Cold enough for jackets
  |  First Published: June 2006

Even though the weather has got chilly and the water temperature has dropped there are still plenty of fish about.

Those who fish off the rocks can target luderick, drummer, silver trevally, bream, leatherjackets and groper. Anglers who prefer to fish off the beach can target salmon, tailor, bream and the odd sand whiting. In the estuaries you could chase blackfish and bream but even more reliable this month are silver trevally and leatherjacket. So here are some tips on how to chase these great table fish.


Since the closure of commercial fishing in Botany Bay the silver trevally population has exploded and now they are a year-round proposition if you follow a few simple rules. Anchor up and berley use fresh bait, be prepared to move a number of times until you find them and fish as light as the conditions will allow.

Botany Bay regulars will have seen a new row of yellow markers around the two airport runways. If you are going to chase silver trevally at the end of the third runway you need to drop your anchor in line with these markers (making sure that you do not hook up to one of them) or no more than 20 metres out from them. This will position you near the edge of the drop-off that surrounds the runway.

When the tide is coming in you should be on the south-western side and when the tide is going out you should be on the north-eastern side.

Berley with bread, chicken pellets, leftover pilchards, or a combination of all three. A steady stream of small particles will attract silver trevally to the boat.

Have two rods rigged, one with a leader of about one to two metres and the other with a small ball sinker right down on top of the hook. The rod with the unweighted leader should be cast out into the berley trail, say about 20 metres, and then placed in a rod holder. The rod with the ball sinker onto the hook will stay in your hand so that you can slowly feed out the lightly weighted bait into the berley. Once the fish has taken the bait, it is just a matter of leaning back on the rod and setting the hook.

Silver trevally fight all the way to the boat so don’t have your drag set too tight because they may take off just as you are about to net them. I have seen anglers lose trevally at the boat because they are pulling too hard.

Baits for trevally vary but the most consistent are pink nippers, peeled prawns, fillets of pilchards, pillie tails and small strips of fresh squid. You can also catch them on whitebait, small strips of skinned yellowtail, slimy mackerel, bonito and striped tuna. Time of day and tide doesn’t seem to matter with trevally but there has to be some run in the tide – no run, no fun.

There are plenty of other places to chase trevally. In Botany Bay try The Sticks, the Oil Wharf, Bare Island, Sutherland, Towra Point, Dolls Point, the drop-off at Foreshore Drive and Henry Head. In Port Hacking work the edge of the drop-off at Lilli Pilli, the Ballast Heap, South and North West arms, Yowie Bay Point, the baths at Gymea and the sand and weed beds at the entrance to Gunnamatta Bay.


Would you believe that there are 28 species of leatherjackets on the east coast? I will concentrate on yellowfin and fan-belly or fantail leatherjackets, both of which can be caught from the shore or from a boat, it is just a matter of knowing where they are.

Leatherjackets can be found on sandy flats among weed patches, rocky shore drop-offs, kelp beds and around a mixture of weed, kelp, sand and boulders. Places worth a look in Botany Bay are The Drums, any of the marker poles, the end of the Third Runway, Bare Island, Henry Head and The Patches at Towra. In Port Hacking try any of the rocky shores, under pontoons, around marker poles, the back of the Ballast Heap, the Deer Park drop-off, North and South West arms and Bundeena Point.

In the Georges and Woronora rivers the jackets will be a bit smaller and fewer but they are found in similar terrain.

The most effective rig when targeting leatherjackets is the one-hook paternoster rig. There is no need for a swivel, just a No 6 to No 10 long shank hook, a small snapper sinker and 6kg line. Baits should include chopped frozen pink nippers, very small pieces of peeled prawn and fresh squid. The bait should be only large enough to fill the bend of the hook.

Once you have located the jackets, position your boat over them and bait up your single hook and lower it to the bottom, keeping your rod tip just above the water. Immediately take up the weight on the tip of the rod and at all times keep your eye on the rod tip.

When you see any rod movement immediately strike straight upwards and don’t allow any loops or slack in the line. Keep the rod tip high and simply wind the fish in. Try not to do much lifting and winding.

If the fish does try to take off, just slowly lower the tip of the rod while keeping tension on the line. I don’t use any drag. Once the fish nears the surface just slip the net into the water and slowly guide the leatherjacket over to the net or just swing the fish into the boat.

The author with quality fan-belly leatherjacket caught at The Sticks in Botany Bay.

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