Bay pelagics
  |  First Published: May 2004

It took me a while to get a written explanation of what a pelagic fish is.

After referring to four dictionaries and three fish-identification books, I think we can safely say a pelagic is a fish (or a plant!) that floats or swims in the oceans or seas between the surface and down to around 100 fathoms, instead of living and staying on the sea bottom. I say a pelagic fish will be constantly on the move in search of smaller baitfish. There have been some pelagics have been tagged in South Australia and then re-caught in the southern part of NSW. Over the years I have caught many pelagics, including yellowtail kingfish, Australian salmon, bonito, tailor, mackerel, barracuda and striped and yellowfin tuna. Other pelagic species include marlin, sharks and mahi mahi.


Botany and Bate Bays will hold many pelagic fish during the course of a year and it seems many anglers find it hard to know when they are about. If you are going to chase yellowtail kingfish, your peak time is from the beginning of Summer through to about the end of Autumn. They will start off in the early part of the season in ‘rat’ size (55cm to 59cm) and then progressively increase in size and numbers.

If you target them at the right time and use live or fresh baits, you will have a good chance of latching onto a 10kg fish. Latching on to one is usually the easiest part – staying connected and landing it is a lot harder. This is where you will need to have a very reliable rod, reel, line and terminal tackle combination and well-tied knots.

Places worth targeting kingfish with bait in Botany Bay include the end of the third runway (where the bottom drops off to about 16 metres), Molineaux Point, Bare Island and the western side of the oil wharf. To troll for kings I suggest working the shoreline on both sides of the entrance to Botany Bay, Bare Island and the stretch of retaining wall along the eastern side of Port Botany.

In Bate Bay it is worth trolling and bait fishing at Jibbon Bombora, the north-western side of Shark Island and Merries Reef. Port Hacking is also worth trying, especially around the swing moorings near Lilli Pilli.


Over the past couple of seasons in Botany and Bate bays the bonito have been a little scarce, yet they have been in good numbers in Sydney Harbour and Broken Bay. Wherever you find yellowtail kingfish you will usually find bonito, so you can try for bonito in the places I have listed for kingfish.

You will need to troll at a quicker pace to get the bonito interested. If you are casting from the shore or a boat you will usually need to crank up the retrieve speed. When I am anchored up live-baiting for kingfish I will always have either a strip of squid or a pilchard suspended under a float out the back of the boat in my berley trail.


Most anglers rate Australian salmon highly as great fighting fish but very poorly on the eating side. Once you have caught a salmon you will need to bleed it immediately, then put it in a saltwater ice slurry. Once you are back at the ramp don’t scale it, just take off the fillets and remove the blood line down the middle of the fish. When you are ready to cook it, I suggest you fillet the fillet to reduce the thickness and make sure that you don’t overcook it and dry out the flesh.

When you are out fishing in Botany or Bate Bay and you come across a school of feeding salmon, don’t rush over and drive through the school. This will only send the fish deep. If you see a school feeding, you need to drive up on the upwind side, cut your motor and allow the boat the drift back to the school. Lures around 5cm work best most of the time.

If you are interested in learning more about how, where and when to fish in the Sydney area, phone or email me for more information.

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