The possies that proved in 2016
  |  First Published: December 2016

The festive season is just around the corner and it didn’t arrive quickly. Before we know it, the new year will start. Now’s a good time to reflect on the past – look at the advantages, disadvantages and if possible, improve on our overall performance.

During the past few months, the wet weather hasn’t been congenial. Ever-present winds disrupted many planned outings. I can’t recall so many days ruined by the conditions. Even though there’s a lot of experience behind me, I still fall for the passionate streak and go fishing only to come back early.

It’s vital to make sure the tide coincides with the wind, as this will ensure the boat is positioned properly and facing the right direction. Make sure you carry two anchors in your boat, as they should assist in keeping your vessel positioned correctly.

Pending on the type of fish you’re seeking I’ve found that Botany Bay fishes the best during the full moon and the new moon periods. The tides are usually high with a fair bit of water movement. This is necessary for the fish to bait readily. The shallow sand flats are the best option during the big run ins, as the fish have access to more areas. The best times are usually from October to May.

The run out tide is excellent for most of the channels, like between Towra Point and Dolls Point. Fish where schools of fish are congregated waiting for food. The same tide is also excellent for fishing just outside oyster leases as the fish make their way from the racks into the deeper waters.

A sounder is absolute necessity to study bottom formations. These tend to vary from location to location and the slightest variation could mean better catches. Whiting and bream respond well to these changes and provide the most catches in the bay, along with flathead.

Reduce the breaking strain of your line to the minimum. I suggest 4kg Sunline Siglon V, as it’s the thinnest monofilament at 205mm diameter, is IGFA rated and can stand a bit of punishment. Use a trace of 2kg, approximately 1.7-2m long. This will enable your bait to move around with the tide.

I like both fluorocarbon and monofilament traces, depending on the water condition. Remember, fluorocarbon absorbs water and will become almost invisible in clear conditions, but it will become brown in discoloured waters. The monofilament leader is good in all conditions. Sometimes you’ll lose a few fish, but you’ll get many more bites.

Live bait is almost compulsory. Although expensive, bloodworms have outshone all other baits. Live squirtworms have produced the goods in the upper reaches of the estuaries, like above Lugarno in the Georges, upstream of the road bridge in the Woronora, and west of the Marsh Street Bridge in the Cooks River.

Live nippers have been excellent on the sand and mud banks with many good fish accounted for. Make sure you use locally pumped nippers that aren’t imported from any other estuary systems, as these work better. Live crabs have shown a remarkable catch rate, particularly with the larger bream population. They just can’t resist them.

Locally caught squid and octopus have worked well. It’s surprising how many fish you can catch with the one bait. Marinated chicken with fresh garlic and parmesan cheese works a treat and catches more species. Peeled Hawkesbury prawns marinated in sugar and salt also work particularly well. The ever-reliable brined pilchards and whitebait have been reliable for years and can be relied upon for many uses.

If using plastics, I’ve found the 65mm Squidgy Grasshopper to be excellent along with the 80mm black and gold paddler. If chasing mulloway, it’s hard to go past the watermelon and motor oil colours. The 120mm white lightening, and the 60mm bloodworm wriggler are fantastic for bream. Jigheads are an absolute necessity and can be used for your bait as well as plastics. Have you ever tried a peeled Hawkesbury prawn on a 3/8oz by 1/0 hook or a live bloodworm on a 1/8oz by size 2 hook? They work!

This year has been extremely hard to get a good bag of fish. I’ve found trevally to be the number one mainstay in the bay, and they’ve always been there to save the day. The size of the trevally has been surprising. Some of them are going over the 2kg mark, but the fact that we’ve caught them all the way to Milperra Bridge intrigues me. The Port Botany Reclamation Wall has been the most consistent spot. Anchor up with plenty of berley and cast a lightly weighted bait in the berley trail – sooner or later they’ll find you.

The blurters have been scattered throughout the system. The buoys near the old runway have fished well. The eastern side of the Kurnell Oil Wharf and the drop off on Watts Reef have been consistent. Along Silver Beach has been good, but the best possie has been on the southern side of Captain Cook Bridge with the second pylon the standout. Como Bridge has yielded its share of good fish as well as Cranbrook and between the moor boats in Cooks River has proved the real surprise package with large fish on the prowl.

Bream catches have been on the decline and are definitely a seasonal proposition. Big catches can be had, but the size of the fish is not what it used to be. Watts Reef from April to June is at its peak and produces the largest size and quantity in the bay. A small split shot placed behind a hook is all you need. A high tide around midnight is ideal and live nippers are your number one bait. Ensure you have a northeasterly wind blowing, as this will position your boat correctly.

Bream love artificial structures. There is reef structure, which runs from Kurnell to Kyeemagh, which has provided excellent catches. November to January and May to June are the best bet here, and there’s always scope for a by-catch. Towra Point and the Patches would rank highly in my book for bream, as they offer both deep and shallow contours with reefs, weed patches, cockle beds, shoal patches and oyster leases.

The days are gone where we used to bag out in front of Mick Moylan’s pub at Dolls Point, but with patience you can still get a good feed in this area. I’ve found Primrose House in the middle of the river is the most productive spot during the outgoing tide, close followed by Towra Deep and Towra Wide behind the red channel markers.

There are a couple of small inlets near Woolooware Bay which are very interesting and harbour XOS bream – the trick is to get in there a couple of hours before the high tide and stay until an hour after. You won’t get many, because of the structures, but they’ll be big. Towra is good between November and May, with catches declining through winter.

Whiting is my favourite fish and I specialise in them. They’re excellent table fish and pound for pound rank amongst the best fighters in the sea. The long weekend in June is the best time to fish for them, as their numbers increase in July, August and September. Then they tend to vanish for better pastures. You’ll find them in the deeper parts of the channels between Oatley Bay and Alfords Point Bridge, with night time often rewarding. The darker hours will yield the bigger fish and I’ve caught them up to 1.05kg, but that’s a very rare specimen. A good run is between 38-42cm, while the average fish is 30-32cm.

Around January they tend to move at the entrance to the Georges River. Excellent catches can be had by fishing land-based in the sand and weed corridors on Douglas Park flats. This is also a great spot to pump nippers, take the family for a swim and enjoy a picnic lunch. The sand banks around Martin Isalnd, Towra Beach, Stink Pot and Elephant Trunk will no doubt be peppered with many fishos, but unless you’ve got live worms you’re wasting your time.

La Perouse Beach is always very good and sheltered from the northeasterlies, as is Yarra Bay and Frenchmans Beach. Congwong Bay on the eastern side of Bare Island is also highly recommended. Tailor catches have been sporadic and although they’re regarded as an all year proposition, June, July and August have been the better months to fish. The artificial reefs in Botany Bay, Bare Island bommies, Watts Reef and the hot water outlet at Kurnell are the better places to try.

Kingfish catches have surprised with many hoodlums taken in the bay. The captors have kept their catches relatively quiet and have landed fish in excess of 15kg. I have it on good authority that downrigging live local squid or live yellowtail has been the best method and the eastern side of the Port Botany is the best location.

The Drums in the middle of the bay have also fished well for the odd large fish and the best method is to pepper each drum. School kings have been taken along the old and new runway borderline, both on live and strip baits. I’ve also caught a few on the mountain wide off Ramsgate and one right out of the box has been in between the moored boats in Cooks River.

Flatties have been consistent all year with the territorial consistency evident. They love big live nippers and also small live poddy mullet, which can be caught under the lights in a trap at the Sylvania Waters Boat Ramp (Hawkesbury Esplanade), the Carinya Road Boat Ramp at Picnic Point, Fitzpatrick Park, and the Kyeemagh Boat Ramp. The best drift has been at the entrance to the Georges River, between Captain Cook and Tom Uglys bridges, Yarra Bay, and from the Kurnell Oil Refinery to Bonna Point, just wide of the sanctuary zone in Quibray Bay.

There are plenty of bait and eating prawns available – Coolum Beach is the number one spot to get them. Inside Carra Park Baths is also good, the stretch between Alfords Point Bridge and Mickeys Point is very popular, as is Burrawang and Cattle Duffers Flats. Remember, the bait you catch yourself is always best.

One amazing location which has yielded great squid on a regular basis has been the Foreshore Boat Ramp at Botany. Many hundreds of fishos launch their boats at this boat ramp, but here’s a tip exclusive to Fishing Monthly: they bypass some of the best squidding grounds in Sydney. Next time you’re there, spend a half hour or so squidding, both for eating pleasures and bait purposes.

The offshore scene hasn’t been great for the same old story – weather. On the congenial days, big Chinaman jackets have been taken from the 12 mile reef off Bondi and Southeast Reef and longfin perch have been quiet. Kings to 85cm are showing and can be taken on the new horizontal striped knife jigs from Shimano. Big mahimahi have been taken on the wide FAD.

Bluespot flathead are a little wider at this time of year and can be caught on the drift north of Cape Banks with some good fish amongst them. Hargraves Reef and the Plonk Hole have big jackets, mowies and piggies on the chew with decent tiger flathead taken on the mud just outside the reef.

The beaches have been very quiet and, apart from a few salmon and tailor, are best left alone. If you decide to give them a go, try Tamarama Beach, South Maroubra Beach and Green Hills for whiting and bream. Jibbon, Henrys Head and Inscription Point will provide pelagics.

On the freshwater scene, near my shop at Narellan, the bass haven’t really started to bite. The river is full of debris from the recent storms and providing obstacles for the water flow. The weirs are clogged with branches and require cleaning attention.

There are plenty of carp on the chew. Worms are the best bait and aniseed pellets are perfect as berley. You’ll get plenty of them at Camden Town Farm Lagoon, Eldersue Foot Bridge and DeBurghs Weir. If you’re chasing bass, the number one land-based spot is on Wilton Park Road at Maulden, followed by Douglas Park. I’m told there are good bass at the entrance of the Bellbrook Gorge at Penrith and the weed beds in the middle of the river not far from Tench Reserve. I think it will take another 2-3 weeks before the bass get serious.

Finally, Brickbats to the jet skiers, which destroyed the Eagles Nest at Cranbrook and lack etiquette when driving their personal craft. Maritime has installed infrared cameras on the Georges River to keep their eyes on the situation. For further information, don’t hesitate to contact me on 4647 8755. Enjoy the holidays and your New Year. I look forward to joining you in 2017.

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