Sussing the salmon schools
  |  First Published: December 2006

The warm weather has hit early along with the southerly changes that seem to crop up on Friday nights, just before a day’s fishing, Most anglers know what I mean!

Still, the next few months are looking rather good. Salmon are in small groups moving around the bay and this should continue well into Summer.

I have found that by approaching the small schools and trolling around the edges with small lures or even plastics on the surface there can be quite productive action, These small schools are rather hard to approach and seem to dive and move around but I have had many hook-ups using this method,

The larger schools that stay up feeding will give you a better chance on light tackle with small plastics or metals.

Tailor and trevally will feed below the salmon so keep this in mind and try letting your lure sink before working it back to the boat. I have taken quite a few flathead as well this way because even flathead will follow surface fish, feeding on the small pieces that fall from above .

Bream are now gathering in small groups ready to spawn on a run that often continues to about Easter. Normally this is triggered by the warmer water upstream which seems to push the bream down and out into the bays.

Targeting spawn-run bream is rather simple – all you need is a No 5 ball sinker, small swivel, No 1hook and nippers or bloodworms as bait. Set up your rod with a long trace of about 1.5m; I find 6kg Schneider Super Fine mono just right.

Set up, say, four outfits and cast them out behind the boat to provide you with a nice spread and then just sit and weight for the fish to hook themselves. The most important rule when targeting bream is to fish the shallows from 5cm to 7m and no deeper or you will catch too many small snapper. The water must also be moving, a run-in or run-out tide will do, but no run, no fun.

This also works fine in the Hacking River over the flats around the top of the tide. In Port Hacking I prefer to fish two hours before the top and the first of the out tide and then I move so we don’t become stuck high and dry on the sand.

Flats fishing in Port Hacking is very productive for bream and whiting and you will find good numbers across the flats right though Summer. Night also offers a top chance and I have always scored my best whiting after dark on the Port Hacking Flats with nippers for bait.


Kings are now a top chance in Botany Bay but you will need good squid and small livebaits. To find the squid is rather simple, just find structure and add berley. Shallow reefs, marina pylons, boat ramps, public wharfs and the like are all spots where bait will hold and if you find small livies then squid are normally in the same area looking for a feed.

Small squid jigs worked across the kelp beds in Port Hacking or Botany Bay will normally produce squid. I have also found plenty when spinning for flathead around the seagrass flats so I always keep a squid jig ready.

Fresh squid is almost as good as live squid so you can simply drop into a bait shop like Master Baits at Taren Point, where new owner Allan will look after you.

But squid are not always easily to find. I remember one trip with six anglers aboard when we jigged for two hours for one small squid. We then headed to the Kingfish Ground in Botany Bay and sent the squid down towards and hooked up almost straight away on a 58cm king. It was just under the legal size of 60cm so it went straight back. Most mornings I now drop in and see Allan for fresh squid as a back-up.

But generally, if you put in the time and find your bait grounds and work them out, catching your own will work. But having some fresh stuff will save you plenty of time on the water and give you more time to target Summer-run kings in our bays.

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