Coping with the big fresh
  |  First Published: August 2007

Its been pouring rain and blowing a gale for close to two weeks as I write; the Harbour is flowing fresh and the sea is huge.

It looks like they are forecasting a wet Winter so here are a few tips you can use to deal with this situation.

Being relatively deep and having only a small catchment, Middle Harbour should still hold a few fish, regardless of its resemblance to the Murray River.

My bet would be that jew and bream will hold in there but pelagics like trevally and tailor will 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 shore at high tide.

At low tide, try the deeper holes and off the rocky points.

I’ve always found the stinky baits to be far more productive in these conditions, rather than live baits like nippers or prawns. Try baits of chicken gut, mullet gut or skirt steak.

The fresh won’t worry the jewies, either. In fact, hunting in dark, discoloured water is their specialty. There have been a lot of mullet in Middle Harbour so big live mullet baits would be ideal if you can get them.

Fresh-caught squid would be the best option but I think it will be quite some time before we are catching them in the Harbour again. If not squid, then live tailor caught in the lower reaches or squid from North Harbour would be great choices.

At last resort, big slabs of frozen squid or mullet will do. Lures in the deep holes and poppers around the bridges at night should be worth a go as well.


Down on the lower reaches, look for the area where the fresh water coming down from the Harbour meets with the cleaner ocean water. This usually occurs around Balmoral in Middle Harbour and Sow and Pigs in the Harbour. Down here, berley will help concentrate the fish and, again, the 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 ( at the red marker), Sow and Pigs, the eastern cardinal mark at Dobroyd Head (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.

Despite the fresh, there’s a very good run of flatties happening all through the lower Harbour. They are around 40cm and taking almost any lure or bait you throw at them.

Best spots are in among the yacht moorings in North Harbour and Parsley and Watsons bays. You could also try drifting with whitebait in Rose Bay and around Balmoral. Mixed in with the flatties are some good flounder.


One final tip for fishing at this time of year is to concentrate your efforts around the tide changes.

The turn of high is good for dory and trevally but, overall, the first hour of the run in produces a flurry of fishing. At this time of year fish metabolism slows down so that they feed much less often than they do when the water is warm. This means that they tend to feed only for a short time at prime times.

With the water in the upper Harbour being much colder than the ocean in Winter, the run-out tide tends to cause a shutdown.

But the first couple of hours of the run in brings fresh, warm ocean water into the lower reaches. This influx stimulates a short but often furious feeding burst. Make sure you are prepared to take full advantage of it because when it stops, it stops dead.

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