Straggler kings hold deep
  |  First Published: May 2004

MAY is the change of the seasons with both Summer and Winter species being caught.

The last of the schools of kingfish, amberjacks, samson fish and bonito are lingering before they move off to warmer waters, mixing with Winter fish such as Australian salmon, tailor and trevally.

At this time of year the kingfish and amberjacks are mainly holding deep around channel markers and other structure. The best way to catch these is on live bait, dropped down to the depth they are holding. Another method is to jig deep, using Slug-Go plastics, metal jigs or a combo of both.

I locate the fish with my Matrix sounder, noting how deep they are holding. You can anchor or drift over them, depending on the wind and current. I then lower the jig to the bottom, keeping in contact with the jig on the descent as often fish will strike on the drop.

When your lure hits bottom, wind it a few turns up and jig it up and down with the rod a few times. Often a fish will strike. If it doesn’t, I wind at high speed, with a pause or two on the way up. On many occasions you will be nailed on the pause or just as you start to retrieve. Often when we are jigging I will cast a unweighted Slug-Go, put the rod into a holder and let the lure slowly sink. I’ll let it sit there, moving up and down with the boat movement from the waves. This will often hook up without any input from the angler but if it does not work after 10 minutes, bring it up slowly, adding action with the rod, and then repeat the process.

It also pays to get berley going, as often baitfish and fish will follow it right back to the boat. I often pin a live bait and send it down as a back-up. Berley is also handy when deep-water fly fishing. Get a good trail going, cast your fly, let its sink and retrieve it back through the trail.

This type of fishing is very demanding on tackle so check all your knots, leaders, line and drag settings – if there’s a weakness, it can cost you fish. I use a 6kg to 8kg Strudwick rod, Shimano Stradic and Sustain reels, loaded with yellow 10kg to 15kg braid and a 18kg leader. I use yellow line because it is easer to see when your jig finds the bottom. I use 9wt and 10wt Strudwick DBT rods, Fenwick Reels loaded with 15kg lb Bionic Braid, Airflo 400g fast-sinking, shooting-head line and 18kg leader. I use Mick Munn’s East Coast Flies in bait fish and Clouser patterns.


The bass and estuary perch should also be caught in good numbers this month as they school up in good numbers in the area from Sackville to Wisemans Ferry. This is the time that a lot of bigger bass are caught. Soft plastics and flies should work well around drop-offs and eddies.

Bream are also caught in good numbers and sizes around the oyster racks, pontoons and shorelines. Small crankbaits and soft plastics cast close to structure will catch fish. Tackle for bream and bass is similar but line and leader may have to be changed. I use Strudwick Softboz spin rods, Shimano Stradic 2500 reels loaded with 4lb and 8lb yellow braid. I vary my line and leader to suit the conditions.

I will hold on-water fishing schools this month on how to catch Winter bass and estuary perch. Mick Munn and I are also offering on-water fly-fishing schools for the medium to advanced flycaster who wishes to learn about saltwater pelagics or Winter bass and EPs.

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