Honing your skills
  |  First Published: August 2014

We decide that storing our fishing gear away is what we’re meant to do at this time of the year. We tell ourselves it’s not worth fishing for anything right now. This is so far from the truth!

When I hit the rocks at this time of year I think of the big silver drummer that come on the bite this month. The rock blackfish is often called a black drummer but the only true drummer is the silver! They average from a solid 1.5-2kg to beast as heavy as 8-9kg and very occasionally even larger fish are encountered on our east coast. They can be an enigma, migrating to areas on the northern suburb rock like North Head, North Curl Curl and Bangalley Head just to name a few spots. They can be local fish in areas but generally they migrate when the water temp is above 20°C.

Baits like cunjevoi and peeled large prawns work great, and you can even get a few on white bread. On occasions I catch them on large cabbage weed baits also. They are often encountered by the rock blackfish anglers. The first indication is the rapid pecking bites and loading of the rod tip then, once hooked, the powerful lunges and line peeling off your Alvey or threadline reel with a fish that doesn’t want to dive for the nearest submerged ledge or hole.

These are generally clean fighting fish but they have sharp, kelp-chomping teeth that make short work of nylon line. Often the end result is a bite-off. Around 30cm of clear plastic-coated 30lb-50lb wire crimped to your 2x strength suicide 1/0 to 2/0 hook is a great choice. That will keep the bite-offs to a minimum. When it comes to the mainline, 6-10kg mono is all you need to land even the large silvers in most locations.

Another frequently fished winter species is the groper. The blue is the male, growing in excess of 15kg, and the brown is the female. A large female is around 6kg, occasionally getting to 8kg which is exceptional for a brown. These fish, like the silver drummer, pull really hard. The difference is that the groper won’t bite you off but will reef you up. They will dive into a cave or ledge which can sever your line. I normally like to use 15-24kg mono for these brutes.

Every headland in my area produces groper in varying degrees. Some of the better rock platforms are Bluefish, South Curl Curl, Long Reef, and further north at Barrenjoey. North and South Whale are good locations also. Red crabs are the best bait. Make sure if you harvest crabs it is done from a legal harvesting area. Check out the DPI website.

Luderick are a great winter species. Like the groper they can be caught well after sunrise and before sunset, making them a great alternative to fishing during chilly early mornings and evenings for other species.

All of the headlands I have mentioned for the other species are productive for a luderick. I like to have a combination of hair and cabbage weeds for this often fussy species, especially if you don’t know what they’re biting on. The brown weed often works well. Berley up consistently rather than using lots at a time.

The spike boots are OK for scraping some weed but will wear down the spikes within just a few outings. A better alternative is a small scalier.

A good general depth for most locations is 2.5m below the float, not including the 50cm leader. Obviously when fishing the shallows like Long Reef or Narrabeen Head a depth of 30-60cm is the max you would fish. A size 8-10 Mustad 540 or Green Sneck will work for most situations.

Silver trevally and salmon with the occasional snapper and bream are on in the washes. Choose preferably a deep water location of 4m+ for this mix of species. I like to use 4kg line for the sport but also for minimum visibility when the water is clear, which it often is at this time of year because of the westerly winds. Bring a mix of baits – pillies, peeled prawns and fish fillet like yellowtail or slimy mackerel. Whatever the bait is, combine it into your bread mush berley. You will even catch numbers on white bread. When using the bread berley at times the luderick can be caught in reasonable numbers on the surface.

Have a light outfit on standby for when the salmon schools turn up. Ripples of agitated water often indicate that there are salmon feeding. This could last for seconds to several minutes, and 3kg line and 25g Spanyid Snipers will get you locked into these powerful sportfish. Cast just in front of the school rather than right in the middle because they can be easily spooked.


The beaches at this time of the year can be rather quiet. For the die-hard mulloway angler who will not stop fishing for them, avoid fishing during a calm evening on the beach. The calm westerly nights are much more likely to be fishless. Expect mainly salmon in amongst your catch and the dreaded Port Jackson shark which comes in to breed this month.

Salmon are coming in off Manly, Curl Curl, Narrabeen, Mona Vale and Bilgola beaches. They will be caught off every beach but these are the beaches that produce well. Some of the fish are up to at least 3.5kg. Great sport! And salmon aren’t bad on the plate if you eat them fresh within a day.

Try for a whiting this month. I find that they are still available even in August. Perhaps they are patchy but great holding beaches like Manly and Dee Why can still deliver reasonable fish. Expect the occasional trevally to pick up your worm or pink nipper baits as well. The whiting you will pick up are residential at this time of the year. Fluorocarbon leaders as light as 2kg should be used on the calmer days. The water is generally very clear so heavier leaders should be avoided.

The rock corners like Freshwater’s northern end of the beach, Dee Why southern corner and Warriewood’s southern corner yield a few bream throughout winter.

Winter is a great time of the year to hone your skills. It allows you to better understand timid species, especially on the calm days which require refined skills with a delicate approach using some stealth.

For rock and beach guided fishing or tuition in the northern Sydney region, visit www.bellissimocharters.com, email --e-mail address hidden-- or call Alex Bellissimo on 0408 283 616.

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