Fish improve, weed doesn’t
  |  First Published: April 2007

I was just reading my report from last April, when we saw decent fish in Pittwater and the Caulerpa taxfolia weed issue had looked to be resolved.

This year we still have a lot of decent fish in Pittwater but I will get to that later. However, the Caulerpa weed issue is not solved and has become a lot worse over the past 12 months.

For charter operators like me it is devastating to see such a wonderful river being taken over by this plant. Over the past 12 months DPI Fisheries has stated that it needs $45,000 or thereabouts to fight the problem further but, due to lack of funding, there will be no more action taken.

Then our wonderful Fisheries Minister did an about-face on the issue and now states that this weed isn’t such a bad thing after all and eventually it will run its course and die off. Talk about covering your butt!

I have some news for him: This weed has already taken out vast seagrass beds all along the river. They are, of course, nursery areas for prawns, squid, whitebait and a host of other feed for larger predators. Not only does this affect the species that are available to target, it actually affects the commercial netters as well.

No action has been taken to reduce the weed infestation but they tell me that they are spending more money on ‘public awareness’.

I am sorry to say that the awareness program is not working because each weekend while on charter, we see people anchored in the areas where Caulerpa it is prevalent. Places like Palm Beach weed beds can, on a fine day, have 15 vessels anchored and this is just one of the so-called no-anchor zones.

Anyway, the pelagic fishing in Pittwater at the moment is pretty good. We are surprisingly up on numbers of captures of samson and kingfish over previous seasons.

Most days the fish are feeding deeper due to the warm water inside the river. In March there was water of 27° in Bayview and up in the shallower bays along the river.

The water quality has been a bit of an issue, though. The water is warm but the colour is a dirty green and the number of jellyfish is amazing.

Can a Japanese trawler out there please come and cut a path through them for us? They may need two boats to cope with the numbers, though. Seriously, there are truckloads of them and in some areas it has been impossible to troll through them.

If you steer clear of the jellyfish there have been big bonito hitting the surface first thing in the morning but you have to land the lure on their noses for a chance at a strike. It can mean that you have to be standing at the ready waiting for a splash that you can cast to.


Kingfish are being caught but it’s still fishing, not catching! There is a fair amount of ground to cover because there are heaps of baitfish present.

To entice a strike on a downrigger has meant accurate bait placement and presentation. The odd day has seen anything that is thrown over the side smashed and those are the rare ‘catching’ days.

On our ‘fishing’ days we normally encounter fish from 75cm to 85cm with probably one decent fish caught and a couple of smaller ones. On the ‘catching’ days we can get up to 30 kingfish in the charter, depending on the skills of the anglers.

Often customers ask me first thing when heading out on a kingfish charter, ‘How many did you catch yesterday?’

I always answer politely and truthfully about the day before and add a little catchphrase that I borrow of a customer of mine: “Unfortunately these fish that we target don’t live in houses because Pittwater kingfish are nomads and we will have to find them.”

Kingfish are great fish to try your skills against and are one of those species that you can never seem to master. No matter how much you know, how many you have caught or seen, there will always be one fish that will set your heart racing as if you were a novice again. The best thing about catching and targeting these fish is that they are indeed powerful, cunning and will show up either singly or huge numbers when you least expect it.

Recently Kent McCourt climbed aboard with a new Shimano Stella and matching rod for him to christen on a kingy. Kent has been out on quite a few occasions now and I always enjoy his company when he flies down from Gove for a day on the water. This day would be no different.

We started with the usual collection of squid from the river and after a quick stop for yellowtail, we went on our merry way to start to chase down a big fish. After stopping at Soldiers Point, Kent asked if I would mind helping with setting the drag pressure on his new outfit. I was informed that the braid was 40lb and it was decided that Kent could hold 7kg worth of pressure. The scales were bought out and the drag set and off we went happily downrigging our way around.

Now this was a ‘fishing’ day and, finally, after four hours of trolling the live squid on Kent’s outfit, it got smashed. Line started to peel off the reel for a short time but the drag was set so heavy that the 80cm king was stopped pretty quickly.

Kent then pulled the rod out of the holder with some difficulty and then got literally towed around the boat. Poor Kent got pulled over the motor and luckily I was able to grab him and bring him back into the boat. He was then once again bounced around the boat and twice more got pulled off his feet. With each time he was ripped off his feet he would laugh louder but I knew each hit hurt.

Eventually the fish was subdued and Kent held up a hard-fighting king that christened his new outfit.


Seeing the kingfish striking baits on the Walker camera downrigger is amazing and we now have two of these wonderful units. You can see a fish go from one side of the boat to the other bait. The information that we have learnt has been invaluable and will only make us have more ‘catching’ days than ‘fishing’ days.

Downrigging is finally starting to take off around Australia and many anglers are starting to see the vast advantages of using these wonderful products. I have used many brands of downriggers over the past 18 years but I must admit that the brand I use now is superior to the others. The solid build, ease of single-handed use and the warranty makes them streets ahead.

If you are not into downrigging and would like to soak a bait then you are in luck because there are good numbers of flathead, leatherjackets and whiting, and a few big bream are still around.

Flatties and flounder are being caught at the mouth of Pittwater. The flathead are eating most things that move, with a customer showing me that he could catch them on some orange peel. He cut it up as if it was a squid strip and lowered it to the depths. Before you knew it he was winding in a 40cm specimen that was destined to be Tom’s dinner.

Bream are being caught among the moorings at Bayview and Newport. Some big fish are being brought aboard with the help of a bread berley mix. Best baits have been bread or peeled prawns.

These areas have a lot of small red bream and it’s a waste to use your nippers there. Instead, use the nippers to catch nice whiting to 40cm at The Basin and Towlers Bay. Use red tubing above the hook as an attractant when you are targeting whiting.

The fishing is good at the moment and don’t let someone else catch those bigger fish, call us now.

Peter Le Blang operates Harbour & Estuary Fishing Charters out of Pittwater, phone 02 9999 2574 or visit www.estuaryfishingcharters.com.au.

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