Harbour fish a cure for the cold
  |  First Published: September 2013

The cold water is well and truly running through Sydney now, confirmed by the constant stream of whales passing by the Heads and occasionally even poking their blubbery noggins into Manly for a quick look.

The boys offshore have been having a great run of southern bluefin tuna and to top it off, we caught barracouta and even a gummy shark inside the Harbour.

I’ve occasionally caught couta in the past but have never even heard of anyone catching gummies this far north. They are prized table fish so no one was complaining.

Overall, Winter fishing has been very good.

When the weather is right, Fishabout skippers Steve and Stu have been guiding to some exceptional wash fishing from the boat. Fishing around washes in North Harbour and off North Head using plenty of berley and bread and prawn baits, they have done really well on groper, drummer, bream, luderick, trevally and jackets.

It’s exciting fishing on light gear with plenty of bust-ups from big groper and drummer, with enough brought back to the boat to provide a succulent feed.

Luderick continue to bite well at all their usual lower Harbour spots.

They will be reliable targets right through to the new season.


I covered luderick techniques thoroughly a couple of issues back so I won’t go over them again but I would like to offer a quick tip on keeping weed.

I normally use cabbage weed that I get off the ocean rocks. The blackfish that I am chasing are all lower Harbour fish, therefore ocean blackfish, and are quite happy with cabbage.

By keeping my cabbage in a wet hessian sack in the vege crisper section of my bait fridge and thoroughly washing the weed and bag in the sea every time I go fishing, I can keep it in good condition for about two weeks. You simply dunk the whole bag in and out of the water a dozen or so times.

Recently Mike Baxter from Melville Island Fishing Lodge joined me in Sydney for a blackfish session. He brought along a good-sized bag of river weed (hair weed) that he had picked up from an estuary somewhere around Woy Woy on the Central Coast.

We did very well with it and the luderick were more than happy to scoff it down, but what really amazed me was the longevity of the weed.

I kept it in a wet sack as described above and two months later I was still catching fish on it. Now, 10 weeks later, it’s still looking good and I’ve set myself a bit of a challenge to see how long I can keep it going for.

One of my charter customers once told me that he had kept weed going, and even growing, in shallow tubs of fresh water in his backyard until his missus decided to dispose of the ‘vile broth’.

Weed is treated like gold among the luderick fraternity. It’s hard to find, unreliable in supply and its location guarded with threats of murder. (It’s rumoured that a massive reef of weed was discovered somewhere in central Australia in the 1930s but despite numerous expeditions it has never been found!)

I guess my tip is that with good care, you should only have to secure river weed once or twice a season.


There are some really nice tailor in the Harbour at the moment that should hang around until at least October.

Unlike the Summer fish, these Winter tailor are rarely seen chopping on the surface. They prefer to hang deep and are feeding on bigger baitfish.

Naturally, they like to hang around structure that accumulates baitfish so wrecks and deep reefs, channel markers and some of the deeper boat moorings are good spots to look.

The best depth range for daytime fish is around 60’ but at night they will come into the shallows to feed.

Sow and Pigs Reef is a classic night spot and you can nail the tailor with an unweighted pillie drifted down with the current or slowly spun on ganged hooks.

Once you have located the daytime fish, usually because they have been terrorising your john dory live baits, you can either chase them with strips of squid or whole pillies or jig for them with metals.

Let your jigs fall to the bottom and jig them back to the surface, much the same as you would if you were jigging for kings, albeit a bit slower. Blades and spoons are ideal for the job.

I’ll also add that Winter tailor are far superior table fish to their Summer brethren. They carry a marbled fat through their flesh, particularly the belly, that improves their flavour and texture considerably.

To see what I’m talking about, have a good look at your knife blade next time you fillet a Winter tailor. It’ll be as greasy as a mechanic’s thermos and it’s all healthy omega-3 oil – good for you.

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