A month of variety
  |  First Published: December 2013

We are starting to see some quality fish move into the harbour for the start of the season. There’s also plenty of variety, with both bottom and surface fish starting to fire.

The salmon are thick, as are the tailor. Kings have started to trickle into the harbour with a few up around the 1m mark. Big flatties are getting more common every year. We are having a cracker trevally run and they are better than average size. We even nailed a lone blue groper that picked up one of our kingie baits.

Both the kings and surface fish should be in full swing by now, and if the 1m-plus fish that the boys have been pulling at Long Reef are anything to go by, you’d better make sure your gear is in top working order.


Trevally have traditionally been considered a winter fish but in my experience they are much more prolific and bigger in spring and early summer. They are a great fish to catch and very underrated as a tablefish. Cooked properly (rare) they are as good as any of the best pelagics, with a similar flavour to their close relatives, kingfish. Raw they are sensational, and in Japan they’re highly regarded as sashimi.

Trevs generally like deep, clean water, and can be found well upstream during dry conditions. I’ve seen them caught as far up as Roseville Bridge in middle harbour and Cockatoo Island in the main harbour. The upstream fish are big, but they are usually on their own and not found in the large schools common on the lower reaches. These big loners are mostly taken as a welcome bycatch by anglers targeting bream.

Further down on the lower harbour, the trevally are widespread. They can be found around the channels, headlands, boat moorings and deep holes. At night, dusk and dawn they move into shallower regions. Sow and Pigs is a classic dark spot, along with the shallows around Balmoral and Washaway Beach.

Unlike most fish, trevs are not fussy about the freshness of your bait. In fact, I’ve found they prefer baits like salted mackerel, day old pilchard fillets and slightly iffy prawns over live nippers or bloodworms. Maybe it’s a symptom of the competitiveness created by living in large schools.

To catch trevally, use heaps of berley and fish your baits as lightly weighted as possible. A light 3kg eggbeater outfit works the best as it allows you to fish bail open and allow a natural drift down the trail.

Don’t rush hooked fish, as you will be using small hooks (I use no. 4 Penn Baitholders) and trevs have soft mouths. You could tear their mouth if you go nuts.

Occasionally you will see trevs feeding on top, at which time you can catch them by flicking small 10g slices or tiny soft plastic stickbaits at them. Sometimes trevally hang around under surface-feeding salmon, and you can pick them off by letting a small chrome slice fall through the salmon and bring it back with a jigging retrieve.

Keep in mind that we now have a new size limit of 30cm and a bag limit of 20 on trevally.


While you can expect some bigger kings down deep, January is also a good time to find the trifecta of salmon, smaller kings and tailor feeding on the surface. You might also find some bonito, but they are less reliable; they’re a ‘boom or bust’ species. Some years there are millions of them, some years they don’t show up at all.

If you want to catch the surface kings and salmon consistently you’ll need appropriate gear for the task. This means a light threadline spinning outfit in the 2-4kg range, 2-4kg braid and some tiny, unweighted stickbaits. You’ll soon understand why you need the ultra light casting gear, but the catch 22 is that some kings will do you on the bottom and the salmon will take forever to land. At least the wide gape hook used with stickbaits will give you a good hold. Cast into the boil and use a flick and pause retrieve. There’s no need for speed with stickbaits.

Fortunately the tailor aren’t so fussy and will take bigger cast or trolled lures. The bonus with tailor is that even if they are feeding on tiny bait they don’t get obsessed with it like the kings and salmon do. Tailor will happily take almost anything you throw at them (ditto with bonito), including the trusty old metal slug.

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