Scratch the itch for dirty-fighters
  |  First Published: August 2013

We are finally in full-blown winter, even though the atmosphere temperature says otherwise, but the watery world that fish live in is what matters to them.

The water temperature has plummeted to a chilly 17ºC, different to the 19ºC temperature we had only a few weeks prior. The more temperate species on the beaches and ocean rocks just don’t like it; either they migrate or the few that hung around have become lethargic.

Generally, this is the month of the westerly wind that makes the seas really flat in close with a big choppy sea about 20km offshore. When that subsides, the sea often comes back with vengeance, accompanied by a southwest southerly.


It is a different kettle of fish in the estuaries. The species that thrive in cold water are black drummer, groper, leatherjacket, luderick, trevally and salmon, which you will encounter at this time of the year. Snapper are also a good proposition when the conditions are right.

The often fickle snapper will come on the chew venturing in close to feed on the food that has been recently ripped off the rocks. Spots like South Avalon, Warriewood high cliff, South Curl Curl turn on a few snapper, with some trevally and salmon being the main.

When the seas subside, try Bangally Head, North Avalon, Mona Vale Pool, Turrametta Head, Dee Why or Bluefish. The snapper will be found in the washes with the trevally, salmon and the odd bream.

A recent noteworthy catch were 7 snapper and some bycatch. The snapper were up to 1.5kg at least with a couple of good fish dropped. Even though the wash fishing for snapper is a better proposition in Sydney throughout the summer months, this time of the year you will get trevally, salmon and some bream.

Throughout the summer months, bream, bonito, kings become more prolific throughout the snapper catches.


If you are getting withdrawal symptoms from the lack of hard pulling fish, groper will sooth the nerves. On the flat, seemingly fishless days, westerlies can turn a quiet day into a day that you will never forget.

Catch a few red crabs, in that 50mm+ size at least, with 15-24kg line, a sturdy 10-12’ sensitive tipped rod and a Daiwa Emblem 5500 or a 650-700 Alvey. For hooks, I normally use the suicide pattern 5/0-6/0 in the 2x to 3x strength. Weaker hooks just don’t cut it. Ball sinkers from 00 to 1-2 ball is generally the max that is required for in close wash work and a paternoster with a spoon or snapper sinker from 1-3oz is the max you need for distance casting.

Because of the rugged terrain that you are fishing, such as sunken boulders, cracks and some flat ledge, it pays to make sure that your rig lands on to the flat ledge areas otherwise snags will be imminent. Any frays and nicks that occur should be addressed straight away. Retie that section, or the whole rig if necessary, or else a big blue groper will make short work of the slightly damaged line.

The low light period are the obvious choice but not absolutely necessary. I have caught groper right in the middle of the day during swell less than 0.2m. To find groper, virtually any deepwater ledge over 4m deep will do. Snorkelers say they are one of the most prolific fish out there!

Black drummer

The black drummer, or pig, is another nerve soother. The going can get a little tough when the seas are really flat, but with the low light period and a run tide, they can be found in reasonable numbers.

During these times, they will just poke their heads out, have a quick forage for food and swim back to the cave or ledge. The black shapes can often be seen in the calm conditions. Luderick are frequently caught with them, as well as some trevally and out of season bream.

I caught a nice bag of pigs recently, with 7 fish to 3kg and 1 luderick. Several of the larger fish were released and I kept a few for the plate. I prefer to release the bigger pigs because their flesh can get a little tough.

A consistent trickle of bread berley is more successful than piles of bread inconsistently. Peeled endeavour or banana prawns is a good choice of bait. Bread swells in the stomaches of fish not giving them room for much else, so too much berley is not productive, especially in flat conditions.

Little Bluey near Shelly Headland in Manly, Freshwater and South Curl Curl, Dee Why, Long Reef, Warriewood, Mona Vale and North Whale headlands have been producing good bags of pigs recently.

The beaches

There’s been some good fish landed on the beaches on ganged pillies. Manly, Dee Why, Mona Vale and Avalon beaches have all been producing fish. Some trevally are part of the catch and couple of stray bream are there as well.

A brief run of tailor are chewing on dawn and just on and after dark, but the bite is generally brief.

A late mulloway for those keen enough may still be available. I have caught some this late with clients, but it is preferable to avoid the flat conditions. Unlike the warmer months, where lots of mulloway can be caught, when it is flat it normally means there are westerlies blowing – cold, flat and fishless!

Just remember at this time of the year it is a good time to practice on species that you don’t normally fish for, like pigs, trevally and groper, and off the beaches for a big salmon. They will relieve the winter despair.

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