A variety on the menu: tailor, kingfish and snapper
  |  First Published: January 2015

Botany Bay is a great attractor of baitfish, and this in turn lures large schools of tailor inside throughout the year. These can be taken both day and night, with the smaller chopper variety more prevalent during the day. These are generally fish around the 400-700g size and best catches are taken on small lures.

Birds hovering over a feeding school are a dead giveaway as to their presence. When you spot this, bring the boat slowly up within easy range, and cast alongside or just in front. Retrieve briskly and the lure will almost immediately entice a tailor to strike.

When the fish is hooked, bring it in quickly and repeat the cast as soon as possible. When tailor are being taken like this, simply drift with the school, but don’t run over the top as this scatters them.

Ideal lures for this type of fishing include Wonder Wobblers, Raiders and Rapala Countdowns in the Blue or Green Mackerel pattern.

Bait fishing with pilchards or garfish for tailor is mostly carried out at first light or into the darker hours. You need a stronger rod than your bream gear, but one with a flexible tip action backed up with a spin reel capable of holding 250m of 6kg line. This is strong enough to handle the fish, plus light enough in gauge to enable you to cast well away from the boat. Use Gamakatsu Gangster 4212D pattern ganged hooks in 4/0.

Many areas in the bay will produce tailor at night, but I find the most consistent to be the Port Botany container area, the hot water outlet at Kurnell, and Watts Reef just inside the heads. I like to settle down at anchor with a couple of baits floating well away from the boat, with the rods set in rod holders and occasionally berleying with chopped fish pieces. This method works quite well, even in reasonably deep water. While waiting for the tailor to come on, I do a spot of breaming.

Often the bay gets a visit from unusual visitors such as kingfish, snapper and hairtail. Of these, the hairtail are the most unpredictable and can be a hit-and-miss encounter. During the past few years there has been only a handful caught from the deeper waters of the container terminal.

Kingfish can be taken from around the heads, the container wall, Bare Island Bommie, the centre cans and the oil wharf from November until April, but at times are available throughout the year. This species will take pilchards, garfish and yellowtail, live squid, and one out of the box is bunched up live yabbies.

When using pillies or garfish, fish with a 3 or 4 hook rig, 3/0-4/0, and no lead. With live bait, use 6/0-7/0 34007 hooks.

Stick to 6/0 for squid. The size of kingies that visit are around the 2-4kg mark, with the occasional biggie. Downrigging with live squid around the pinnacles, reefs and dropoffs is often rewarding.

Fish the same areas and with the same gear for snapper. I have heard of snapper to 9kg taken from the retaining wall next to the foreshore drive boat ramp.

Bare Island, Botany Heads

Just inside Botany Bay, Bare Island is a hotspot producing a wide variety of species — mulloway, kingfish, trevally, snapper, groper, red morwong, luderick, leatherjackets and tailor. At times, the salmon converge on the area when there are baitfish about.

This area also has a nasty bombora and must be treated with great caution and respect.

It is best fished early morning or into the dark, with a top tide peaking around 8-9pm.

Fishos often live bait this area with yellowtail for excellent catches of kingfish around the 6kg mark. If trolling this area, the humble Christmas trees or 8” Smiths Jigs work quite well.

Across the heads, south from Bare Island and adjacent to the Kurnell Reserve is Watts Reef. This is a shallow, reefy area, which can turn on most species. I have caught bream to over 2kg from this possie, as well as snapper to 4kg and tergalin to 3.5kg.

It can be fished on both tides, but best catches are at night with the aid of berley. Stick to live nippers as bait, with a 00 split shot sinker above a 9555B 1/0 hook.

Last month produced excellent catches of bream from the most unlikely locations. The La Perouse Beach, of all places, was well patronised by fishos in the know, and bragging-rights bream to 45cm on live nippers were a regular catch. Other reliable spots included the Kurnell Groynes and the new retaining wall at Botany.

The ever-reliable mulloway haunts of Captain Cook, Tom Uglys and Como bridges provided schoolies to 6kg overnight, and East Hill Rail Bridge provided no less than 15 quality fish over a period, the largest going 17kg. It ate a live poddy mullet.

Whiting have been a little quiet for the some reason and the theory is that the bream have pushed out from their feeding grounds, but that should change during February.

Class flathead were taken on the drift between Brighton Le-Sands and Monterey, with the yellow Waverider buoy a good mark to commence a drift.

Plenty of blue swimmer crabs were netted at Towra, in front of Quibray Bay, Sandringham Bay, and between the bridges.

Unfortunately, boat traffic has been at premium during the holidays, with most boat ramps’ parking areas filled to capacity. I’ve found the best times to be early of a morning and home for a late breakfast by 9:30am. This is also beneficial to your skin, as the sun is at its most powerful around lunchtime. A good tip is not to touch any sun cream, citrus fruits or the like, as these items will turn the fish off the bait. I would suggest using aniseed soap for your hands as this will mask any unwelcome residue.

February is a top month for the bay and its tributaries, and if fished correctly you should have no trouble getting a feed. I would suggest the centre moorings in the middle of the bay for mixed species. This area is best fished on a falling tide about 200m west of the centre buoy. The Sutherland Point drift is one of the least fished areas, but at times an excellent run of flathead is taken here. Try drifting 50m from shore on both tides using prawns or mullet strips. The concrete block at the end of the oil refinery is a top tailor, kingfish and mulloway spot, but make sure you keep 100m away from the wharf.

Brighton Wide, about 600m off the runway in line with the big President Towers units, is a mud and mussel bed and fishes best on a rising tide. Not too far way is the Barton Street Reef, which is straight out the front, approximately 1.5 miles out. It can be fished with confidence for flathead, bream and whiting during a rising tide.

If fishing the Georges River drift between Captain Cook and Tom Uglys bridges, although the fish are usually pretty spread out, a few drifts of the main channel will usually yield a mixed bag. A little further upstream, give the Caravan Head Channel a try. Fish anywhere between the green channel markers and the shore link. Some very big whiting have come from here, while school mulloway are also bagged in this main channel at night.

The white boatshed just upstream from Como Bridge on the northern shoreline fishes well in February. I’ve found the last few hours of the outgoing tide the best, with whiting and bream the main species taken here. Use a long trace, and rig with live nippers or bloodworms for best results.

The old Woronora Road Bridge is sure to provide excellent catches of school mulloway at night, and whether using a boat or land based, is always a reliable possie.

Due to the daytime boat traffic, Milperra Bridge and its close proximity to well-maintained boat ramps is primarily a night-time or mid-week spot. I would suggest anchoring on the upstream side and set baits down near the pylons of the bridge on the run-out tide. Alternatively, you can move down below the bridge and set baits back opposite Hind Park.

If you fancy a feed of king prawns, they have been exceptional this season. The first week following the full moon during the runout tide should be ideal. Burrawang, Cattle Duffers Flats in the Georges River State Recreation Area, the stretch between Alfords Point Bridge and Mickeys Point, and the weed patches along Fitzpatrick Park at Picnic Point will all be popular, but Coolam Beach is still the best spot in the river. Lake Gillawarna Beach is also a sneaky spot worth trying.

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