The cold water season is drawing to an end, but it’s not over yet. There’s always a lag between water and land temperatures, so while it’s warming up for us, the fish are still in winter.
Kingfish stayed in the harbour longer than usual this winter, and it’s looking like they will be hanging around right through until the warm water comes back. They’ve been a bit fussy in the cold water, feeding almost exclusively on small live squid and cuttlefish. They’ve been in good numbers and size upstream in Middle Harbour and the main harbour, with smaller numbers in the lower reaches around Watsons Bay.
Fishing the washes around various lower harbour headlands has been productive this winter. Black and silver drummer have been the main targets. It’s amazing the variety of species that can be taken on the bread baits. My first decent fish I caught as a kid was a bream, taken on a piece of bread off the Manning at Taree.
We pulled up for lunch with the family, on a trip home from Coffs Harbour. Like most kids, I wouldn’t eat the crust on my sandwich. I picked it off in small pieces and tossed them into the water. It wasn’t long and I had a boiling mass of bream at my feet going nuts. I bolted back to the car, grabbed a handline and within a few minutes had a nice bream about 2lb flapping on the grass.
Until recently, I always considered it to be a bit of a novelty. Generally, the key to successful fishing is in sourcing the freshest, most natural baits and, equally important, identifying the target species’ primary food source. So what’s the go with bread? It’s processed human food made from a grain with no resemblance to any natural food found in the sea. Not only will fish eat it, at times they’ll go absolutely nuts for it, even when more conventional baits have failed.
I’ve caught bream, flathead, mullet, gar and small mulloway in the estuary. It seems like there aren’t many fish that don’t eat bread. Even more bizarre, most species, even bottom feeders, will rise to the surface to take floating bread. Berley heavily with bread, and then fish with small unweighted pieces, under a small bobby cork.
Putting the bread on the hook is tricky. It has to be done right. The crust is stripped off a slice of white bread. It has to be white bread, as multigrain falls apart too quickly. Squeeze a piece about 5cm square around the hook, to form dense dough, but be careful to leave the end fluffy. This achieves a bait that stays on the hook once wet, but with the fluffy aerated end, still has enough buoyancy to stay afloat. It’s visual fishing – you nearly always get to see your bait taken off the top.
Plenty of bread berley is essential. The best spots are where deep water meets rocks. If there’s backwash nearby, then all the better. Small bombies are good – the best time of day is when the sun is low enough that headlands cast a shadow on the area you’re fishing.
In addition to bread baits, try pieces of peeled prawn. Large king prawns peeled and cut into three or four pieces are best. Fishing this way will produce a huge variety of species, including silver and black drummer, luderick, trevally, bream and blue groper. I’ve even seen various pelagics get in on the act.
Talking of pelagics, it won’t be long before they are swarming back into the harbour. Salmon are already in, so here’s a few tips on making sure your lure kit is up to scratch. The most important part of your lure is the hooks. Inspect your hooks for rust that can make your hooks weak and blunt. A rusty hook will not penetrate as smoothly as a shiny one. Replace rusty hooks and split rings.
You might decide to replace your hooks with chemically sharpened ones, which will improve your hook-up rate. If you go with standard hooks, use a sharpening stone to get those points razor sharp.
Check your lures are performing correctly. The style of lure that’s most likely out of tune is minnows. A bump on the bib last season can put them out, which will usually result in making them swim off to one side. In really bad cases, they might even spin. Adjust them by bending the tow eyelet a fraction in the opposite direction of where the lure is swimming.
With some lures, like the Rapala CD series, it’s near impossible to bend the eyelet due to its solid construction. In this case, make the same adjustments by bending the bib itself. Naturally this is only practical with the metal-bibbed lures and should not be attempted with plastic bibs.
Other maintenance might include cleaning dirty painted finishes, polishing tarnished metal reflective surfaces and patching up torn soft plastics with a hot wire. Organising your lure collection in your tackle box is equally important. There’s nothing more frustrating than reaching for a suitable lure and finding it comes out in a tangled mess with twenty others, while tuna are busting out all around your boat. The time sorting out mess can often exceed a feeding spree.
Plastic hook guards are a great remedy, but remember to keep the WD40 up to them, as they have a tendency to hold moisture. Sort your lures into types and sizes and familiarize yourself with their positions in the box.
A couple of thumping black drummer from the harbour washes.
Bread baits produce a variety of species.
Luderick will happily slurp down bread baits.
Solid kings have stayed in the harbour right through the winter.Reads: 255