Last Winter around the headlands, Sydney Harbour, Broken Bay and Pittwater we had big schools of salmon that where feeding on very small baitfish and where extremely hard to catch on lures.
They refused even the smallest metal slugs and soft plastics but after a few trips we started to work out how catch these spooky fish.
The most important factor was boat position. I like to place the boat upwind or in front and to one side of the moving school so we can cast our lures in front of the fish, putting the lures in the strike zone. If you cast your lure behind the fish it cannot see the lure.
Being in front of the school also lets you have more casts at them before you have to reposition the boat.
Take your time when approaching a school of fish. Sit off the school and observe which direction they are travelling – usually into the wind.
Don’t rush into a school because often this will put the fish down. If the salmon are spooky, it often pays to position the boat well upwind and let the fish come to you.
Casting your lure long and accurately will catch you more fish. I like to cast to the leading edge of the school and will position the boat ahead and to one side with the wind behind me to help cast unweighted soft plastic s and small metals the maximum distance
This is when the bass and perch school up for their run down to the saltwater to breed. It’s also a great time to target these fish, which will take most lures you throw at them.
In the colder months we find these fish in the backwaters and eddies near drop-offs after a bend or near structure out of the flow in water up to 15m deep. I find most fish hang around 3m to 7m down. Sometimes the best of these fish will hang out in the running water as the tide slows.
Over past Winters soft plastics have worked best for me. My favourite is the 3’ Bass Slider in a natural colour. Most fish are caught in water around 5m to 8m deep so I use jig heads from 1/8oz to 3/8oz, depending on the current, depth and size of plastic.
Lipless crankbaits are effective when let sink and hopped across the bottom but you have to know what’s on bottom or you will lose a few expensive lures.
One little trick that John Bethune uses to minimise lure loss in these areas is to cut off the hook of the belly treble that is pointed downwards so it will swim over obstructions with less likelihood of fouling up.
Big spinnerbaits worked deep around large sunken trees account for some large Winter bass, too.
I often find larger estuary perch around fallen trees, moored boats or any other structure that forms an eddy. I anchor the boat down stream at the maximum distance I can cast back upstream to the snag. I let the lure sink to the bottom and work it all the way back to the boat.
It’s important that you keep your plastic on the bottom all the way because the estuary perch will follow lures some distance and often strike near the boat.
Because the current runs harder on different days and tides you need to adjust the size jighead you use to get plastic to the bottom. Sometimes in water around 10m, if you can’t get down when the tide is raging, wait until it slows to fish these deeper areas.
Good bream and flathead have also been caught up the Parramatta and Lane Cove rivers, most falling to soft plastics around the wharfs and pontoons. Pumpkinseed and motor oil seem to bee the best colours.
In Sydney Harbour and Middle Harbour the water has cleared up after the rain in May and good bream and trevally have been taken near the wharf poles and under the piers. Getting your lure under some of the wharfs is where the challenge is. The bow-and-arrow cast comes into its own in these areas, allowing you to put lures into areas that would not be possible with any other cast.Reads: 727