There’s a silver lining
  |  First Published: April 2012

The past season has produced the wettest, nastiest weather I can remember. The ocean currents have been all over the shop and water has fluctuated between 19° and 24°.

Every time the Harbour looks like cleaning up, down comes another big brown flush from upstream. It’s been windy and cold with regular big seas and it’s all testing anglers’ patience to the limits, to say the least.

But there is an upside.

What a good flush does, apart from turning the system upside down for a while, is inject the system with a burst of nutrients. These come from two main sources, the primary one in the form of plant, animal and mineral matter washed from the land. Secondly, depending on the extent of the flood, the riverbed, along with the vast variety of marine organisms, gets lifted and dispersed downstream.

This all makes a major contribution to the system and we will see the benefits over the coming years as the nutrients works their way up through the food chain

Being opportunist feeders, bream are particularly turned on by a big flush and I’m expecting a solid turn-up in April

The Spit Bridge, Balmoral, North Harbour, Sow and Pigs, Bottle and Glass and Bradleys Head should all produce plenty of bream.

The shallower spots like Balmoral and Sow and Pigs are best fished early morning, late afternoon and into the night. Once the sun is high in the sky try the deeper areas like Bottle and Glass and North Harbour.

A big fresh tends to knock the crustaceans and small baitfish around, making them easy targets for bream. These fish can tolerate extended periods in pure fresh so you could find them in the upper reaches and right in close along the shoreline at high tide. At low tide try the deeper holes and off the rocky points.

With a bit of colour in the water, baits like skirt steak, fresh tuna cubes, chicken and mullet gut and chicken breast fillet dipped in tuna oil seem to work better than live baits like yabbies, prawns and worms.

There's no doubting, though, that once the water is back to its normal clear condition then live bait is way ahead.

A light berley is a definite advantage in attracting bream. I once fished next to a boat that I considered was berleying excessively. The anglers’ mix consisted of a typical grain-based berley with what should have been a dash, but was in fact probably half a bottle, of tuna oil – we all do it. And it was going in by the bucketful.

Consequently a large number of the bream we caught were bloated with oats. My bet was that there were fish still down there that were so full that they had stopped feeding.

Berley is designed to attract fish, not feed them; your bait is there to feed them. Keep the berley regular, but just a sniff.

My berley system consists of a few fresh fish frames in the PVC berley pot and a gentle stir every 10 minutes or whenever I remember – usually the latter. It’s comical to watch some of my crew, who previously had no interest in berley, become human berley pot pistons when the fish turn up.


Flathead have also come on strong after the rain although they are probably more interested in the abundance of baitfish that have been flushed down, as opposed to the scraps. All the areas mentioned above are fishing well for flatties, with Balmoral really firing.

If you plan to anchor for flatties then try to find a drop-off on a sand bottom or an area of broken sand and reef. Live baits are the way to go when at anchor because the flatties like moving bait.

Drifting the shallow sand areas around Balmoral and Rose Bay is extremely productive but the fish, while in numbers, tend to be smaller. Whitebait or anchovies make good drift baits but again, a livie pinned through the top lip is way ahead.

Middle Harbour, being relatively deep and having only a small catchment, should still hold a few fish regardless of its resemblance in colour to the Murray River.

My bet would be that jew and bream will hold in there but pelagics like frigates, bonito and tailor will move out. Kings are the exception and we have been taking quality fish in surprisingly dirty water.

The fresh won’t worry the jewfish, either; in fact hunting in dark, discoloured water is their specialty.

There are lots of mullet in Middle Harbour at the moment so big live mullet would be ideal if you can get them. If not, live tailor caught in the lower reaches or squid from North Harbour would be great choices.

At last resort, big slabs of frozen squid or mullet will do.

Down on the lower reaches look for the area where the fresh water coming down from the Harbour meets with the cleaner ocean water. This usually occurs around Balmoral in Middle Harbour and Sow and Pigs in the Harbour proper.

Down here berley will help concentrate the fish and again the smelly baits will work best. In addition to gut and steak, try some pilchard fillets.

A couple of spots I have found work well in these conditions include inside Grotto Point, Cobblers Beach, Tailors Bay, inside South Head (around the red marker) Sow and Pigs, the eastern cardinal mark at Dobroyd Head (if the swell is not too big) and inside Cannae Point.

North Harbour will offer the cleanest water, having only minimal catchment, and should be well out of the swell.

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