The key to success this month is using cuttlefish for bait. Everything with fins is looking for that soft white flesh to fatten themselves up for spring.
You don’t need a boat to get hold of a fresh cuttlefish but it will help. If you’re lucky and there is a southeast wind, head down to the northern beaches early in the morning and pick up any that wash up, however, the predominate wind this month is westerly and most of the spent cuttlefish get blown further offshore.
The good thing about cuttlefish is that it freezes very well with little if any change in texture and still remains tough on the hook.
Snapper and jewies will often go out of their comfort zone for a feed of cuttlefish and regularly follow these bait right into the shallows.
When motoring around offshore you will most likely come across an occasional floating cuttlefish. This can be used in conjunction with your onboard bait cuttlefish: motor slowly and quietly into the wind and put your unweighted bait cuttlefish right next to the floater and drift away leaving the bail arm of the reel open so the line peels off allowing the bait to sink down under the floating cuttlefish. If there is a fish there the line will start to sizzle out, so close the bail arm and set the hook, hopefully into a nice snapper.
Snapper is the main target at present, with those keen enough taking on the icy southwesters that come off the snowy mountains in late winter.
Putting the anchor down and berleying your chosen reef will get the majority of fish from pan-sized up to big reds. No sinker or as little as the conditions allow is the way to go and cuttlefish is the only bait to use. If you are more than 2-3km out you are too far in most cases.
Trevally can become a pest when you berley. However, they can make a good standby if the snapper are slow, which is common.
Even though things are quiet for bottom bouncers, mowies, pigfish, sweep, trevally and leatherjackets all like cuttlefish so a good catch can still be made in the depths of winter.
Further offshore if conditions allow there have been some captures of yellowfin and a few albacore out on the Shelf. The yellowfin have been the usual run of 30kg fish with the odd bigger one poking around the berley trails. There have also been some large fish picking up lures with a 75kg specimen coming in from wide of Stanwell Park.
Kiama canyons is also worth a look. Even if the yellowfin aren’t about you can drop a bait to the bottom for gemfish, trevalla and all those other ooglies that come from the depths.
If we are lucky we may even see the return of the southern bluefin this year. Let’s hope so, as last year tackle and fuel sales to fishos went through the roof when the big southerns turned up in numbers for the first time in ages. It was only one large patch of big fish that went up the coast but it certainly got the imagination of those that chase big fish running wild.
On the beaches there are plenty of salmon and tailor, with even the tailor grabbing the cuttlefish ahead of pilchards.
Smaller baits are picking up bream and the occasional trevally. During the evenings larger baits are picking up a few school jewies up around Coalcliff, Austinmer and Thirroul, with the odd bigger fish hanging about as well.
Windang is worth a look as is Bombo during the big tides in the evenings this month.
On the rocks it is much the same as the beach, as long as you act sensibly and fish to the conditions. Too may people have lost their lives on the rocks this year and the message just doesn’t seem to be getting through – If it looks too rough don’t fish there! If the rocks are wet from water washing over them, don’t fish there!
It only takes one wave with knee deep water to kill you and often familiarity breeds contempt. No matter how well you think you know your spot you can never trust it. If you get knocked off your feet, in most instances you will loose a lot of skin, break a bone or two, suffer shock and feel very sick. And that’s only if you’re lucky! If you hit your head then you are in big trouble.
Likewise, there is also a high chance of being washed out to sea. Even if you avoid serious injury on impact, you are still very much in danger with the chance of hyperthermia, shock and wet heavy clothes weighing you down. Remember that no fish is worth the risk of losing your life.
Nevertheless, when the conditions are calm then the rocks came really produce this time of year. On most of the rock platforms along the coast bream, trevally and drummer are also picking up small pieces of cuttlefish as well as peeled royal reds. The deeper ledges are worth a throw for snapper and some big blue groper.
Salmon are still grabbing pilchards and lures and there are even a few stray bonito about taking lures.
The estuaries are fairly quiet. The water is cold with a few bream for those keen enough to chase them.
Peeled prawns cast into the snags in the feeder streams of the lake or small soft plastics worked along the islands rock walls and around the bridge pylons will keep you warm.Reads: 4600