Sydney kings turn up the heat
  |  First Published: March 2016

This month is, in my opinion, the peak of the summer season. Water temperatures are at their peak, and this season has proven to be exceptionally warm with those temperatures up around 24°C in the harbour and even warmer offshore.

With reports of wahoo and even sailfish offshore, I’m expecting big things on the tropical fish scene in the harbour. The EAC is pushing hard south this year, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see visits from mackerel, cobia, and rainbow runner. They have all been caught in the harbour in the past so it’s not out of the question. Samson fish have been caught already.

Although punctuated with regular flushes of rain, the harbour is fishing exceptionally well at the moment. Kingfish have been around in good numbers and size and the best catch so far was a 125cm taken by 10 year-old Nick Pelham. His dad Gary caught a 90cm fish in the same session and I’m sure Nick reminds him regularly that 125 is much bigger than 90. The kings are munching on fresh squid, which have been abundant over the kelp beds.

Catching squid can be laborious at times. If you don’t enjoy squidding it can be downright painful. On a really good day you can have all you need in an hour. On a bad day you could dedicate four hours to catching some with no guarantee of success. There is a misconception that kings bite early in the day, hence panic sets in after an hour of fruitless squidding. It’s common for impatient anglers to default to catching yakkas or using packet squid after minimum perseverance. This is the most detrimental mistake made by anglers who target kingfish. Kings don’t necessarily bite early in the day, my success on kings is spread evenly over the day and tide plays a much bigger role. I’ve run the fresh squid against yakka and packet squid experiment many times. Fresh squid consistently comes out on top by a ratio of 20:1. On a recent experiment, fresh squid fished alongside packet squid saw seven kings on fresh to zero on packet squid. It’s worth mentioning that the packet squid was of the highest quality, procured directly off the trawler and immediately vac packed and frozen. There are days when kings will eat almost anything and packet squid works a tread but it’s a rare occasion. I’ve also found that packet squid works well sometimes if the kings have been fired up with a bit of fresh squid first.

While on the subject of squidding, one of the bonuses is the occasional flathead that will pounce on a squid jig over the sand patches between the kelp weed. We nailed an 80cm beauty near Manly recently. If you do hook a fish while squidding, it is essential to keep the pressure on the line as the jags are barbless and will fall straight out if the pressure comes off.

Bream and school mulloway fishing has been boosted by regular rain flushes this season. All the channel markers are loaded with bream, which is great if you are targeting them but a nuisance if you are looking for kings. They are ravenous and take most baits. If you are really serious, fresh is best.

The mulloway are holding on the deeper reefs and around the deeper channel markers on the lower harbour. Fresh squid is the key. Middle harbour fishes well in the section between Bantry Bay and Seaforth.

Fishing Station relocation

Alex and Dina are moving their well-known tackle shop, The Fishing Station, after a forced acquisition by the DMR to make road expansions for the new Northern Beaches hospital. Their business became very successful in the few short years at their current location in Frenchs Forest due to their high level of service and friendly staff. The good news is that the new shop at 50 Darley St, Mona Vale will be three times the size of the existing one, which means there will be a greater range of tackle and increased buying power leading to cheaper prices for the customer. Alex and staff built up a solid, loyal client base who I know will need no encouragement to follow them to the new location.

• If you are interested in doing a guided fishing trip on Sydney harbour with Craig McGill please call 0412 918 127 or email --e-mail address hidden--


A map produced by the Recreational Fishing Alliance shows that 60% of Sydney Harbour poses recreational fishing restrictions of varying degrees. These range from fully restricted through to partial restrictions and include naval waters, marine reserves, spearfishing bans, squidding bans, unfishable high traffic areas and de facto fish refuge zones – due to restrictions based on dietary advice that no fish should be eaten west of the Harbour Bridge. In addition to this, the entire harbour shoreline is intertidal protected zone, which means no collecting of any sort. Sydney harbour is still very much a ‘working‘ harbour. It’s also the busiest waterway in Australia. At times the traffic is almost ridiculous. Accidents and near misses are commonplace most weekends.

A study produced by RMS forecasts that by 2021 there will be an additional 5000 vessels vying for a spot in Sydney Harbour. Half of these will be over 6m. Most recent marina expansions are to cater for boats over 15m. With much of the shoreline already inaccessible due to city, urban and commercial encroachment, the remaining foreshore is crammed with various users. The safe northeast and southerly protected anchorages are also at capacity on most weekends. In summary, the harbour is full.

In light of this, it’s hard to imagine how someone could see Sydney Harbour as a suitable venue for a marine park, complete with lock out zones. However, this is possible to occur when the marine estate management authority hands down its recommendations in the near future. Surely any criteria for assessing a location for suitability of a marine park would include a measure of existing overcrowding and safety issues – of which the harbour has no shortage.

Despite the recommendations, any actual lockouts are in fact a long way off. There is a lot of science to be done. Lack of adequate baseline studies is one of the shortcomings and a source of criticism of marine parks. An amendment bill was passed recently in parliament that said that all future marine parks had to be supported by science. This includes adequate baseline studies, which can take from 8-10 years to complete.

In addition to this, they would need to conduct environmental impact studies on ‘transfer of effort’ and address safety issues caused by condensing the user groups into a smaller area. It’s been rumoured that, should Sydney lockouts go ahead, the minister has vowed that he will insist on adequate base line studies and that, at least some lockout zones will apply to all user groups - including divers. I’m sure this is something that genuine conservation groups would welcome. – Craig McGill

• The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the opinion of this publication. – Fishing Monthly

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the opinion of this publication. – Fishing Monthly

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