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Following the FADs
  |  First Published: June 2005



I have just arrived back from a few days of R&R fishing up around Terrigal for mahi mahi around the local FAD.

We left The Haven around 6am in flat seas so it didn’t take long to travel the 20km to the Fisheries FAD. As we approached the FAD we overtook a local charter boat with aboard. We hooked up on the first drift past the FAD and so did the other boat.

I thought we where going to have a red-hot session on the dollies but another dozen drifts produced nothing.

The other boat headed off into the distance and we were left pondering how we were going to hook up the mahi mahi that were in our berley trail and turning up their noses at all the lures, bait and flies we put before them.

I could see the fish eating the pilchard cubes and swimming past the baits. We decided to use the lightest outfits we had with us and lengthen and lighten our leaders to four metres of 6lb fluorocarbon and use smaller hooks that could be hidden inside the pilly cube.

These unweighted baits were cast out as far as possible and fished with the bail arm open, feeding line as we drifted. Sometimes we had over 100 metres of line out before the dollies would have a go. We also found that trolling our lures a long way back produced fish.

These Fisheries FADs have a lot of pressure on them in the populated areas and can the mahi mahi can be difficult to catch. But we caught them with patience, light leaders and maybe a little luck.

The second day we decided to try for a few kingfish, tailor and bonito. We had seen some good fish at the cleaning table the previous day that some of the local pros had caught. They told us they were out wide and used live baits and half-by-quarter metals, so it was up to our own means to find and catch these fish.

I used to fish the area many years ago before I started guiding so I had a few ideas where we might find fish on closer grounds. We tried to berley up some live bait but not one yellowtail came up. We learned later that a longliner had been there a few days before and had cleaned them out.

So we headed off to the reef off The Entrance armed only with soft plastics, hard lures and a few fillets of bonito.

When we arrived we put two Rapala CD9s and two small skirts and but a few passes produced only a few small tailor. I could see plenty of fish on my sounder but they would not have a go but we kept at it and hooked a few bonito.

Some of the local pros who’d told us the fish were out wide turned up and had instant hook-ups. We went over closer and saw they had a metal lure tied to main line with a two-metre trace and a pink squid over a garfish.

We had the pink squid and the metal lures but no garfish, only bonito. We cut the bonito into strips and troll them around with no result, with the pros hooked up to kings and bonito all the while.

Then I remembered the 9” Slug-Gos so I substituted one for the garfish, ran it back 50 metres and had an instant hook up with a king. My buddy cast a 6” Slug-Go in the direction of the hooked king and another king slammed it.

I quickly landed the 65cm king and picked up another spin stick, cast just behind my mate’s king and was welcomed with a boil behind my lure.

We had just worked out how to catch these fish and we ended up with a good bag fish to feed our families and let the rest go.

HAWKESBURY EPS

This time of year you find a lot of the bass, including some big ones, holding around the area from Sackville to Wisemans Ferry. Estuary perch will school up in the same areas, tending to hang a little wider and deeper than the bass.

Soft plastics work best on the EPs in the deeper water and spinnerbaits worked a little slower and deeper will produce most of the Winter bass.

It’s also worth working the bigger bends on the river where the debris gathers in eddies – baitfish will gather under all the crap that has washed down. The bass won’t be too far away you and you will often see them smashing the bait in these areas.

I often cast a surface lure or shallow-diving jerkbait with good results. Keep your eye open for any surface movement and cast your lure there as fast you can.

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