Time to think bigger
  |  First Published: October 2008

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Let’s not get too excited, but this month we can start thinking bigger. Not biggest, yet, for many of the species we have been waiting for over the cooler months.

The water is starting to get warmer and with it come the baitfish and, following them – well, you know how it goes. The improvements are everywhere, from the wide offshore pelagics to flatties up the creeks so this month we can really sink our teeth into some good fishing.

This time last year, the jewies really got cracking on the beaches and had an appetite for large soft plastics and one thing we learnt was that they were not as fussy about time and tide as they seem to be when baits, alive or cut, are used.

I suppose we have become accustomed to lobbing a bait into the surf and hoping one of the senses of jewies will find it when they are in hunting mode and, with luck, will eat that bait.

This is directly opposed to the active pursuit of your quarry by working casts to every part of the gutters, holes and rock edges around the surf zone with very lifelike artificial imitations of what jewies like to eat.

You are now placing a food source right into the strike zone of a predator that on most occasions will have a crack at your presentation.

All fish have to be ready to strike on impulse when something resembling food comes into range. If they don’t ,it could mean the difference between having the energy to keep healthy or going hungry and losing condition.

If it’s not to their liking they can always spit it out, as they often do with baits.

Quite often when you hook a fish there will be more than one in the area because jewies travel in schools and will hang around on the same beach, even holding in the same gutter, for days at a time.

Best not to let your ego get in the way here, it doesn’t take long for the word to spread and you won’t get a toe-hold on the beach the next day if you say too much about catching a few fish.

The tough part is finding where they are and to do this you often have to put in one heck of a lot of casts.

Some of the more switched-on anglers have found that dropping in line class has improved their catches markedly and they are getting more distance to work the deeper parts of the gutters farther from shore, resulting in more hook-ups.

Sure, you lose the odd fish and the fight lasts a little longer but that is way better than not hooking any. You need only one fish now and then for a feed anyway – the fun is in the fishing.

Then there is the by-catch.

Some monster flatties live on local beaches and are rarely taken on baits; they get wiser with age. But there has been a remarkable number of 5kg-plus flatties falling for large soft plastics each Spring and early Summer.

Again, don’t let the ego get in the way, let the big ones go. There is no excuse for not getting a pic these days because every phone has a camera and many better digital cameras are quite compact.


If you want a feed of flatties, head to Lake Illawarra where they are starting to get moving now the water is warmer in the shallows and the baitfish and prawns are on the move. The main channel and the drop off area are the places to target.

While you are there, you might want to swap the bottom-bouncing soft plastics for a little surface popper and see if you can score a surface whiting.

It seems to be the way to go these days and you don’t catch small ones. The entrance has been producing a few whiting on worms so why not try your hand at the popper?

If you prefer something more sedate there are some nice blackfish along the edges of the weed beds taking weed and squirt worms (if you can get them). And if something smashes your float as you wind in, it could well be a salmon; there have been a few between the bridge and the entrance on the rising tide.

Bream, too, seem to have become more active as the prawns move, with the rocky shorelines around the islands and the reef at Mt Warrigal producing some nice fish, as is the deep water around the main bridge pylons late in the afternoon.

Minnamurra is much the same as the lake, with flatties on the move, whiting starting to feed on the flats from the entrance to the bridges and nice blackfish along the weed beds on a falling tide.


Apart from the mulloway on the beaches there are plenty of salmon taking pilchards on ganged hooks. The bonus is some extra large tailor, particularly during the evenings.

Coniston Beach behind the golf links, Fairy Meadow and Coalcliff have thrown up tailor over 3kg but they are not a certainty.

Whiting are about and will improve over coming weeks. The best beaches are Windang and Warilla with beach worms working well but at the moment you still get more salmon on the than whiting. Throw in the odd bream and it is worth a look on most beaches this month.

While the water is warming, it is still cool enough to keep the drummer on the bite. Most ledges hold good fish with royal red prawns, cunje and cabbage weed all producing.

The deeper ledges have a few trevally if you use bread and tuna oil for berley and with October being one of the calmer months, it will be worth a shot at big groper off the rocks if you can get red crabs for bait.

For faster action, schools of surface feeders have been active along the breakwalls at Port Kembla and the deeper ledges like Bass Point, Bombo, Kiama and Hill 60, so an early morning session tossing lures could pay dividends for kings, bonito, trevally, salmon and even a mackerel tuna or striped tuna.

Put in time gathering live yellowtail or slimy mackerel and there are better kings and the odd larger mackerel tuna about as well.


Offshore, the action is starting even for the bottom-bouncers as the flathead get their heads out of the sand and feed as the baitfish move along the coast.

Over the reefs there are a few small snapper and the odd larger fish that lingered after the cuttlefish run. Throw in a few samson fish, mowies, pigfish and a heap of sweep and you will get a feed.

Leatherjackets are still a pest over most flathead spots but you just have to learn to live with them.

On the sport and game scene, things are really starting to heat up. Coastal schools of salmon, bonito, kings and tuna are feeding on small baitfish and lures.

Further offshore it gets better with yellowfin tuna, albacore and a few southern bluefin showing out on the continental shelf. Finding them is not hard because the birds give them away.

Even though you can’t see any fish you will see in the middle of nowhere terns, shearwaters, gannets and albatross all gathered over one area. Look no further and troll or set up a cube trail and it won’t be long before the action starts.

Often when trolling you won’t see surface action but shortly after you stop and it gets quiet again, the fish often come to the top and start feeding again and you can get right on top of them with a cube trail.

They can be frustrating when they are feeding on sauries but with persistence you will catch good fish.

With so much food about this is traditionally big mako shark time and it is common to have several large sharks visit your berley trail. Remember to take a few live baits when you head wide because a big yellowtail set well back will often tempt a large yellowfin tuna that is boat shy and weary of cubes.

And there are always a few striped marlin hanging about during October.

Don’t forget that the first dark of this month heralds the first good run of prawns in the lake.

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