January is my favourite time to fish the wonderful warm clean waters of Pittwater. The skies are blue, the air is warm and the afternoon breeze blowing from the northeast is always pleasant.
Each year we are blessed with large schools of pelagic fish, such as kingfish, tailor and salmon, that chase and feed at will on the myriad food on offer. Bait such as mullet, garfish, slimy mackerel, yellowtail, whitebait and squid populate the bays and the pelagic fish are hot on their heels.
When the warm currents come close to Broken Bay there are usually cobia, amberjack and samson fish that can be caught at places such as Longnose Point, Towlers Bay, Woody Point, Soldiers Point and Mackerel Beach. Normally, these wary but hungry fish can be caught using fresh squid in a berley trail, although amberjack are generally caught among schools of kingfish while trolling.
A productive way to fish Pittwater at this time of the year is to troll large live squid, slimy mackerel or yellowtail on a downrigger around drop-offs and the schools of baitfish that seem to populate the moorings and bays.
A depth of six metres is used as this is mid-water for most of the river and a lot of fish are caught at this depth. Once the targeted species has been located, you must decide whether to continue trolling or set up a berley trail at anchor and catch them with set live baits.
Careel Bay has bream and mullet hanging around the public wharf that can be caught using live nippers, bread or fresh Hawkesbury River prawns. Huge flathead will not be too far away from the mullet schools, so try to catch one of these silver bullets using bread under a float or on an unweighted line.
Once you have caught your mullet, cast it out and keep an eye on it. Last January, Mat Deviztia pulled out a 1.27-metre flathead from this area. Mat warns, “Don’t just place your rod on the ground and turn your back because when you turn around it may not be where you left it!”
Please release all your large flathead because these are the breeders of the system and releasing them will ensure future flathead stocks.
Towlers Bay has whiting on offer in the shallows as well as flounder and, of course, flathead. Use live nippers, whitebait or bloodworms on a rising tide. Berley is a must to attract the fish, as is using the lightest tackle you are comfortable with.
Red tubing directly above the hook helps to attract whiting. Long traces of a metre to 1.5 metres and a small sinker above the swivel will help present your bait more naturally.
For berley, try chicken pellets and finely chopped prawns or squid mixed together and distribute using a berley bomb or similar device in a constant stream. Remember, a little berley goes a long way so don’t feed the fish – use the berley to excite them.
Mackerel beach and Coasters Retreat have the same species as Towlers Bay along with bream cruising the edges of the weed beds among the moorings. Cast soft plastics to the bream early morning or late afternoon.
The sand flats at Careel Bay and Lovett Bay and the moorings around the marinas at Bayview, Newport and Avalon Sailing Club are also worth trying with a soft plastic. A most productive lure is the 50mm Squidgy Wriggler in bloodworm colour on a 1/8oz jig head.
Around Scotland Island there are roaming kingfish and the odd tailor school boiling, along with large flathead along the sandy drop-offs at Tennis Wharf, Church Point and at the entrance to Elvina Bay.
Squid are in most of the bays in Pittwater among the weed and at this time of year the brighter-coloured jigs work better and size doesn’t seem to matter. Try starting around Palm Beach sand flats, West Head or Mackerel Beach.
At this time of year it’s always wise to use fresh live bait whenever possible, even if it means spending the first couple of hours catching it. The fish are generally bigger and remember, bigger baits mean bigger fish.
Ross Wright with a 76cm kingfish caught at Longnose Point on a live squid.
Steven Bowers hooked up to a hard running kingfish that ate a live squid downrigged in Careel Bay.
Steven Bowers happy with the result after several close calls with the moorings.Reads: 1965