Snapper and squid have highlighted recent catches, with some top catches of snapper from legal size up to 45cm in Middle Harbour.
As usual, there are also heaps of undersize reddies. The Catto brothers drifted the deep channel west of the Spit Bridge down to Pearl Bay for 16 keeper reds plus a couple of flathead using Hawkesbury River prawns and strips of squid. The reef on the northern side of Shark Island is another spot that has been producing regular catches of snapper.
As for the squid, they have moved well into the harbour with catches reported as far up as the Gladesville Bridge. The mooring dolphins in Snails Bay, off Birchgrove, has been one of the better spots where boat anglers, who have launched in the Parramatta River, stop off to cast green 10cm jigs under the concrete pylons to collect their bait squid before heading down harbour to tangle with the kingfish.
Cannae Point is another hot spot for the squid. It is better suited for those boats coming out from Middle harbour or Rose Bay. Nearby, the drop-off out from the Quarantine Station is worth a look for the snapper, which are very partial to fresh squid baits.
Blackfish catches are on the improve, with land-based anglers catching some quality fish at the Chains, between Pier 1 and Pier 2 in Walsh Bay. Early morning is best and the fish are showing a marked preference for Parramatta River weed. Other areas worth a try include Blues Point, the wall at Luna Park and the rocks at Cremorne Point.
The wharf jockeys are finding plenty of leatherjackets around the jetty piers and along most rock walls. A two-dropper paternoster rig is favoured when targeting jackets. However, many luderick anglers, when the they can’t find the blackfish or they go off the bite, will switch over to prawn or squid baits on their standard blackfish float rig and get a feed of jackets. Visual fishing such as this can be more exciting and satisfying than just fishing the bottom and waiting to feel a bite.
Night anglers are catching plenty of tailor around the bottom end of the harbour. Fishing during the day, either with lures or bait, will also produce but they tend to be smaller fish. There is no question that if you wait until after dark and fish unweighted pilchards or garfish, you have a better chance of catching the bigger fish, with 1.5kg specimens not uncommon.
Some anglers report scoring well on tailor on the drift at night in the area bounded by North Head, South Head and Middle Head. This can be a dangerous practice, because if you drift into the shipping channel you could be run down by one of the ferries. Even with all your navigation lights on, a boat can be unsighted against the background of the city lights.
Hairtail have put in an early appearance in the river but are showing up in the most unexpected places. They turned up first at Box Head in February, which is often a forerunner to the Winter season, but then there were reports of significant catches taken in Berowra Creek, particularly around Deep Bay and off Beauty Point.
I also heard of a number of hairtail being caught off Peat Island shore. This catch caused quite a surprise to a party of anglers who were fishing for bream and flathead. They were bitten off repeatedly but also managed to boat a few hairies before the school moved on. Whether these catches herald a bumper winter season in Cowan Creek is yet to be seen and may depend on how many fish are caught pre-season.
Bream catches have improved significantly over the past few weeks. The stretch of river encompassing Marlo, Bar Point and The Vines has seen some top catches taken of fish averaging700g. Hawkesbury River prawns, nippers and chook gut are all accounting for fish but you can’t go past black crabs as the prime bait for the bigger bream. Catfish tend to leave crab baits alone, too.
The reefy area on the saddle between Flint and Steel Reef and the port marker post at Flint and Steel Point is another spot worth trying for bream. This is mainly a night spot and you will lose a bit of terminal tackle on the rough bottom but recent reports indicate it is worth a visit. Plenty of school jew, and the odd kingfish, are being caught on the outside edge of Flint and Steel Reef and there have been a few big flathead caught on live baits sent down for the jew.
Lots of trevally are starting to show up in the bay, a sure indication that the water is starting to cool down. Molineux Point, Bare Island and Watts Reef all have their share of trevally and, although the schools tend to move around, as long as you are fishing near underwater structure and have a good berley trail going, then it shouldn’t take too long before the fish come on the bite.
The recognised flathead drifts off Brighton Beach, Towra Point and Silver Beach are still producing reasonable catches although I hear that there are a lot of small stingrays taking up residence. They are more of a nuisance if you are fishing on the anchor, as they seem to be less tempted by a moving bait.
The surface action has been a day-to-day proposition with plenty of activity one day and nix the next. Overcast days seem to encourage the fish to feed more actively. If you are chasing salmon, tailor or kingfish, then the closer to Botany Heads the better.
Mick Wantuch caught this 22kg jewfish at Flint and Steel in the Hawkesbury. He thought he had won the Riverstone Bowling Club Open Fishing Classic until a 75kg marlin hit the scales.
Grotto Point, at the northern entrance to Middle Harbour, is a popular and productive spot for shore-based and boat anglers. Treat this area as a coastal rock platform because the swell coming through the Heads can create dangerous conditions.Reads: 3609