Sorting out structure
  |  First Published: March 2004

STRUCTURE, if you fish it right, will get you good catches. If you get it wrong, you will lose a lot of gear.

This month I am going to cover some of the many different types of structures that can be found in Botany and Bate Bays, Port Hacking and the Georges, Woronora and Hacking rivers. Structure can come in many different shapes, sizes and forms. It can be part of nature or made by humans. You will find structure in bays, throughout estuary creek systems, offshore, one the beaches and the rocks. Structure is home to many species of invertebrates, such as crustaceans and molluscs, which attract different fish like yellowtail, slimy mackerel, mullet, garfish, prawns, bream, flathead, snapper, mulloway and luderick.

Structure could be in the form of rock walls such as groynes (Kurnell) or retaining walls built to hold back the sea (eastern side of the Port Botany container wall), at a river entrance (Cooks River), or to divert the movement of the sand on a beach (Dolls Point).

As you motor or walk around our great waterways you will come across many navigation markers. It doesn’t matter whether they are fixed poles (the Moons in Georges River), or floating buoys (the entrance to Burraneer Bay), they too are structures that attract sea life. Whether you are dangling a line offshore, casting from the beach or off a rock platform, you will come across natural and artificial reefs, sunken wrecks, gutters, spits and holes, all of which are structure.

To the luderick or bream angler, a row of oyster leases, pontoons or moored boats will provide plenty of structure and cover. The same goes for a fallen tree or a shoreline that is lined with mangroves, which will provide places of ambush for flathead, bream and bass.

Mulloway and kingfish love to hang around just about any type of structure. The pylons of the Captain Cook bridge, Tom Uglys, the Como and the M5 bridges are usual haunts of mulloway, while the channel markers, navigation buoys and mooring drums in the main shipping channel of Botany Bay can be home to kingfish.

In Port Hacking just down stream from the point at Lilli Pilli, there is a man-made reef called the Ballast Heap. The area around it has silted up slightly over the past few years, but I find that it is still a very productive spot for whiting, bream, flathead, garfish and luderick. The best fishing seems to occur on overcast days and the during the early and later parts of the day with the sun is at its lowest.

Have you ever driven past a group of boats tied up on swing moorings and wondered what was down below? Next time, don’t just drive past, get over there and cast a line. You may be surprised at what you pull out from around these boats. I have a couple of favourite bays containing swing moorings that I will fish during Autumn and Winter months for snapper. All you need to do is rig up a No 2 ball sinker and a 2/0 hook, put on a half a pilchard and drifting through the boats. You will need to keep the bait on the bottom at all times.

In the upper reaches of the Woronora River there is a rock bar smack bang in the middle of the river and for newcomers to the area, it is a major hazard. To the experienced Woronora angler this rock bar is a fish haven at most times of the year. It should carry a cardinal marker, as I have heard many a boat scraping and grinding over it.

Another structure that comes to mind is the oil wharf at Kurnell. You must be mindful that there is a 100-metre no-go zone around the wharf and if there is a oil tanker tied up there, I would go and find another type of structure to fish. The fish are not as responsive when there is a ship moored there. Maybe they go under the ship or they are attracted to the sound of the motors running.

To fish the oil wharf successfully you will need to have a sand anchor so that you can kellick outside the 100-metres zone. You will need to start a strong and consistent berley trail that will find its way back to the wharf. It is important that you keep up a steady berley trail, otherwise the fish that you have just spent 30 minutes berleying will go back underneath the wharf.

This area is best fished with a ball sinker weighted to suit the conditions right down on the hook. This rig is fed back down through the berley trail with the flow of the current. Baitrunner-style reels are great for this. Best baits are peeled prawns, nippers, fillets of pilchards, strips of squid and mullet and whitebait.

Whether you are going to fish the groynes for flathead at Dolls Point or Kurnell from the shore or a boat, not a lot is different in the techniques that you use. Flathead, along with many other fish, will be found not too far out from the bottoms of the groynes. If you are fishing from the groyne itself, you don’t need to cast out too far. If you are in a boat you will need to keep your baits and lures as close to the groyne as possible. Once again don’t forget to lay out a berley trail.

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