Rain brings on the Harbour mulloway
  |  First Published: March 2015

We have had some pretty solid rain lately, which has really got the mulloway fired up. If you are chasing them through the daylight hours, there’s no question that fresh squid baits are first choice. Live squid aren’t necessary, as most of our daytime mulloway are caught on tube strips or, ultimately, the heads and guts. If you are after large specimens, then live squid and big live baits like mullet or pike is probably the way to go.

Night fishing is a different matter and while I’m sure that squid are still the best bait, they are hard to use because tailor and many other non-target species hammer them. So generally, you can’t keep a bait in the water long enough to attract a mulloway. The good news is that tailor make great live baits, so if you do lose your squid to them, at least you can put the tailor straight back out live. Don’t be scared to use big tailor for live baits either, as even a 10kg mulloway will have no problem swallowing a 1kg chopper.

Spots worth a try are North Harbour, Fairlight Point, Reef Beach, and Cannae Point.

In Middle Harbour, try The Hole at the Spit, Killarney Point, Seaforth Bluff, Pickering Point, and under the power lines above Roseville Bridge.

For Main Harbour, look around Neilson Park, Clifton Gardens, the red marker inside South Head, Blues Point, Balls Head and the deep holes around Gladesville.

As a result of all the rain, the Main and particularly Middle Harbour have had moderate freshwater flushes, including some discoloured water. Middle Harbour, being relatively deep and only having a small catchment, should still hold a few fish regardless of its resemblance to the Murray.

My bet would be that mulloway and bream will hold in there, but pelagics like frigates, kings and tailor are going to move out. A big fresh tends to knock the crustaceans and small baitfish around, making them an easy target for bream. Bream can tolerate extended periods in pure fresh, so you could find them in the upper reaches and right in close along the shoreline at high tide. At low tide, try the deeper holes and off the rocky points. I’ve always found stinky baits to be far more productive in these conditions, rather than live baits like nippers or prawns. Try baits of chicken and mullet gut, or skirt steak.

The fresh won’t worry the mulloway either; in fact, hunting in dark, discoloured water is their specialty. There’s a lot of mullet in Middle Harbour at the moment, so big live mullet baits would be ideal if you can get them. If not, then live tailor caught in the lower reaches or squid from North Harbour would be a great choice. At last resort, big slabs of frozen squid or mullet will do.

Down in the lower reaches, look for areas where the fresh coming down-harbour meets with the cleaner ocean water. This usually occurs around Balmoral in Middle Harbour and Sow and Pigs in the main harbour. Berley will help concentrate the fish, and once again odorous baits will work best. In addition to the gut and steak baits, try some pilchard fillets.

A couple of spots I have found work well in these conditions include Inside Grotto Point, Cobblers Beach, Tailors Bay, inside South Head (red marker), Sow and Pigs, the eastern cardinal mark at Dobroyd (if the swell is not too big) and inside Cannae Point.

North Harbour will offer the cleanest water, having only a minimal catchment and should be well out of the swell.

We have had a great run of kings this season, dominated by mostly smaller fish in the early stages. March/April is renowned for runs of bigger hoodlums, so it’s probably time to dust off the heavy gear. We know that squid is the ultimate bait, but the big fish are partial to live gar, which should have made their harbour run by now. Concentrate your efforts around the deeper areas on the tides, with good variation between high and low.

It’s been a solid bonito season, with good sized fish mixed in with the surface-feeding salmon schools. You can visually pick the two apart by the by the way in which they hit the surface when chasing bait. Salmon and kings feed across the surface leaving subdued boils, whereas bonito and tailor dart up from below with a burst of speed that leaves a ‘rooster tail’ of water showering high into the air.

Bonnies are generally less fussy about lure size than salmon, but on rare occasions can be difficult to tempt. They make great salted bait and with a little care and a feisty dipping sauce (fish sauce with a hot chilli chopped through it), they are great tucker. As sashimi, they have a reputation for causing stomach upsets and you will rarely find them completely raw in Japanese restaurants. To counter this problem, they are usually served ‘tataki’ style. All exposed surfaces are cooked very briefly on a searing hot plate and then immediately plunged into iced water. The steak is then thinly sliced into traditional sashimi sized pieces.


The bigger kings should really fire up in the deeper holes this month.


Seared, skin-on, bonito make great ‘tataki’ style sashimi.


For those that make the effort to catch fresh squid, mulloway are around in numbers.

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