Cooler water, new targets
  |  First Published: May 2006

Water temperatures will drop over the month, bringing new species to chase.

Tailor, salmon, john dory and bream should start to show themselves and, providing you have some patience, the rewards should follow.

Tailor should be in the river as you read and also in the washes along Barrenjoey Head. If you have only a small boat, instead of risking your life in the rough waters of Broken Bay, do what we do and fish West Head or The Basin area. Both these areas usually have schools of tailor busting the surface early morning or late in the afternoon.

Use chrome 7g or 14g metal slugs and remember to use heavier traces when chasing tailor with small lures because bite offs can be common. On the subject of bite-offs, don’t use shiny brass swivels because the following fish will often mistake them for something to eat. Black swivels are always better.

Salmon were pretty scarce last year in Pittwater, which was very disappointing. We were ready for the schools to arrive in numbers and really wanted to target the larger fish that cruise under them. In previous years there were big kingies, sharks and on one occasion a few jewies.

When targeting salmon, always remember to park your boat up-wind of the feeding school and drift back towards them with the motors turned off. Small 3g or 7g metal lures are normally what they will eat but sometimes its better to target them with soft plastics or flies. Fingers crossed they arrive in numbers and are hungry for moving metal.

To use flies with your conventional tackle you will need to buy a plastic bubble that can be filled with water to give you the desired weight to cast a fly. This method is very successful and saves you the money needed to buy a fly-fishing outfit. The bubbles retail for about $3 a pack so they are always worth having in your tackle box.


John dory will be on the move in the deeper bays. These wonderful-looking fish are not the best fighters in the ocean but are one of the best tasting in the sea.

Last year most of the dory were caught at The Basin and Careel Bay among the moorings for the first part of the season and then gradually moved up-river as the months progressed.

Typically the best bait to use for john dory is small yellowtail. Last year, though, we found that john dory also readily ate mados and sweep. The top and bottom of the tides provided the best bite last year and it was noted in our diary that heaps of berley was needed to attract the prey and then the predators would show up. About two hours was needed for each spot before moving to try again.

Bream are on the move in the river and are a fair bit easier to catch than they have been of late. By the time you read this, bigger bream will be near the moorings and along the sand banks hunting small whitebait in the warmer water.

Soft plastics at this time of year can be fished with confidence and, providing your technique is sound, you should be able to track down a feed. Start in the bays that have rock walls, such as Towlers Bay or Salt Pan Bay. In these areas the water is pretty shallow but the bream tend to search these areas on the rising tide.

For those who like to use bait, berley at Taylors Point and drift unweighted baits down the trail. Prawns or nippers are attracting most of the attention at the moment and these two baits should outfish most others in the coming season.

Flathead and flounder will still be about but as with most of the other fish in the river, their metabolism will slow so feeding will not be as often as it would be in Summer. The usual areas along West Head and the mouth of the river will still be the places to fish for these species.

The best baits are whitebait or prawns on a rig with a large running sinker above the swivel to puff up the sand as you drift.

Squid in the colder months can be slow going. These tasty treats are still present but most are shy. Green was the jig colour to use last year with brown a close second. We use Yo-Zuri jigs in sizes from 1.7 to 2.5 to snare most of them. Scent applied to the jig can be quite handy, as can placing a yellowtail in the water below the boat to attract squid from their hideouts in the weed.

Kingfish were caught all last Winter but this year may be a different story. Last year was the first time in 10 years we were able to confidently target big kingfish. With the raping of Pittwater of its resident kingfish populations, this year no one knows if we will get the same opportunities.

Last year the secret king bait was cuttlefish and the best areas were the various wrecks along the river. Downrigging was the most effective way to snare a bigger fish and anchoring and berleying seemed only to attract leatherjackets that would devour hard-earned baits.

Leatherjackets will be around structure and the moored boats with crusted hulls. Small pieces of prawns or squid threaded onto small long-shank hooks will be the downfall of most of the leatheries.

The secret to Winter fishing is persistence so sit back and enjoy your surrounds while waiting for your next meal to swim up the berley trail.

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