Focus on West Head and the ’Joey
  |  First Published: September 2007

At last the warmer weather should be fast approaching, the sun hopefully thawing a few of my still frozen bones from the cold Winter past.

We should also start to see the water temperature rise and baitfish attendant pelagic fish starting to push into Broken Bay.

The pelagic fish will normally haunt the prominent headlands and reefs and they are usually aggressive, making it easy to catch a feed. A normal day in these areas can produce a variety of fish and memories to last a lifetime.

To be successful in these areas it pays to have a variety of baits and a fair amount of berley if fishing at anchor or drifting. The better baits for larger fish such as kingfish and mulloway are live squid and yellowtail. Better dead baits tend to be whitebait, pilchards or prawns, which will help you catch bream, flounder, flathead, trevally and tailor.

To catch all of these there are two places that can normally be targeted, West Head and Barrenjoey Head.

West Head is open to a fair amount of current but if fished on the last of the rising or falling tide, this rough reef area can be very productive. This area holds a lot of baitfish such as yellowtail, garfish, whitebait, slimy mackerel and at times squid. By catching the available bait and using it in the same area, it is only a matter of time before a bigger fish will eat the offerings.

This area each year produces big kingfish and mulloway during late September. While fishing the edge of the reef for the big ones, it is also productive to set out some lighter lines to catch some of the smaller species available.

At West Head you can literally be fishing from one side of the boat for kingfish over reef and be catching bream, flathead, trevally and flounder from the sand from the other gunwale.

The best tip for this area is to use a constant stream of berley delivered by a weighted berley bucket. Fish in the berley trail and don’t put your rods down unless they are in strong holders.

Barrenjoey Head can be a bit tricky. To fish this area safely you really need to have a vessel of at least 5m and a fair amount of rope attached to your reef pick. You also must check the weather and sea forecasts. Too many people each year have to be rescued from this area, which also places the emergency services at risk just because someone didn’t check the weather or chose to ignore the warnings. Be sensible; no fish is worth risking lives for.

The area to fish is on the edge of the reef in about 25m. There are normally fish trap floats in the area so please be careful when deploying an anchor.

This area can produce kingfish and mulloway so it again pays to have a few live baits on board. I find that once outside Pittwater, yellowtail can be very effective when targeting kingfish but mulloway still seem to prefer fresh or live squid.

Paternoster rigs are used to catch a heap of fish in this area when the current is strong. I recommend them to limit tackle loss when targeting the bream and other inhabitants.

When the current is weak, floating baits down a berley trail is a terrific way to catch a feed and you never know what you will pull over the side.


Inside Pittwater the water will start to warm and the fishing will hot up. We have been catching kingfish all Winter but their size has been down on previous years. We have lost a couple of freight trains, mind you.

This month small squid and cuttlefish will be the hot baits while downrigging and small soft plastics and poppers will account for surface-run pelagics.

The first run of kingfish in Pittwater is usually a real eye-opener with big schools of fish smashing the surface. Most occasions enticing a strike can be frustrating but persistence and changing lures down to match the baitfish can meet with success.

The other way to catch these fish is my favourite – downrigging with a camera. Last year on one occasion we had about 50 kings jockeying for position to swallow a live yellowtail. To see all of these fish chase and pounce on the bait at speed and in the numbers was truly breathtaking.

Squid have become a fair bit easier and over the next few weeks should become more prolific. The usual areas of West Head and Palm Beach weed beds will be best but you could try The Basin and Careel Bay.

Small jigs are required at the moment but the colour really doesn’t seem to matter, its all about movement and size. This is one time when size does matter! We are using jigs of size 2 size down to 1.7.

The surprise for me has been the success of the new Squidgy soft plastic squid jigs. These jigs have a ‘G spot’ that when pressed makes a light flash that also attracts the squid’s attention. These do get smashed by larger squid in deeper water but are absolutely perfect for catching the smaller squid in Pittwater.

I have now tried this product over the Winter season and have been really surprised at how good they are. The only downside is that the bigger squid take chunks out of them. The missing bits don’t matter until it changes the action of the lure.


Salmon are still about but they are being harassed by dolphins so don’t be surprised if they are a little shy. The salmon have been eating a variety of lures and flies on one day and refusing everything the next. I guess you just have to be lucky enough to find a patch of fish that are hungry on the day.

These fish are mostly between Lion Island and Box Head when conditions are calm enough to chase them.

Trevally have been pretty much a sure thing for the past couple of months and at times are eating anything. A decent berley trail is needed to attract the fish and hold them.

Most are only around 30cm but every now and then a larger fish of 35cm comes aboard. We have been using peeled prawns, whitebait and small pieces of fresh squid.

John dory have been a bit of a non-event this year but they are still worth trying for in Careel Bay, The Basin and the deep hole in front of Mackeral Beach. Suspending a small live yellowtail, mado or sweep a metre from the bottom will put you in with a chance.

If you are thinking about visiting Pittwater and would like to learn a heap of new techniques and have a ball doing so, give us a call.

Peter Le Blang operates Harbour & Estuary Fishing Charters out of Pittwater, phone 02 9999 2574 or visit www.estuaryfishingcharters.com.au.

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