I noticed a report the April issue saying, ‘Botany Bay never was a real good king fishery so we can’t expect too much to happen down there despite the removal of the pros’. This is very far from the truth.
Alan Perry, now of Bawley Point, who used to live in the Sutherland Shire about 30 years ago, used to catch plenty of kingfish at the Hot Water Outlet then. And I, along with many other anglers, still do to this day.
Greg Bird from Engadine rang me the other day to report that he had caught kingfish of 63cm and 65cm on peeled prawns near The Drums in the middle of the Bay.
Many anglers tell me how much the kingfish population has increased since the end of kingfish trapping and the banning of commercial fishing in the Bay. The fish might not be as large as those caught in Sydney and Middle harbours but there are many more now in the Bay and Port Hacking than there were a dozen years ago.
Scott Lyons recently took out Rowan from Windybank’s Bait and Tackle and his mate Andrew to chase kings. They caught six to a genuine 12.5kg by trolling live yellowtail. Then Andrew backed up for another trip a little later and he and his father, Ross, caught nine kings to 85cm – not bad for a place where you can’t expect much to happen.
Here’s a bit of information that should help improve your kingfish catch rate in Botany Bay and Port Hacking. Bay kings like the shelter, shade and currents around breakwalls and the bait schools that hang there. I suggest you start around the Port Botany breakwall and then try along the sides and ends of the old and new runways. Weekdays are usually better because you don’t get the crowds.
Reefs, natural or artificial, are also haunts for kingfish and the baitfish and squid they hunt. You can anchor near or on the reef and lay out a berley trail to bring the fish to the boat or just drift over it. I suggest Watts Reef, the edges of the Bare Island Bombora and the concrete reef in Yarra Bay.
Kingfish love to hang around navigation buoys or markers mainly because yellowtail, slimy mackerel and other baitfish hang out there. At a guess there are almost 30 buoys or markers in the Bay and at various times kings would lurk around most of them .
Port Hacking has plenty of moored boats and pontoons that are great places to target kingfish. I usually motor up slowly and cast flies, minnows, plastics or unweighted baits on the up-current side and work all around the boat or pontoon.
You could also try anchoring upstream of the boat or pontoon and lay a berley trail on the current, then float baits or lures back down alongside. If you get no response you could then work the bait or lure back towards your boat.
Peeled prawns, pink nippers, whole pilchards, garfish, slimy mackerel, yellowtail, squid, tailor, cuttlefish, octopus legs, yellowfin pike, river pike, mullet – Botany Bay kings eat them all but squid and yellowtail are highest on their list.
To catch squid I prefer to have a range of squid jigs in three sizes and colours but you could also try a blue pilchard impaled with a squid spike. Wind the jig very slowly, keeping it away from the bottom, or use a yo-yo style of retrieve.
Fresh is definitely best for kingfish bait but if you do get a few squid, you can freeze them in snap-seal plastic bags, ensuring you get the bulk of the air out of the bag before sealing it. I have stored squid in the freezer for over 12months.
Yellowtail and garfish just love to hang around a mix of rocks, kelp and sand and around wharfs, pylons, swing moorings, reefs or just about anywhere there is structure of some kind. Use a fine berley, light line and small hooks baited with prawn flesh or fish pieces to catch them and keep them alive in an aerated bucket or plumbed livewell.
Pink nippers can be pumped in most estuaries. To keep them alive in a bucket you need to change the water at regular intervals or invest in a reliable aerator. Take out any dead ones as they contaminate the water. Freeze unused nippers by patting them dry on a paper towel and popping them in a plastic container in the freezer.
DPI Fisheries has produced an equation to estimate a kingfish’s weight from its length: Weight (in grams) = 0.017234949 x length (cm) 2.92134