All good, from bush to bay
  |  First Published: December 2005

January is prime time in Botany Bay and the waters of southern Sydney and there is plenty on offer.

For a change, let’s start at the upper reaches of our local estuaries and work our way downstream to the lower ends and onto the ocean – they all fire this month.

Bass are great chance and the hotter the afternoon, the better, Years ago when everyone else was at the beach, I would head to the sweetwater areas late in the afternoon, hiking along bush tracks and down mountainsides looking for small pools that might hold bass.

These fish move into the top ends of our rivers and will hold in the fresh all Summer. They just pick a snag and wait for their food to come to them/

I find small surface lures or little deep divers are the idea – have a look at some rippers in the East Coast Lures range. A 3kg outfit is all that is needed for this style of fishing and just a little madness on a steamy afternoon in January.

At the top end of the salt and down into the rivers proper, there is plenty on offer. Bream are on the move and you will find good fun either anchored soaking baits in the main channels or casting small lures or soft plastic around snags, pontoons, old boats and rock walls.

Flathead are also feeding in these areas and spinning with soft plastics on the drop-offs or working the lines of mangroves is fun. Cast just on the mud line and work your lures back into the deep water for best results.

I also like using live bait in these areas and a live mullet cast into a weed-fringed drop-off is deadly on flathead.

The sand bars in the upper estuaries will also hold good whiting. I like to fish right in the shallows on a rising tide, when the whiting will move up to feed as the water moves over the flats. Try live nippers or bloodworms.

Here’s one the kids just love – mullet fishing. Right through Summer you find good numbers of mullet in the tops or our rivers by just adding a little bread to the water over the sand flats and waiting.

Small quill floats or just a small peace of foam will work and I find that the white foam will help lure the mullet. You need a small hook, around a No 10, about 100mm under the float.

Use a small piece of fresh white bread, slightly moistened and kneaded into a firm dough, as bait and then just cast it so it sits with the bread berley. I spent hours fishing for mullet as a kid and still love it.

The lower ends of the estuaries are hot spots with just about any local species on offer.


Early in the morning there are normally schools of tailor working somewhere in Port Hacking or Botany Bay so just keep an eye open for the birds feeding and cast lures or ganged pilchards.

Kings should be at their best as the water is warm and there is plenty of food around the Bay. Best results will come from deep water around structure.

While lure fishing will catch plenty of smaller fish, the better kings will usually fall for a live bait or a piece of fresh squid.

Bream are schooled up and moving around on their spawning run, just anchor anywhere from the Captain Cook bridge to Towra Point and right across the bay. My best results come from the shallow water, from two metres to seven metres.

I love nipper baits fished on long traces for the bream, which will fish well right through to Easter.

Summer spinning for flathead is normally rather good as they move around to chase their food. Spinning with soft plastics over the weedy drop-offs or across the vast patches of weed and sand is great and that is why I find Towra Point so productive.

Drifting is best as you cover plenty of ground and maximise your chances of putting a lure in front of a fish.

Since the commercial buy-out of Botany Bay a few years ago trevally are now a great chance year-round . Fish deep water around structure and berley to help bring them on the bite.

Trevally are top sport fish and 3kg to 6kg line with a long soft rod allows them to show why. They fight well and eat well fresh and there wouldn’t be too many days when we don’t catch trevors.


Trolling around the headlands of Botany Bay or in Port Hacking towards Marley Point can be very productive for bonito which school along these ledges to feed. They at times move right into the bay and estuaries following bait schools.

Trolling is a top way to target these little speedsters. Once you find them you can break out the spinning gear for a little fun as these little tuna on light tackle are hard to beat.

January is also great from the rocks, where bream and drummer feed across very shallow water early in the morning and late in the afternoon.

The gear for this style of fishing is simple – a long, soft rod around 3.6 metres with line to 6kg. You do lose the odd drummer but the hook-up rate is good. Nippers are my favourite bait and I like fishing as light as I can.

A small bobby cork allows my bait to drift across the washy rock ledges at high tide early in the morning, before the bream move back to deeper water. This type of rock fishing is fairly safe as the water is only around a metre deep but it’s always best to fish with a mate as two pairs of eyes are better that one.

Keep an eye out for the new A Day on the Bay Gary Brown and I have put together, it covers five species and the areas and rigs to target them in Botany Bay.

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