metres deep and 10m wide, is ridiculous. Everyone knows Allens as the creek that runs through the steelworks and everything from the works is discharged into it, probably keeping it warm.
You are not allowed to fish in the creek or the Inner Harbour of Port Kembla, possibly due to the fact that most fish in the creek glow in the dark from contaminants.
I couldn’t get any pics as I was stuck on a job but one of the guys there filmed it and put it on U-tube, so if you want a look type ‘black marlin steelworks’ and see for yourself.