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Catch the right tide
  |  First Published: September 2016



Luderick are a favourite winter fish that can usually be relied on, even during the worst shut down. This doesn’t mean they’re not available through the summer, they’re a worthy opponent in their own right.

I use them as a standby species, because of their reliability. As a species, they require a considerable degree of skill. They are hard fighting, good eating. They move into the harbour this time of year and can be caught in good numbers and sizes. Primarily ocean blackfish, they’ll take cabbage weed, unlike the smaller river luderick who prefer the often hard to obtain riverweed. Cabbage can be found on most ocean rock platforms. You’ll need a bucket of sand as well, which is mixed with some chopped cabbage weed and used for berley.

Sow and Pigs, the Wedding Cakes and the Spit are prime spots for boaties. Rocks around Reef Beach, the foreshore around Taronga Zoo, the Spit, Middle Head and inner South Head are all top spots for shore-based anglers. Luderick are one of the hardest fish to pin a tide on, and it varies dramatically from spot to spot, so it’s just a matter of getting to know each location. They are a top eating-fish if they are bled, iced, filleted and skinned. Don’t forget to remove the black lining from the stomach.

SOW AND PIGS

Caution: Sow and Pigs has a dangerous break in big seas. This mid harbour reef is a boat spot only and fishes well on both tides, although the last of the incoming is better. On the outgoing tide, fish on the city or upstream side of the reef. Drift baits back towards the upstream face of the reef. This face drops abruptly into about 25ft of water. Floats can be drifted right up to this face, but be sure not to go too close, as this will result in foul ups. The flow of water here usually comes downstream and then to the west.

With practice, you can use this natural drift to take your float down the reef and then along the face to the west. To position the boat, place one anchor directly upstream and a rear anchor back on the reef itself. Pull back on the front anchor so you are 40m from the reef. On the incoming tide, fish the eastern side of the reef. Position your boat so you are on the edge where the reef drops into the deep water to the east. Fish your drifts so that your float runs parallel down the reef edge.

WEDDING CAKES

Both cakes fish well for luderick, but I prefer the eastern cake. Anchoring accurately is critical, and difficult at the cakes. Anchor directly up current of the structure. You will need two sand picks and, due to the soft bottom and deep water, you will need to let out a lot of rope in front and back. Obviously you will have to anchor upstream on the outgoing, and downstream on the incoming. Find the drift that takes your float to the centre of the cake. By careful manipulation of your line, you can then manoeuvre your float, drift down to the cake along its face and finally around the sides.

THE SPIT

On the Mosman side of the bridge upstream, there is a retaining wall that fishes well and gets crowded. The water rips hard through the Spit, but luckily it eddies around the point and creates a good drift. This is best fished on the last of the run-in and first of the run-out.

On the other side of the bridge downstream, is a long, deep and rocky shoreline that offers easy access and good fishing. Both tides work well with a preference for the outgoing. This spot is less crowded, which is great. The best method of fishing this spot is to drop your float in upstream, and walk down with it, letting it run parallel to the shore.

The next few months are traditionally the slowest of the year. Nearly all factors work against fish and fishers alike. The variety of species is reduced and migratory pelagic species move away in search of warmer water. The fish that stay in residence are faced with cold, clear and still water. Metabolisms slow down, bright light penetrates deep and strong offshore winds push the water flat, reducing levels of dissolved oxygen. Large, slow moving pressure systems create extended periods of both very bad and very good weather. It’s not unusual, at this time of year, to experience a full week of atrocious unfishable weather, followed by a week 'as good as it gets'. Whatever the weather, mornings are always bitterly cold and most fishers just stay at home.

Naturally, fish will feed sooner or later. When a group of favourable conditions come together, there are fish to be caught. At times, it’s possible to take home a bag of fish like those in warmer months, but this happens less regularly.

You can improve your odds during these quiet months. Make less trips – at first this might sound bad, but if you measure your success in fishless trips against the times you actually catch something, then it might make sense to occasionally stay in bed.

Let’s say your planned fishing day falls on Saturday 12 September. The tide chart says there's a low tide in the morning, which is not really the best tide for Sydney Harbour right now. There's a slow moving low centred over Melbourne, the cold westerly that has been blowing for the last few days is still blowing. When you get up at five in the morning, the water is dead calm and crystal clear and the sun is shining bright. That’s bad.

If you go that morning, chances are that you are going to have to record it as a fishless day. If you stay in bed, then that day doesn't count as a fishing day. Sometimes, a day on the water is good enough reason to get out of bed. If we are talking fishless trips then August, September and October are the worst.

When you go out, make sure the days have a high percentage of favourable factors. These include early morning or late afternoon high tides, high pressure systems and cloudy days. The days after a strong sea has subsided or a fresh water flush has gone through are good. These both have the effect of clouding the water and stirring up some extra food. Knowing your species and knowing which ones are likely at be around at this time of year is also going to help.

There's not much point targeting mulloway in the harbour if they’ve all moved to inshore reefs, or kingies if they have followed the warm water up north. Study your winter species and get to know their preferred baits, habitats, tides and moon phases. A few worth your time are John Dory, trevally, salmon, bream, tailor, drummer, blackfish and leatherjackets.

Versatility is a big plus during quiet times. Carry a variety of fresh baits and be prepared to move around. Try the options until you locate the species that are happening. This might mean starting the day with a troll for tailor, salmon or maybe even bonito. Bonito have proved themselves to be a highly unpredictably species and over the years I have experienced runs through all seasons. Tailor usually go off the bite within an hour of sunrise, so this option must be covered early if at all.

The next option will have to be decided on depending on tides and conditions. This is where knowing your species becomes important.

1

Luderick are one of winter’s most reliable fishing options.

2

Average harbour luderick can be taken on cabbage weed.

3

Flatties hang around in winter, but you need to fish deep with big live baits.

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