Jackets make fishos hot under the collar
  |  First Published: September 2013

Over the past couple of months the frustration levels of reef fishers have increased dramatically, all because of our Aussie piranhas, the leatherjackets.

It really is a lottery on the reefs along our coast at the moment, with a great array of fish being caught.

On the closer reefs in about 30m there are snapper, trevally, tiger flathead, morwong, nannygai and tailor. Of course, there are a lot of areas devoid of any real action so drifting has been the best method to track down a feed.

The other reason to drift has been to avoid attracting the thousands of chinaman leatherjackets by anchoring and berleying.

Recently we were anchored in 35m of water off McMasters Beach and catching some decent trevally around 40cm. We were plucking the fish out of the berley trail when one of the trevally came up half eaten by the still-chomping leatherjackets.

We netted the head of the trevally and in the same scoop, netted 10 leatherjackets.

We brought the berley bucket to the surface and a football field-sized school of jackets surfaced behind it! We quickly re-rigged and proceeded to hook one leatherjacket and net 10 of its mates each time while trying to land the fish.

I have never seen anything like it.

The closer reefs to work are Newport Reef, Mona Vale, Long Reef and Queenscliff. Fresh-caught squid and pillies seem to be the preferred baits.

The outer reefs again are full of leatherjackets but if the current is strong, there are fewer off them about.

On the deeper reefs out in 80m, snapper, morwong, flathead, john dory and trevally can be caught but heavier sinkers and are needed to stay fishing on the bottom.


Along the coast quite a few big kingfish have been tangled with. There seems to be a school of thug kings roaming from Barrenjoey Head through to Narrabeen, in close to the rocks and shallower water.

These big bruisers are chasing garfish and sauries, both of which are hard to get close to without sending them scattering in all directions.

Kingfish are finicky fish at the best of times and at this time of year you have to observe what is around you and look for signs of baitfish, no matter how small.

Once you’ve found the fish, stay with them and be patient.

Most of our kingfish hits have come from casting lures or trolling garfish lookalike lures on the surface.

Along Pittwater the water is cold and all the bream have disappeared from the marinas and around Scotland Island.

The bream have shown up at the usual areas around Broken Bay, with the better areas being West Head, the ocean side of Barrenjoey Head and Pearl Beach.

To fish these areas it is always best to berley with a weighted berley bucket and float down through the trail some fresh prawns or oily strip baits such as bonito or even a pillie.

There are some real thumper bream among them if you can target them first thing in the morning as the sun rises.

The pelagic action along Pittwater and Broken Bay has been a little sporadic. There are schools of salmon turning up on the odd day and when they have been found, they have not been shy. Casting 10g-20g metal lures has accounted for many fish and if you let your lure sink deeper, tailor and trevally have been present as well.

The kingfish along Pittwater are still a bit of a task but, again, there are some big fish to be caught. The water has been a chilly 16° or lower and the ocean along our coast has been as high as 18.8°, so it makes sense to try and fish the incoming tide.

To give yourself the best chance of tangling with a kingfish, you must first catch a cuttlefish.

These little fellas are tricky to catch and they seem to pair off, so it is not often that you will catch more than a pair from the same area. You need to try rocky areas and keep your jigs within a metre of the structure.

If you value your jigs, use heavier fluorocarbon leader because if you don’t snag up every now and then you’re not fishing close enough to the bottom.

Areas to try for a big Winter Pittwater kingfish are Longnose Point, the Supermarket, Towlers Bay, West Head and Stokes Point.

When they’re after a feed the big kings will cover a lot of ground so again, downrigging is the best way to give yourself a chance. If you do find a school and they won’t hit your offerings, throw out some berley and float down some baits to see if that changes your luck.

This time of the year can be the most frustrating time to target inshore kingfish but the rewards can be great.


Hairtail are still being caught along Cowan Creek but they are moving about a bit. The bulk of the fish seem to be haunting along Smiths Creek and on the odd night there are some to be caught at Waratah Bay and the upper reaches of Jerusalem Bay.

Hairtail fishing can be a lot of fun if you are prepared for the cold and you have the right array of rigs and baits.

The humble pillie fillet can be great bait for hairtail and if floated down the berley trail school jewfish, bream and last year even kingfish can feed at night, making an outing a real mystery bag.

Reads: 1953

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