Best baits ink-lude cephalopods
  |  First Published: February 2017

The volume of cephalopods in Sydney Harbour is astounding and they seem impervious to the dangers around them. They’re abundant worldwide and greater in total mass than that of all humans. Then again, so are ants.

Their success is based on outrageous fecundity rather than risk avoidance strategies – they hang around in the dumbest places. Having said that, their ability to squirt clouds of ink is a masterpiece of evolution, which I would guess had its beginnings in crapping themselves with fright. It does get them off the hook occasionally.

Based on the number of squid I find in the harbour’s predatory fish, the ink thing doesn’t work on most occasions. What a bad hand they’ve been dealt – they’re sweet, tasty, spineless, boneless and slow. Millions of years ago, they lived in shells the likes of the nautilus. If they were as smart as the scientists say, they would never have come out, but the shell was cumbersome. The decision paid off.

We have found quite a few new grounds over the last few years that defy the rules on what I normally considered good squid habitat. Some of the open, nondescript grounds in the lower reaches have produced huge numbers of squid. I’ve always known that common (arrow) squid are a schooling squid and don’t require much structure. Recently we’ve gotten good numbers of southern calamari, cuttlefish and octopus over the same clean bottomed grounds.

I’ve always thought that the harbour contained vast quantities of cephalopods. These new open grounds have revealed that the populations found over the kelp beds are just the tip of the iceberg – no wonder big predators like mulloway, kings and sharks find the harbour so attractive.

The open grounds are best worked with a paternoster rigged squid jig worked close to the bottom on the drift. If it’s windy, use your motor in reverse to slow the drift so that your jigs keep on the move and don’t rise too far up off the bottom.

The benefits of the removal of commercial fishing are really starting to show up now. There has been a lot of school mulloway around this year. They are mostly small fish ranging from 1-8kg. We usually get the bigger fish at the other end of the season around April to June.

If you are chasing mulloway through the daylight hours, there’s no question that fresh squid baits are first choice. Live squid aren’t necessary as most of our daytime mulloway are caught on strips of the tube or ultimately the heads and guts. If you’re after really big mulloway, live squid and big live baits like mullet or pike are the way to go.

Night fishing is a different matter. While I’m sure that squid are still the best bait, they are hard to use because they get hammered by tailor and many other non-target species. You can’t always keep a bait in the water long enough to attract a mulloway.

The good news is that tailor make great live baits. If you lose your squid baits to tailor, at least you can put the tailor straight back out live. Don’t be scared to use big tailor for live baits, as even a 10kg mulloway will have no problem swallowing a 1kg tailor.

Give these spots a try for mulloway: Fairlight Point, Reef Beach and Cannae Point in North Harbour, the hole at the Spit, Killarney Point, Seaforth Bluff, Pickering Point and under the power lines above Roseville Bridge around Middle Harbour, Neilson Point, Clifton Gardens, the red marker inside South Head, Blues Point, Balls Head and the deep holes around Gladesville in the Main Harbour.

With water temperatures starting to settle down, fishing for kings is stabilizing. There have been lots of rats around lately and the bigger fish should be on fire this month. With metre kings common these days, you’ll need to be fishing the best tackle and techniques. Live and fresh squid and cuttlefish are the ultimate baits and will be abundant at this time of year.

Make sure your gear is in top working order, especially the drag system. You should be fishing 50-80lb braid with similar mono leader if you hope to stop a big one. Some of the deep-water spots like North Head, Watsons Bay, Nelson Park and Middle Harbour are worth a try.

Reads: 1981

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