Two major food groups
  |  First Published: May 2004

THIS is when we get our biggest southern calamari squid.

They move into the harbour from the close reefs and ocean rocks to spawn and nearly all the big ones (up to 1.5kg) will have eggs. Curiously, some of the big ones have both egg and milt sacs, which raises the question as to what sex they are.

You will nearly always find the big ones in pairs so keep an eye on the water behind a big squid as you bring it to the boat – its partner will often follow it in. If this doesn’t happen, make sure that you throw your jig back to the exact same position where you caught the last one.

These could be territorial because I have never caught more than two big ones from one anchor point. If you want big kings or jew, don’t be scared to put one of these whoppers out live. They might look too big for a live bait but I can assure you that a 10kg king will have no problem swallowing a 1kg squid.

We also have large swarms of mullet congregating in the lower Harbour at the moment. They are also getting ready to spawn along the coast. This month they will move back up the rivers, drawing the jewfish and bigger kings along with them.

When you combine these two major food sources with the fact that fish are now concentrating on putting on some fat for the cold water just round the corner, it is fair to assume that now is the time to be targeting big fish.

Big kings have already started to show and we have taken a few to 10kg in the lower reaches. The obvious spots to look for them are the deep locations around structure. From my experience, kings and jew don’t like to be in the same spot at the same time, although they do like the same type of habitat.

I’ve had a run of jew replaced by a run of kings on more than one occasion, with very little cross-over (that is, jew are replaced very quickly by kings). There’s probably a territorial battle going on down there and I’d put my money on the kings.

The exception to this is in areas that are used as feeding grounds only, rather than holding grounds where you will find kings by day and jew at night. These feeding grounds are usually in shallower water (three to six metres) then you would traditionally target holding fish. This will work best either very early morning or late arvo (kings) or night (jew) and will usually have kelp beds nearby.

Holding spots will be deep (six to 10 metres) and have some structure, preferably with shade (buoys, jetties, bridges or rock ledges) and some current.

Some Harbour holding spots for big fish include : Inner North Head, Neilson Park, the mouth of Rose Bay, particularly around Shark Island (note that most of this area is a no-anchor zone and suitable for drifting only in reasonable weather ), inner South Head, the Wedding Cakes and Seaforth, VB Reef and Pickering Point in Middle Harbour. These are spots that you would typically fish through the day.

Feeding spots include; Middle Head, Fairlight, Sow and Pigs, Washaway Beach, Obelisk Beach and Quarantine. These are good early-morning, late-arvo and night spots.

Of course, this is only a general rule and other factors might come into play. A feeding ground might fire up at midday if the scenario of a high pressure system, high tide and peak feeding period (on the Maori or Solunar charts) coincide.

In simplest terms, if fish decide to go on the feed at any time, there’s a fair bet they will head to feeding grounds. But generally, early morning late arvo are peak feeding periods for most fish and jew will feed in these same low light periods as well as after dark.

On other fronts, some of the surface fish that have been absent for a while have made a comeback. Salmon and bonito are working along North Head in the early mornings, as are tailor along Washaway. They are not obvious on the surface and are responding to trolled minnows. I’ve been doing well on Storm Junior Thunderstiks in gold and silver chrome.

Its been at least eight years since I’ve seen Watson’s leaping bonito in the Harbour but they have showed up recently in good numbers. Don’t let the name fool you, they don’t leap when hooked, or when feeding, any more than a normal bonito does. I think Watson was using a bit of poetic licence when he named them.

They do look different from normal bonito in that they have spots on their topsides where bonito have stripes. They are also a bright green on top where normal bonito are deep blue. Their flesh is deep red, more like a striped tuna’s, where ordinary bonito flesh is grey/pink.

Another sub- tropical ring-in that has showed up lately is the spangled emperor. I’ve heard half a dozen different reports of them but the two that I can confirm are a 2kg specimen that Alex Bellissimo caught off Middle Head and one I saw a young fella with back at Roseville ramp. He picked up that one at Balmoral on a small soft plastic lure.

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