Although it is now officially Winter on land, the lag in water temperature means that it is still Autumn in the water.
Although we should start to see the cold-water species like dory and trevally showing up, there should still be a few of the Summer species lingering, too. You will also find that the warm-water species that are still hanging around, like kings, mulloway, flatties and bream, tend to be in bigger, more cold-resistant sizes.
And the other good news is that they are feeding up big-time to try to stack on some reserves for the cold months ahead.
It’s also time for big squid, which are the best bait for the big jewies in the bays and rivers at this time of year. The squid are quite easy to catch but you must change from your Summer tactics of smaller jigs in shallow water to big jigs in deep water.
With one major tactical change, all your usual Summer squid spots should produce big squid.
Normally you would anchor within casting distance of the shore and fish back towards the shore. Instead, try turning around and casting to the wide side and into the deeper water.
You will need to exercise patience to ensure that your jig has sufficient time to sink to the greater depths where the big squid are sitting.
This is the time of year for bigger than average kings and an addition to tactics.
While I’m generally a strong proponent of fresh squid for bait, big kings do develop a hankering for garfish at this time of year. This is not surprising, given that we get a good run of gar in the Harbour about now.
You will find gar in places like Quarantine and Watsons bays and around Sow and Pigs Reef. A bread or pellet berley mixed with tuna oil will get them in behind the boat in no time.
My favourite gar bait is pilchard gut on a short-shank No 12-14 hook suspended about 30cm under a light quill float with no lead. Use as light a line as possible.
To keep the gar alive you will need a good-sized, well-aerated (preferably circulating) bait tank.
One of the most successful and spectacular ways to fish a live gar, resulting in huge surface strikes, is to swim it out under a bobby cork with no lead. The simple rig consists of a 1m mono trace with a bobby fixed at the point where the trace meets the main line.
No lead is used, so that the gar, pinned on a 6/0 octopus-style hook just under the lateral line and behind the anal fin, swims on the surface.
By having the hook on the underside you naturally keel the bait. A gar hooked above the lateral line will have to constantly fight the hook and tire more quickly. When it does tire the hook weight will pull the gar upside down and it will die.
Or you can drop the bobby cork and let the gar swim free. This is a great natural presentation but you don’t always know where your bait is and it can tangle.
If you are going to use this method, keep a constant check on your bait’s position.
While gar are great, don’t write off the squid. A big, whole, live squid fished deep will take its share of big kings and still rates as No 1 bait with the advantage of picking up a stray mulloway.
This season has been outstanding for above-average flathead, with 70cm-80cm fish quite common. Shallow water has produced very well for smaller flatties on lures but the thumpers have been down deep.
We have had our best success on whoppers in water 40’-70’ depths.
They like sand and mud bottoms with a bit of structure around to attract baitfish.
Most of the big ’uns have taken huge live yellowtail or slimy mackerel, mostly as by-catch when fishing for other things.
If you want to target them specifically, fish at night. Big flatties are not great to eat and are prime breeders, so we generally release them.
Bream numbers are also increasing in the Harbour and now is a great time to tangle with some big ones.
They school up pretty tight now and can take a bit of scouting around to find but when you do locate them, you can experience some good sessions.
Concentrate on getting your boat well anchored so that you are not swinging all over the shop. Once the bream are located, you will need to drop your baits into a relatively small area and this is not easy if your boat keeps moving off the spot.
They like gut baits, namely chicken and mullet, but I have also done well on sheep heart and other offal.
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