Harbour runs hot and cold
  |  First Published: February 2013

No point in trying to sugar coat it, it’s been a very slow start to the season with the southern oscillation index sitting just slightly on the wrong side of the graph.

Surface temp has been reading a comfy 21° on top but catches of hairtail, dory and morwong a few days before Christmas were testimony to the cold water down deep.

It feels like everything is about six weeks behind where it should be but we have been getting some weird catches like spangled emperor, just to throw the theory into chaos.

To confuse things even further, I heard a first-hand report from a reliable source that there was a marlin cruising around and jumping just off Balmoral Beach.

It has happened before. A small black was seen by hundreds of ferry commuters chasing frigates off Manly jetty in 1999. The papers called it for a sailfish but it was definitely a black.

The surface action is very quiet although it’s just started to show some promise with bonito and tailor churning up around the Heads and plenty of salmon in Double Bay.

The kings have been hard work but it’s encouraging to hear that there are swarms of small fish on the surface at Long Reef and some huge fish to 22kg starting to show on the close reefs.

The kings have been getting bigger since the trap ban and particularly over the past five years. It would be interesting to know what size Sydney kings traditionally grew to before commercial fishing smashed the population.

There’s no shortage of numbers and if the current growth trends continue, Sydney anglers will be saving a few bucks on New Zealand airfares inside of five years.


I think we will see a great flatty season as we get further away from the commercial fishing ban. St Georges basin guide Greg Reid told me that seven years was the magic mark on flatties down there after the 2002 commercial licence buyback.

We are approaching than now on the Harbor after the 2006 buy-out and are already seeing lots of flatties in the shallow water and their average size has noticeably increased.

If you want big flathead fish the deep water, 40’-60’, on the mud bottoms and use huge baits and lures.

Whenever I hear of big kings being taken on the close reefs off Sydney I expect to see those fish turn up in the Harbor about mid-January after their spawning cycle.

Last year the jiggers were pulling 10kg-15kg fish in October and, sure enough, we got that class of fish early New Year in the Harbor.

This year regular reports are coming in of 15kg-20kg fish. That growth rate exceeds what you would expect from a king in just one year, so these fish have come in from somewhere else.

Either way, you’d better start upsizing your tackle now. This is a whole new class of fish and they will be in control for most of the fight on whatever gear you are using. Prepare for humiliation.


Jewies love the wet years and don’t mind a bit of cold water, either. Already we have been experiencing lots of 5kg-10kg fish and I even caught my first Harbor teraglin.

We should see the schoolies continue with bigger fish starting to show in April. Squid is the best bait but slimy mackerel and mullet are reasonable alternatives.



I’m thoroughly convinced that Barry O'Farrell was dropped as a baby. Amid his flood of ridiculous proposals and decisions, which included the amalgamation of Maritime with roads and the closure of the Cronulla Fisheries research facility, he has now approved a floating helipad for Sydney Harbour.

Apart from the obvious associated safety issues, the exclusion zone required to operate safely around the landing area will seriously impact on an already crowded Harbour.

Former Civil Aviation Safety Authority chairman Dick Smith says he doesn’t think it would be a safety issue. I’m guessing that Dick hasn’t been on the Harbor on a busy weekend afternoon or he has had his concerns quelled by knowledge of the magnitude of the exclusion zones.

According to The Australian Smith said, “People forget Rene Rivkin had one on his boat in the Harbour – it was quite a novelty back then. There was no problem with downdraft. People in other boats would just move a bit away, let the helicopter land or take off, then move back again."

This offers great comfort to organised racing event sailors, anchored fishers on a hot bite, a low-speed kayaker, dive charters with divers below or a kid in a capsized skiff, all common occurrences on the Harbour.

She’ll be right Dick, we will just move out and then back every 20 minutes between flights. Rivkin was not running two choppers and high-rotation scenic tourist flights.

The spectacle and noise of choppers regularly landing and taking off on the Harbour will prove unnerving and dangerous for boaters and residents alike. My prediction is that this abomination will be canned.

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