The start of autumn really gets fish and anglers alike fired up, as the days gradually get shorter and the weather and water temperatures become more pleasant. Not that we can’t get the odd 40 degree scorcher this month and next though!
Kingfish have been biting well in Broken Bay and Pittwater, with plenty of rats in between legal and 65cm-plus. Live yakkas and squid strips on the downrigger have been getting the better fish to 90cm, and the odd bustoff on occasions. Barrenjoey, Lion Island, West Head, plus the deeper channels, wrecks and points off Pittwater are the places to try. I find a mobile approach until an active school has been located is best when looking for kingfish.
Tailor, salmon and bonito are regular bycatch when targeting kings, especially when using live bait like yakkas. Keep an eye out beneath the tiring fish when it nears the boat, as up due to their inquisitive nature, its schoolmates don’t mind following them. They can often be tempted with another livie or soft plastic quickly put into the zone, turning 1 into 2!
Surface bustups have been quite regular this season, with multiple species feeding together. Towards the end of this month should see mac tuna and frigate mackerel turn up inshore and wreak havoc on whatever bait the kingfish, salmon, tailor and bonito have missed. Keep an eye out for flocks of birds working the surface around Flint and Steel, Cowan Creek, West Head and Pittwater. Casting and retrieving small metal slices and soft plastics at high speed is fun, but sometimes challenging as the schools can move swiftly from baitball to baitball. Most times the patience game works, so turn off the engine and drift in the general area until they come back within range — sometimes even balling the bait up under the boat, making it seem like a fish washing machine!
Autumn has been kind to me and my clients, producing metre-plus mulloway on a regular basis. Live baiting with yakkas, pike, tailor and squid will produce some solid fish over the next few months. Spending time learning how to catch these other species for the purpose of bait is essential for getting regular results on big mulloway.
Lure casting for mulloway has been producing regular results, with fish to 89cm so far. This will improve as we get closer to April. Bream and flathead have also been making a regular appearance when casting soft plastics around the tide changes and deeper reefs.
The rock walls have been fishing well with soft plastic grubs, creature baits and deep diving crankbaits in Berowra and the main river up to Wisemans Ferry. Another fun and challenging technique has been surface cicada lures twitched seductively near shaded and snag-strewn edges in the smaller creeks. Some impressive fish give themselves up for a well-placed cicada imitation, with 40cm plus thumpers quite common.
Estuary perch will be starting to sense the change of seasons and begin to school up in the upper tidal water. With only 2 months of fishing left before the new closed season, anglers should get their light spin/fly outfits, soft plastics, flies, jigs and blades ready for some action-packed sessions on the Hawkesbury’s quality EPs.
A few places to get started are The Breakaway, Ebenezer, Sackville and lower Portland. Look for back eddies near structure like rock walls, weed beds and large tree snags. A couple of quick casts with a soft plastic grub or minnow to likely structure on the drift will help you locate the schools, after which you can either anchor up or hold with the aid of an electric motor and work the school of fish until they wise up or you have caught and released them all!
A lot of bass will still be in the smaller creeks, until a good dump of rain convinces them otherwise and aids their migration back to the main river. Surface fishing in the small creeks can be amazing in March, as they are fully tuned into their surroundings, belting lures as soon as they land! ‘Pelagic’ bass that chase prawns on the surface in the tidal water are going great guns this year too. Early mornings and late afternoons are part of the equation, but it depends if the prawns run while you are there. Most are school-size fish around 30-35cm, but the odd 40cm-plus monster gets in on the action most times.
Nick Hardiman got a good dose of kingfish fever on a recent charter. A live arrow squid on the downrigger was the undoing of this 71cm Pittwater fish.
Big bream have been suckers for cicada lures cast tight to shaded structure in the creeks. Matt Brown looks pretty stoked with his first encounter using this technique, fooling a 40cm model.
Estuary perch are a fun and challenging species. Fast-sinking fly lines and weighted flies or conventional spin tackle and soft plastics paired with modern electronics can yield cricket score catches in autumn.Reads: 395