Trevally are under-rated
  |  First Published: December 2004

Trevally have traditionally been considered a Winter fish but in my experience they are much more prolific and bigger in Spring and early Summer.

They are great to catch and very under-rated as an eating fish. Cooked properly (rare), they are as good as any of the best pelagics and are most similar to their close relatives, king fish. Eaten raw, they are sensational and in Japan are among the highest rating for sashimi.

Trevally generally like deep, clean water and can be found well upstream during dry conditions. I’ve seen them caught as far up as Roseville bridge in Middle Harbour and Cockatoo Island in the main Harbour. The upstream fish are big but they are usually on their own and not found in the large schools common in the lower reaches. They are mostly taken as a welcome by-catch of bream fishing

Further down on the lower Harbour they are widespread and are found around the channels, headlands, boat moorings and deep holes. At night and at dusk and dawn they will move into shallower regions. Sow and Pigs is a classic ‘dark’ spot as are the shallows around Balmoral and Washaway Beach.

Unlike most fish, trevs are not so fussy about fresh bait and, in fact, Ive found they have a preference for baits like salted mackerel, day-old pilchard fillets and slightly iffy prawns over live nippers or bloodworms. Maybe it’s a symptom of the competitiveness created by living in large schools.

Use heaps of berley and fish your baits as lightly weighted as possible. A light 3kg threadline outfit works the best as it allows you to fish with the bail open and allow a natural drift down the trail.

Don’t rush hooked fish as you will be using small hooks (No 4 VMC baitholders, for instance) and they have soft mouths with a strong possibility of tearing if you go nuts.

Occasionally you will see trevs feeding on top, at which time they can be caught by flicking small 10g Raiders or tiny soft plastic stickbaits at them.

Sometimes they will follow under surface-feeding salmon and you can pick them off by letting a small chrome slice fall through the salmon and bringing it back with a jigging retrieve.


Harbour fishing is primed to go nuts but is being held back by slightly unseasonably cool water (down to 19.5° at times) and unstable weather patterns. There’s lots of baitfish and surface fish like kings, salmon and tailor in the lower Harbour so it’s ready to happen when the right conditions occur.

If things follow traditional patterns, by the time you read this the weather will be more stable, the water warmer, the big Christmas tides will have settled down and the bonito will have joined the salmon, kings and tailor on top. Traditionally January fires for surface action.

Rose, Rushcutters and Double bays have tailor, salmon and kingfish and you will find kings and tailor over at Clifton Gardens. They are taking trolled Storm Thunderstik minnows or cast split-tail minnow soft plastics.

Small metal lures like 10g Raiders retrieved fast through the schools will work well, too. To find the fish look for the seagulls or the churning surface water.

Sow and Pigs Reef is producing some nice blackfish on fresh cabbage fished under a float. Fish back onto the reef on a run-out tide and use plenty of berley of chopped weed and sand mixed together.

Luderick are generally considered a Winter fish, which is true of the river-run fish, but the lower Harbour luderick are big, bronzed ocean fish and continue to bite right through Summer

Upstream, Middle Harbour is producing some excellent bream on lures along the rocky shores and around the bridge pylons. Pete Clarke took a whopping 47cm fish near Roseville on a small Rattle Grub. If lures aren't your thing, try baits of skirt steak or chicken gut.

Kingfish up to 80cm have been caught throughout Middle Harbour. Prime spots are Seaforth and The Spit and the best bait is fresh squid. Squid can be caught around Bradleys Head and Clifton Gardens on small orange jigs.

Early season squid are traditionally small and hard to catch so keep the jigs small and work them slow and deep.

There have been some good flathead among the moorings at Balmoral and North Harbour. You can catch them by using live mullet, drifting with prawns or whitebait or jigging soft plastic lures along the bottom.

Best spots to cast are in the shadows of the moored boats.


Silver trevally are a year-round Harbour favourite these days.


Kingfish should be hitting their straps at the water warms up and the baitfish get active.


Tailor seem to hang with the salmon and kingfish, although you’ll find more tailor around rocky washes.

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