More marlin please!
  |  First Published: January 2016

January is when it all starts to happen and fishing just gets better as the weeks roll on with holiday anglers out in force to take advantage of the great weather and better fishing.

The lake at this time of the year is chaos with locals as well as people from all points of the compass descending on our beautiful stretch of water for a chance of some excellent Illawarra fishing action! Flathead will be the main target, as always, and there have been plenty to go around with most anglers getting a few. Prawn pattern plastics have been the killers with most other plastics performing well. The old timers and their live poddy mullet always achieve results. The prawns are on during the evenings so grab the scoop nets and lights and get a feed and some for bait the next day.

Blue swimmer crabs have become so much more popular over the past few years and at this time of the year I doubt anyone can motor in a straight line from the drop-off north or west for more than 500m and not pick up a trap line around the prop. Be diligent, and keep an eye out because on any given day during the holidays there will be hundreds of trap floats bobbing on the surface and pretty much all will catch a few.

Popping the quiet flats for whiting can be rewarding very early in the morning before the crowd wakes up. When the traffic gets a bit thicker on the water switch to live prawns that you scooped the evening before to bolster the catch or pump a few worms. Bream are active on live prawns, and the best time to catch them is during the evenings in the main channel around the bridge pylons. A quiet paddle up into the feeder streams flicking live prawns into the snags can get good results and some good bust ups.

Very light line gets the most strikes but also makes it difficult to get big fish out in tight water. The odd mulloway should be present for the persistent anglers working the channel and bridge with big plastics during the evenings.Remember, they have to get in there some way so the breakwalls during the dark on the top of the tide could be worth a look too. Minnamurra is much the same but you usually get a bit more quiet time early in the mornings except for all the ski paddlers but they don’t disturb much. The estuaries don’t get better and a feed of prawns and blue swimmers, followed by a few whiting and flatty fillets washed down with a coldie makes a good end to the day.

Don’t forget the Lake Illawarra Flathead Classic held by Wollongong Sportfishing Club early this month with great prizes for the whole family. Ocean Storm tackle at Warilla will have all the details.

Beaches and Offshore

On the beaches there’s fun all around with the whiting now on all the local beaches. Grab a few beach worms and work the edges of the gutters at low tide and it shouldn’t take long to find a school. MM Beach is always excellent in January as are Windang and Warilla beaches, however, these two get a bit of pressure when they are ‘on’ so finding fish elsewhere is a way to avoid the crowds. Salmon can be a bit of a bonus or a nuisance depending on your tastes, but one thing is for certain they put up an excellent scrap on whiting tackle and there are plenty about. Target them very early in the morning particularly with ganged pilchards. The evenings have been the domain of the tailor and some very good ones as well with some fish pushing 3kg. Most fish are under the kilo mark though. Flathead are on all the beaches now and make a pleasant by-catch when chasing other species, or you could just grab a few plastics and spend a pleasant hour or two walking the beach and casting to likely looking spots. What could be better?

If you really want to get serious, now is the time to chase bigger than average mulloway on the beaches. There are good numbers of schoolies popping up on the usual beaches but the bigger ones are what we all chase, if only for bragging rights, and this is the month to do it. On the rocks, the small pelagics have made a show with a few frigates zipping around the headlands. Bonito are improving and salmon and small kings are around most of the deeper ledges. With the rise in small pelagic activity comes the larger fish. Kings have been active along the deeper ledges around Kiama taking squid if you can get them and live yakkas and mackerel.


Kings are great, but the main target will be marlin. This is the time they turn up at Jervis Bay and to get there they have to swim past us so the patient and persistent will be rewarded. Every year there are a few hooked in January with the odd one landed which is pretty good considering most locals head to JB as it’s so close. If the big fish are not your cup of tea there are plenty of bream in the washes along with a few drummer still grabbing royal red prawns and some nice blackfish are in the washes during the day and the sheltered harbours in the early hours of the mornings.

Offshore fishing is starting to heat up and January is renown as the month when the black marlin shows up. Any day now they’ll pop up and when they do you won’t get toehold at the ramps or any of the usual spots like Bandit and Wollongong reef.

Big live slimy mackerel are the bait of choice and there are plenty about, but some anglers will still go out and drag skirts about all day picking up a fish or 2 now and then – unless the fish are going crazy and then they might get a few more. A few stripes are about out a bit further but you will put in the kilometres chasing them. Then there are the big blues that hang about the shelf and beyond.

So with that, the next few weeks are your best chance to score the grand slam of blue, black and striped on the one day. Not done by many and very special. If the billies aren’t co-operating there have been good shows of mahimahi around the FADs both legal and private. Most of the fish are just legal or under with a few better fish attaching themselves to random FADs, it is simply the luck of the draw. The bigger fish mostly come from open ocean areas out around the shelf when they grab marlin bait.

The wrap up

A few school yellowfin tuna have shown up when the current is running but they are hit and miss at best and there have been better numbers of striped tuna about from the coast to the shelf. Not so long ago they would swarm along the coast at this time of the year, even chasing the bait into the surf but that doesn’t happen anymore. If you do score a few they are great put straight back live if you are chasing marlin or looking for snapper, mulloway and bream baits. Kings have made a bit more of an appearance in most of the usual spots around the islands and bommies. A few better fish are among them too but they seem to like the shallow water lately making it very difficult to get them out unless you use extra heavy tackle.

This style of killing a fish using 50kg braid or heavier and dragging the fish out with the boat into deeper water to rip it in is not angling. Some might say it’s the only way to get them, but in the end it is an ex-breeding lump of meat on the deck – or even worse, on Facebook. My opinion.

A few decent snapper are about over the deeper reefs and gravel with those big plastics getting the results again as long as there is not too much current. On the shallower reefs there are plenty of smaller reds and a lot of small samson fish have moved in over the past few weeks. A few trevally, pigfish mowies and even the odd trag have shown up too and the flatties have hit their straps over the sand patches all along the coast in excellent numbers and size.

Schools of salmon, bonito, small kings and frigate mackerel are popping up all along the coast chomping into the baitfish, providing lots of fun and fresh bait.

Happy New Year!

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