The great kingfish experiment
  |  First Published: April 2014

Autumn has always been my favourite fishing period, with mixed bags made up of the last of the summer fish feeding up for winter and the first of the winter fish moving in.

Good February rains stirred things up for a while but in the long run it’s always for the best. What a good flush does, apart from turning the system upside down for a while, is inject the system with a burst of nutrients. This comes from 2 main sources, the main one being in the form of plant and animal matter washed off the land. Secondly, depending on the extent of the flood, the river bed (along with the vast variety of marine organisms) gets lifted and dispersed downstream. When you combine this abundance of food with the fact that water temperatures have just hit 23ºC, you need no further explanation as to why the fishing has been so good.


Flathead have come on strong after the rain although they are probably more interested in the abundance of baitfish that have been flushed down as opposed to the scraps. All the areas mentioned above are fishing well for flatties, with the Washaway Beach area really firing.

If you plan to anchor for flatties, try to find a drop-off on a sandy bottom or an area of broken sand reef. Live baits are the way to go when at anchor as the flatties like a moving bait.

Drifting the shallow sand areas around Balmoral and Rose Bay is extremely productive. There are plenty of fish there, albeit smaller specimens. Whitebait and anchovies make good drift baits, but once again livies pinned through the top lip are way ahead.


Being an opportunist feeder, bream are particularly turned on by a big flush and this is evident at the moment on the lower harbour where they are in almost in plague proportions.

The Spit Bridge, Clarke and Shark islands, Sow and Pigs, Bottle and Glass and Bradleys Head are all producing well now and should continue to do so for the next few months. The shallower spots like Balmoral and Sow and Pigs are best fished early in the morning, late in the afternoon and into the night. Once the sun is high in the sky, try the deeper areas like Bottle and Glass and North Harbour.

With a bit of colour in the water, baits like skirt steak, fresh tuna cubes, chicken and mullet gut and chicken breast fillet dipped in tuna oil seem to work better than live baits like yabbies, prawns and worms. However, once the water is back to its normal clear condition the live baits will be way ahead.


I’ve been doing a bit of experimentation with bait options for kings this season and have noticed some interesting things. These fast, sharp-eyed predators have teeth that are raspy like sandpaper – very good for holding slippery things like squid, cuttlefish and octopus. If kings mainly hunted large live fish, like a Spanish mackerel does, then they would have sharp, cutting teeth. Despite kings’ food preference being mainly cephalopods, they do occasionally hunt small baitfish like whitebait, anchovies and pilchards. These are small, soft baitfish that can be inhaled and swallowed whole.

Overall, you can’t give yourself any better chance of catching a king than putting a cephalopod on your hook. Yakkas are a poor option for kings and I use them only as a last resort. Slimies are much better and gar better still, but none of them come even close to a ceph.

Slimies were so abundant in the harbor this season that I decided to try a little experiment to revalidate my long-held belief that livies were next to useless as a king bait. I fished a live slimy alongside squid baits over a period of 4 separate hot bites on kings. Of the 80 or so kings we caught, none fell to the slimy. The silly old slimy swam in circles, right next to squid baits, and never even got a hit – while all around it kings were smashing the squid. I abandoned it in disgust but felt satisfied that my years of rejecting live fish baits for kings were justified.

My experiment also revealed something I had not expected. Although kingfish have evolved to be hunters, they nearly always eat our cut squid baits ahead of our live squid baits. My usual spread of baits is a squid head, a squid gut, a strip from the tube and a live squid. 90% of our kings, including the bigger fish, are taken on the cut baits – first the gut followed closely by the head, then the strip. We have even had a number of sessions during hot bites where the live squid, like its useless slimy mate, has gone untouched. Strange but true.

Fishabout skipper Steve Windsor, who often fished alongside us during our kingfish experiment, threw in an extra dimension of fishing a slimy fillet (head left on) alongside his live slimy and squid baits. Revealingly, while the fillet did not come even close to the squid it did fish noticeably better than the live slimy. On subsequent trips I have included a fillet in my spread and, sure enough, the fillet has regularly out-fished the livey.

In my experience you are best off starting your kingfish session with trying to catch some squid to use as cut baits. If you can’t get squid easily, the best fall-back is to keep squidding. Try harder! If this completely fails, try to catch some live bait – preferably gar but if not try for slimies or, as a last resort, yakkas. Put one out live and the rest as fillets.

New Tackle Shop

Sydney’s northern beaches has a new tackle shop. The Fishing Station owned by Alex and Dina Qasabian is at 461 Warringah Rd, Frenchs Forest. It’s right next door to the new 7/11 servo near the corner of Wakehurst Parkway and Warringah Road.

This modern, well stocked shop will be a boon for northern beaches anglers who use Roseville boat ramp as it is directly en route. They open early and have a great range of tackle, frozen bait and soon live bait as well. Being on the same complex as the 7/11 servo you can fuel up, get snacks and drinks and any last minute bait and tackle, all in one stop. But best of all, it’s within walking distance of my house! For more info check out www.fishingstation.com.au.

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