Lizards on the prowl
  |  First Published: December 2016

January is a top month in most NSW estuaries, particularly around Sydney. Many fish will be taken by those willing to give it a go. Although Botany Bay is not regarded as a prime flathead spot, it turns on some good fish for those who go after them. Reports from this area indicate a good run of lizards is around and can be caught by drifting.

Yarra Bay on the La Perouse side is a renowned flathead ground. Drift this bay on both sides in the middle of the inlet and you’ll find that lizards feed along the stretch. Mullet strips, prawns, whitebait and pilchards are top baits. If you fancy a bit of drifting during the ebb tide, the bell buoy out from Kurnell Reserve to halfway out on the southern shore between the heads.

The fish aren’t large, but most of them are over legal length. I’ve done well using a double rig with one hook above and one hook below the sinker, with 2oz and 2/0 longshank baitkeeper hooks. I like to let the bait go to the bottom then slowly jerk up and down. This action catches the eye of lizards. At times, a Mister Twister Double Tail in the chartreuse colour placed above the hook can prove deadly.

Another good spot I’ve found is the rift from the Kurnell Oil Wharf to Quibray Bay, especially when there is an east to northeasterly breeze. Stick to the 2/0 hooks and you’ll have the added chance of hooking into good bream and the odd school mulloway. Apart from the flatties, the bay is fishing superbly with plenty of kingfish, bream, trevally, tailor and whiting available.

The centre moorings have provided their share of catches and are best fished on a falling tide. I like to fish approximately 200m west of the centre buoy and berley up. A little patience is necessary, but the fish will respond to your enticing and feed around the boat.

The deep hole around Molineaux Point has been the most consistent possie this year, and this spot turns on just about anything with specimens of over 15kg taken on live squid or live yellowtail. It’s best fished 50m from the main seawall at anchor. Day or night, both tides can also be fished shore-based for decent luderick.

Watts Reef is still one of the best bream spots in the bay. This month, it can be relied upon to provide a good feed. You’ll find the bream are only school-sized and will bite better at night during the rising tide. Live nippers work best. I like to use a small split shot placed behind the hook and cast parallel to the boat – let the tide do its own thing. This is a fairly shallow reefy area that can only be fished in calm conditions.

The artificial reefs have all been fishing well, although the size of the kings taken there falls short of the Fisheries legal length. They’re good fun on light gear. I’m told that good size squid have been taken from these reefs on Yamashita 2.5 jigs. Green eyes are the prominent feature. Make sure you use a reef anchor, or there’s a good chance you’ll lose it on the reef or rough terrain.

Trevally are still around in good numbers and size. These make a welcome by-catch when the fishing is slow. Not many fishos go after them, but smoked in hickory sawdust, they make wonderful eating. They’re both a day and night fish.

Sometimes the bite of trevally is just a slight pick. When you feel this, turn the hand of your reel two or three times and lift the rod – you’ll feel the weight of the fish. Don’t strike hard, as this will only pull the bait away or tear the hook out of its soft mouth.

In slack water, I’ve found very simple rigs result in many fine catches. Use no trace and tie on a 1/0 hook with a no.0 ball sinker running directly above the hook. About 30cm up the line above the hook and sinker, tie a no 6 crane swivel to avoid twisting or kinks in the line.

Cast into the berley trail and allow the bait to sink slowly. Let the trevally rise up to the bait and take it quickly. The container terminal to Yakka Bay, the airstrip extension, the hot water outlet at Kurnell and the artificial reefs in Yarra Bay are the likely places to find them.

Schools of tailor have been working the bay, but they’re small to average in size. These fish are around the 0.5kg and the best catches are taken on small lures. Birds hovering over a feeding school are a dead giveaway of their presence. When you see them, bring the boat slowly to within casting distance. Cast alongside them or just in front. Retrieve briskly and the lure will almost immediately entice them to strike.

Around Bare Island, Captain Cook Reserve, between the container wall and Kurnell just east of the centre mooring areas, and the entrance to the Georges River are the most consistent possies.

Whiting have been a little on the ordinary side with only a handful taken from the usual grounds. I’ve found a few along the mangroves between Bonna and Towra Point. They’re extremely hard to catch and require a little finesse, due to the clear water. Fish for them at night between the weed corridors.

This runs the risk of unwanted creatures like toads, stingrays and catfish, but unfortunately they come with the search for whiting at this time of year. It may be better to fish the Georges River above Como Bridge, Lugarno and the Moons.

The offshore scene has been pretty good with kings, mowies, snapper and blue-spot flathead making up the bulk of the catches. Leatherjackets haven’t showed up, so we can rest easier and save a bit of tackle. The Tank mark about 1.5nm from South Maroubra Beach, the Peaks, the Plonk Hole, Hargreaves Reef, Rosa Gully Wide, Ben Buckler, the Trag Grounds off Coogee, the highly visible Wedding Cake Island and Botany Head are all recommended areas and should provide a good feed of fish.

Georges River has been sporadic, producing fish one day and nothing the next. School bream around 25-27cm are available on the edge of the channels, but you’ll find that only one in ten is of legal size. Fishing for these can be quite costly if using live worms. I suggest a very early start with a tidal change just on daybreak.

The second pylon from the northern side of Como Bridge is the best option. Make sure you fish with the tide. This possie is very good until 7.30-8.00am then the small pickers become a nuisance. The boatshed 300m upstream of the bridge, on the northern side, has been very good at night for quality fish and the odd school mulloway. Try whole Hawkesbury prawns and bloodworms on the bottom of the tide.

The stretch between Jewfish Point and Illawong is an excellent possie with two green channel markers to indicate the depth. This spot is known as Cranbrook and can be dynamite. Fish the edge of the channel and you can catch whiting, school mulloway, bream, flounder, flatties, and the likes. Forget weekends, though, with all the jet ski traffic.

Woronora is a great alternative, if the weather is doubtful. You can always seek a sheltered place and catch good fish. The old road bridge is an icon and can be relied on for excellent catches at night on the run out tide.

For the freshwater enthusiast, Liverpool Weir is an excellent spot for bass and estuary perch. Cambridge Weir is a fantastic territory which can be covered land-based or from kayaks. Reports from this area would make you sit up and take notice. From the Nepean River near the tackle shop at Narellan, there are plenty of bass for the taking. These fish are on the small side, but they provide a lot of fun for the fine line enthusiast.

Wallacia Bridge, the foot bridge at Elderslie, Menangle Weir and Glenbrook Gorge at Penrith are the pick of the spots. If you fancy a bit of cod and redfin fishing, give the Wingecarribee River a try just below the Hume Highway Bridge at Berrima.

I can’t emphasise enough the importance of finer lines, early morning or evening sessions, live baits and tidal movements. They are your key factors at this time of year.

Photo courtesy of estuaryfishingcharters.com.au.

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