At this time of the year you need as many arms as an octopus, with each arm stretching out for a species option. What do I chase? Off the beaches there’s whiting, bream, tailor, salmon, mulloway, sharks and more, while from the rocks drummer, luderick, snapper, bream and pelagics like kings, bonito, frigate mackerel, mac tuna, salmon and tailor are available.
Whatever you do, specifically target a species and you will reap the rewards. Besides that, you normally end up with by-catch when targeting them. For example, when chasing bream, other species like drummer, tarwhine, luderick and trevally are caught. Targeting a specific species means that your percentage is much higher than an angler that fishes for anything. Do your own survey and ask anglers that are chasing a particular fish compared to an angler that says he’s just fishing for anything that comes along.
Beach fishing in April could produce any number of species. Whiting fishing is good to great at the moment, with regular bags, and bream included. At times there are at least as many bream as whiting amongst the catch. The evergreen Manly Beach is a regular producer of them. From the Queenscliff side to South Stein right up to the corner near the rocks is the place to be. Dee Why and Collaroy beaches have seen some good bags of fish being caught, with whiting to 43cm from the latter.
Further north, Mona Vale Beach south of the swimming pool where the first gutter normally forms, to the rocky section down the beach is producing whiting and bream. Newport from mid-way to within 75m of the northern side has the same.
I have mentioned a lot that live bait is the key to increasing your chances exponentially. At times you just don’t have the opportunity to purchase or harvest live worms or nippers, so what do you use? Fortunately, all good tackle stores have salted beachworms or, even better, the metho preserved worm, but there are still other options. Those 200g bags of prawns are a good choice, especially if they are small. Peeled and well presented on a Mustad 92247 size 2 or longshank red hook, they will get you onto a few bream and whiting. Add some pilchard fillets, half pillies and mullet fillets to your bait selection, and you should increase your chances of a few bream and flathead. For the flathead, use fluorocarbon leader from 12-20lb, as their abrasive teeth can sever the line as they perform their surface headshakes.
Tailor and salmon are on the chew, with the choppers being more prolific than the sambos. They will be the dominant species throughout the later winter/spring months now. Good bags of tailor are off North Narrabeen, Dee Why, Curl Curl and Manly. Mostly the evenings are producing, and very early in the morning well before light. If you can drag yourself out of bed and hit the beaches about 1 1/2 hours before the crack of dawn to about sunrise, you will encounter some good chopper action. Make sure you have picked the gutters the day before or have a feel for where to go. Good quality pilchards are a must, on a set of 3 Mustad 3/0 4202D hooks.
There was a report of a 20kg jewfish from Dee Why, caught on a butterflied 30cm mullet. The bronze whaler sharks have been less prolific in comparison to previous years, which is good news.
Off the rocks, the kings are not as thick as previous years, but I am giving you a summary from March for April, so this could all change. Some kings up to 90cm are coming from the local rock platforms around my area. Spinning sea gars is a compact, reliable way to fish for them. A pack of 5-6 gars with a few lures like stickbaits and Williamson Jet Poppers in green or blue should cover you for an outing.
One important thing to do is to be regular when pursuing this species. Like targeting beach mulloway, it has to be done often. Try 4 or 5 5/0-7/0 7766D hooks ganged up for the extra large gars that the kings want. It will surprise you when you land a king as small as 50cm that smashed a 35cm plus gar!
Other bycatch is salmon and tailor. When they show up, it’s best to change to a large metal like a Sniper or a Knight in the 65-125g size until they move on; otherwise you will go through gars hand over fist. At $14-$16/kg, it would be a wise move.
The snapper have been a little slow of late. They will increase as we head towards late autumn/early winter, but in saying that there are still some to be caught. There’s a mix of species in with the snapper, especially when fishing the sudsy white water. Bream, small kings, bonito and the odd trevally are showing up on fish baits, and prawns and squid strips. An early morning, or late afternoon into the evening is necessary for a feed.
Don’t risk a rock fish in the dark unless you are familiar with the surroundings and fluctuating swell conditions. You have to exhibit common sense when you sense a rising swell in the dark off the rocks during a slight sea. When the weather predictions from whatever source says low swell decreasing, it does not necessarily mean stable conditions. Weather is extremely dynamic and complex, and so is the ocean swell! A locally developing cell could be in your area, which the weather bureau did not predict. Swell size fluctuates from a few hours before to a few after. And remember weather updates are not as frequent as they should be. If you sense/see that the swell is rising, just get out of there and move to a safer location.
Rock blackfish are increasing in numbers, with this month being great for the piglets. The Hat at North Head, Quarantine, Little Bluey between Shelly Headland and Bluefish, Long Reef, Warriewood Headland, Mona Vale, Barrenjoey Headland just to name a few are worth a throw. Try peeled Endeavour or banana prawns, pink nippers if you want to go to the trouble to pump them, and white sliced bread, with breadcrumbs or bread soaked down into a mush as berley.
If you’re getting into fishing as a new hobby, just trying it out with friends and family, wanting to catch a fish but found it challenging, want to improve your abilities from above intermediate to advanced, this is the time of the year to do it. Your skill levels will increase because the fish are in better numbers, and you can practice by application rather than theory.
How good is this: Bill Panagiotopoulas hadn’t caught a plate size fish for a couple of decades, and on his third cast he caught a double header! He’s new to Alveys as well.
Fourteen-year-old Oliver Kovarik Jnr caught this great 86cm kingfish on a ganged gar at Bluefish Point. It is really satisfying to see a father and son fishing together and having a great time. Photo by Oliver Kovarik Snr.
This king caught by Phil Murray was on the last cast and on the last half dozen turns of the Daiwa Surf Basia 25QD and Wilson FSU-5120 rod. Half a minute before, we were discussing how there is always still a chance on the last cast!Reads: 570