Break out the blackfish gear!
  |  First Published: June 2007

Winter means many things to different people. Apart from the less than desirable overnight temperatures, as the years roll on I’m now starting to appreciate the cooler months more and more.

No sweat, no sunburn, the flies and mozzies have thinned out and, with luck, the blackfish, drummer, bream and tailor will thicken up along the Central Coast.

Blackfish have long been my Winter favourite in the calm estuaries and from the ocean rocks. The next few months should see these striped fish become much more active in Brisbane Water and Tuggerah Lakes. Hot spots like The Entrance channel will become crowded if the fish behave properly but each season is different from the last.

If you find yourself in the common situation of not doing much good while a few other anglers are hauling in the blackfish there are a few things you can do before you start ripping your hair out.

Firstly, make sure you’ve rigged up properly so that the stem of your float isn’t sticking out of the water too far. In the estuary there shouldn’t be more than 3cm of stem showing above the waterline. That means that the rig has been weighted properly so when a fish bites at the bait he won’t feel much resistance from the buoyant float above.

Next, check to see that your bait is set at the same depth as anyone who’s really hooking into the fish. That means looking at how far up the line their float stopper is set and noting the distance from the stopper down to the hook. At places like The Entrance that usually means about 2m or a bit more, while in Brisbane Water the rig may need to be set deeper.

In many cases, the real reason someone will be bagging out on blackfish is because they’re using the best bait at the time. Through June and early July, your standard green weed normally does the trick, providing it’s not too soft, too brittle or too old. Like most fish, blackfish like their tucker fresh.

As the season moves towards August, local blackfish can sometimes get very fussy and eat only one or two different weeds or even other food items like squirt worms or shrimp. So concentrate on your blackfish baits this season and I’ll get back to you next month about some other types of weed baits.


June is possibly the best month for black drummer along our rocks. They’ll also take cabbage baits aimed at blackfish but I prefer plain white bread as a drummer bait.

Others would say cunjevoi, abalone gut or royal red prawns are the best drummer bait but the fact is they’ll take all of these baits and more. I just like bread because it’s very clean, cheap to buy, convenient and very effective.

Ideal sea conditions for drummer are a slight swell that’s nowhere near dangerous, yet creates plenty of whitewash around the rocks you’re fishing. In other words, about a metre of swell. A slight breeze and plenty of cloud cover also make the pigs feel for comfortable and inclined to take a bait.

Most of my drummer fishing has taken place around Norah Head and the Frazer Park rocks up near Lake Munmorah, but any lump of rock from Catherine Hill Bay right down to Umina is worth a try for these brutal battlers.

Big blue groper are another species a lot of keen rockhoppers will be chasing over the next few months. You can certainly catch groper when the seas are washy but gathering the red crabs needed to tempt groper is best done during flat seas.

Other types of crabs, shellfish, squid and cooked unshelled prawns will catch the odd groper but those red crabs are the ones if you really want to get your thick line stretched and scraped along the rocks.

There will still be a few bream along the rocks and beaches this month, along with tailor and salmon. Jewfish tend to become harder to find as approach the middle of Winter but the jewies that are around are normally good fish.

So if your dream of catching a big jewie didn’t eventuate back in Autumn, put on the thick woollens and get out there with a squid bait in the water.

Speaking of jewies, I’ve really enjoyed watching Craig McGill’s recent DVD Local Knowledge. There are plenty of great jewie tips on this DVD, so I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about catching jewfish from the rocks, beach or estuary.

We’re not all into the hardships of rock and beach fishing, so for those who prefer to chuck lures in calm water, Winter is a good time for big bream.

Despite a bit of a resurgence in the popularity of hard lures for bream, I’m convinced that in many situations soft plastics are more effective so try your hardbodies for some applications but don’t neglect the softies.

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