Traditionally one of the slowest months, with cold water and strong winds, September does still offer a few little treats for the dedicated fisho.
Blackfish have to keep eating. Being primarily vegetarians, they derive much less energy from their food than meat eaters do. A flathead, for example ,can eat one baitfish and sit on it for two days in winter because the baitfish is high energy protein. Blackfish don’t get that same benefit from weed and therefore must graze all day. That near-constant feeding increases our chances of catching them.
Aussie salmon also don’t seem to mind the cold water. Despite feeding on high energy protein, their feeding sprees can last for hours. This is because they eat tiny baitfish, often so small that they are invisible in the water to the angler. To fill their bellies with these tiny morsels, the salmon have to feed for hours. The downside to this is that it makes the salmon very hard to tempt with even the smallest of lures or flies.
Later in the year when the baitfish have grown to a respectable size, this situation reverses. The salmon become easy to tempt with lures but their feeding periods are greatly reduced, as they don’t need to catch many baitfish to sate their hunger.
So it seems with salmon that you either have fish that are extremely hard to tempt with a lure but you have hours to try, or fish that will eagerly eat anything you throw at them but only for a very short time.
Blackfish are found throughout the system from the heads right through the freshwater reaches. I’ve even seen them in pure freshwater in the head waters of Middle Harbour. Although they are obviously the same species, blackfish often get categorised into ‘river blackfish’ and ‘ocean blackfish’. River blackfish are generally smaller, darker fish found in the upper reaches of the harbour. They usually don't exceed 0.5kg and therefore require a scaling down in tackle compared to the gear used to catch their much larger ocean brothers.
Rods still need to be long but are of lighter construction. There are a couple of reasons for the long rods used for blackfish, the first reason being that they are required to lift the belly of line that often forms between the rod tip and the float. The other reason is to cushion against the fish’s numerous powerful lunges and avoid pulling the tiny hooks from their small mouths.
I prefer an eggbeater reel to the traditional centrepin, and I load it up with 2kg or 3kg line. Quill floats are far more efficient than the heavy, long stemmed floats used for the ocean fish. A number 10 Mustad Sneck hook completes the rig. River weed, which is the hair-like weed found in the brackish reaches, is the preferred bait for river blackfish.
Some of the better spots in the Harbour include Greenwich, Long Nose Point, Lane Cove River, Blues Point, Balls Head, Valentia Street wharf and the wall near Luna Park. In Middle Harbour, the pick of the spots are Roseville, Killarney Point, Spit Bridge and Beauty Point.
The lower harbour has a number of spots that attract some superb quality ocean blackfish. These fish are in the same class as the fish you would expect to find off the ocean rocks. They are of a good average size at around the 1kg mark and are much lighter in colour with prominent bands running down their body. They are found in much rougher country so accordingly the tackle must be scaled up a bit.
Rods are slightly heavier in the butt section and 4-5kg line is more appropriate. Heavier long stemmed floats are used and a no. 8 or 10 hook is more suited to these larger fish.
The other main difference between these ocean fish and the river fish is the bait. Cabbage weed commonly found on the ocean rocks grows in abundance on the lower reaches of the harbour and is therefore the obvious bait. You'll have to gather your cabbage from the ocean platforms though, as taking anything from the intertidal zone of Sydney Harbour is prohibited. A berley consisting of chopped weed and sand is a big advantage for both river and ocean fishing.
Good spots on the lower reaches include Sow and Pigs Reef, Clontarf Pool, Bottle and Glass, Clarke Island and Dobroyd head.Reads: 735