Pittwater is your winter wonderland
  |  First Published: May 2017

With the change in seasons nearly upon us, most anglers start to find other things to do instead of fishing. However the smart fishers will pick the best tides and moon phases to continue chasing their scaly prize.

As the water cools along our coast and rivers, the fish species encountered will differ from that in the warmer months. They are still worth chasing though for that adrenalin hit and to supply the family with a great meal. Along Pittwater we can still catch big kingfish even in the colder water temperatures. They are not as active as in the warmer months. One of the big differences when targeting kings during winter is the bait that is needed to tempt one.

In summer we actively chase kingies on Pittwater using live squid or yellowtail. In winter the gun bait is small cuttlefish that can be found along the rocky shoreline of Pittwater.

Catching these small cuttlefish requires small squid jigs in the 1.8g sizes. Make sure you keep the jig less than a metre off the bottom. You’ll often snag your jigs on the bottom, but the effort is worth it when you finally catch a couple.

The areas to target kings during winter are along the western side of Pittwater. Downriggers are needed to cover ground and a keen eye is needed. Keep an eye on the water surface and on your sounder looking for baitfish. When a large arch is found on your sounder and the fish doesn’t eat your offerings, hang around in the area for a while to entice a strike.

The other fish to catch at the moment are bonito. They’re along our coast and on Broken Bay and they are showing themselves at first light with feeding frenzies on the surface. These speedsters also have tailor mixed in with the schools, and all are pouncing on 10g metal lures.

If you are having one of those mornings with no surface activity, pull out a couple of hardbodied lures and start trolling the headlands, points and current lines. Watch for baitfish being pushed to the surface and watch for balls of bait on your sounder.

On the bottom along Pittwater there are still some flathead around the drop-off at Palm Beach. Using lures or bait will see a few being caught on the run in tide. If there are no takers on the drop-off the flathead may have settled in amongst the weed beds on the shallower grounds, which would be worth a try. Using soft plastics along the weed edges will see a few explode off the bottom and smash your lures in the shallower water.

Bream will also be active on the Palm Beach weed beds. If you’re willing to start early, anchor and berley on the Pittwater side of West Head. This area is shallow, so watch where you anchor if there is swell coming into Broken Bay.

Use a berley mix in a weighted berley bucket and lower it, so it’s about halfway to the bottom. The current runs pretty fast in this area and if you have the berley bucket too high in the water column, the berley will settle too far away from the boat to do any good.

At home I use a grinder to mash a mix of chicken pellets, fish, old prawns, squid, cans of cat food tuna, tuna oil and bread into a bucket. This mix is then put into smaller buckets (the same size as my berley bucket) and then frozen in my bait freezer. The result is a frozen block of berley that disperses in a fine cloud. The tuna oil leaves a distinct slick on the surface and the heavier particles entice the bottom dwellers into a frenzy. Fresh bonito strips would be my choice of bait.

No matter what you use, you must fish this area with light fishing gear. Light traces and light line will give your bait the most natural appearance, and the most important thing when fishing for bream in this area is to float the bait down in the berley trail with as little weight as possible. As the tide and current increase, use small spit shot sinkers to allow your bait to hit the strike zone.

There are of course other species that will be tangled with when fishing this area. They’re all fun to catch, especially on the lighter tackle. Some of the other species that can be caught here are flounder, leatherjackets, whiting and any of the cruising pelagic species that get a sniff of your berley.

Squid are plentiful at the moment with most weed beds holding one or two bigger squid. These guys are best targeted with 2.5g jigs, and the natural coloured ones work a treat. For some really big squid the Barrenjoey Head area on the ocean side will be awesome.

For those that want to head out on the ocean there are some nice fish to tangle with just waiting for you to dangle a line. Along our coast in the water depths of around 50m there are snapper to be caught as well as morwong, nannygai, trevally, flathead and the odd teraglin. It has been important to find the bait schools around the reefs before sending down some bait.

If you are an early riser there will be a few decent snapper still around the shallower grounds before the sun rises. There has been a bit of a late die-off of the big cuttlefish this year, so if you find one floating on the surface, drift down a piece of cuttlefish with no sinker and hang on.

I hope this report has you excited about the fishing ahead. We are now offering a great stay and charters with Luxury Afloat Houseboats on the Hawkesbury and Cowan Creek. These amazing deals include a mid-week, four day stay on the houseboat and two flat water fishing charters thrown in as well. Please call us for all the details so I can show you our wonderful part of the coast.

• Peter Le Blang operates Harbour and Estuary Fishing Charters, phone 02 9999 2574 or 0410 633 351, visit www.estuaryfishing charters.com.au

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