Kingies still crunching baits
  |  First Published: May 2016

Small chopper tailor used to be very common on the surface in Sydney Harbour. Since the comeback of the kingies and salmon, they have become much less common and I’m guessing that they may have been outcompeted. All three compete for pretty much the same food supply, and a school of 35cm choppers would have little chance against 65cm kings and salmon.

The winter months do, however, produce the bigger tailor, which still seem to be reasonably common. They main difference in winter is that they rarely feed on the surface. You can still take them on deep diving lures early in the morning or on live baits fished in the deep holes, but if you want some whoppers you should try night fishing around Sow and Pigs reef and the shipping channels. Generally though, trolling lures is a great way of finding tailor.

The headlands, particularly North, South and Middle heads are the preferred locations when the fish or the baitfish cannot be visually or electronically located in open water. They are very common along Middle Head, and the run between Grotto and Dobroyd points is a good run to do.

Further upstream at Garden Island has been fishing very well for tailor. Trolling one deep and one shallow diver out each side and one chrome metal slug down the centre will soon sort them out.

I rarely use live baits, but at this time of year it’s worth having at least one out with the chance of picking up big flatties, mulloway, dory, kings or big tailor.

Numbers of smaller kingfish have started to thin out and move around, but based on previous years’ experience and this year’s warmer water, they will still be available for at least another month. The compensation for fewer fish will be an increase in average size.

Tactics need to change now, as will the kingies’ holding positions. You will still get them around places like the Wedding Cakes and other navigation markers. They have become fussy, requiring a bit of berley and smaller, lightly weighted baits.

There are more fish concentrated around the heads and Sow and Pigs reef as they commence their migration out to sea. The best bait in this area is still squid, but you should make good use of the prime baits like the heads and guts. Baits should be presented on lighter gear, lighter leaders, less sinker, smaller hooks and down a cube trail. Don’t discount gar as bait either, as they are around in big numbers at this time and are a top bait for any really big kings that might be loitering around the tail end of the season.

Flathead and flounder continue to fire around North Harbour and the close drifts around the heads. There are no really big fish, but average size is solid, around 45-55cm and there are stacks of them. Try drifting small gang rigged whitebait on the deeper beds or small plastic jigs in the shallows. North Harbour, Rose and Double bays are the pick of spots.

Flounder are a welcome by-catch when flatty fishing and generally favour the same areas, although they seem to prefer the deeper sand banks. They can be caught year round, but the cooler months seem to be the best, especially for the bigger fish. If you would like to specifically target flounder, drop down in lure size to something around 5cm. They are like flathead, in that they bury in the sand and are ambush hunters, so keep in contact with the bottom.

They are also very receptive to baits, particularly whitebait on the drift. They seem to like the big open sandy expanses more so than the structured sand areas where you would more typically find flatties. The open sand drifts around Washaway Beach and North Harbour are quite productive at the moment.

A mate of mine who does a lot of diving commented on the large number of tropical visitors he had seen this season. He is referring mostly to small colourful fish, the likes of which you might see in a fish tank. Normally, they die when the water in Sydney cools down due to their small size and lack of mobility. Larger tropical visitors retreat back north when the temperature drops.

He did, however, observe a number of noticeably larger specimens of the ‘aquarium variety’ that he believes are last year’s stock that managed to survive through a Sydney winter. I have also noticed that samsonfish have become a lot more common through the winter months in Sydney.

Amberjack and samsonfish used to be too uncommon in Sydney Harbour to target specifically, but over the last 10 years they have become progressively more common, to the point that they are now a viable target. If you really want to catch one, the only advice I can give you is to fish exactly the same as you would for kingies. That is by using fresh squid fished in the bottom third of the water column. Just like kingies, they are all suckers for fresh squid and respond to the same techniques. They really like the zone where a reef edge meets a clean sand bottom. While they are common enough to target, be prepared for a by-catch of kings, which isn’t such a bad problem!

• 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--

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