May is one of the most diverse months of the year. All the summer fish are feeding up frantically to put on some fat for winter, and some of the winter fish are starting to make an appearance. You will generally pick up the bigger specimens of most species at this time of year.
To top it all off, weather patterns are very stable. This makes fishing on the lower harbour a pleasure, and because air temps are starting to cool down general boat traffic is tapering off, giving anglers a bit more space to work.
It’s a time for mixed bags, which means working a variety of baits, lures and techniques. Flatties are firing, as are bream, tailor, and kings, so don’t put the lures away yet. In fact, when it comes to bream and flatty luring, there is no better time of year. Trolling minnow style lures up around Rushcutters Bay will also produce whopping tailor.
Kingfish will also be sitting deeper so it’s time to add a bit of weight to your stickbaits. The best method is to put a barrel sinker above a swivel ahead of about 1m of mono trace. The marker buoys are still the spots to try, but let your lures sink right to the bottom before ripping them back in.
Tailor are renowned as a winter fish but I personally believe they are a year round proposition. Still, the winter months do produce the bigger fish. They main difference in winter is that the tailor rarely feed on the surface. You can still take them on deep diving lures early in the morning or on live baits fished in the deep holes, but if you want some whoppers try night fishing around Sow and Pigs reef and the shipping channels.
Trolling lures is also a great way of finding tailor. The headlands, particularly north, south and middle heads are the preferred locations when the fish or the baitfish cannot be visually or electronically located in open water. They are also common along middle head and the run between Grotto and Dobroyd points. Further upstream at Garden Island the tailor fishing is very good at the moment. Trolling one deep and one shallow diver out each side and one chrome metal slug down the centre will soon sort them out.
I rarely use live fish baits but at this time of year it’s worth having at least one out with the chance of picking up big flatties, mulloway, dory, kings or big tailor. You will find a few gar starting to move in, and really big kings go nuts for them.
Big bream move down into the channels and holes in the lower harbour and a few trevally will start to come in, so it’s worth having a bit of berley going and a cut bait of pilchard or salted mackerel fished near the bottom.
Blue groper have been very prominent this year as an incidental by-catch of our king fishing techniques. They really fire up in the cooler months and you could have a shot at them either from a boat or shore-based. The great advantage of fishing the washes from a boat is that you can fish spots that are inaccessible from the shore.
A word of warning though: you need to approach wash fishing from a boat as carefully as you would if you were fishing from the rocks. You are in the danger zone where waves are breaking on the shore, and I recommend approaching with great caution. The best thing you can do if you are unfamiliar with a new location is to just sit back and observe for half an hour until you get familiar with the dynamics.
A safer method is to fish the deeper reef edges scattered throughout the harbour. I’ve seen groper in very tranquil, safe waters of middle harbour. It’s surprising how far upstream they will go.
Whereever you decide to target groper, crabs will be the best bait. If you are fishing the washes close to shore, flick them unweighted and let them drift slowly down. If you are fishing the deeper reef edges, suspend the crab by letting your sinker hit the bottom and then retrieving a bit so that its suspended about 2m off the bottom.Reads: 742