This Winter season is providing a better-than-average run of blackfish for anglers with some expertise in light float-fishing with weed or cabbage baits.
Areas in the Harbour where this species is known to aggregate include the shoreline on both sides of Mrs Macquaries Chair, Cremorne Point, Blues Point, the Taronga Park wharf and Nielsen Park. In Middle Harbour, the rocky shoreline around most of the parklands from Castlecrag to Castle Cove also hold populations of blackfish during the colder months.
These areas provide calm water fishing and consequently the fish tend to be quite timid and require a stealthy approach – line breaking strains of 3kg or less and carefully-weighted quill floats that will offer a minimum resistance to the bite of a cautious fish.
The ocean-dwelling rock blackfish can also be found in the lower end of the Harbour. The rock ledges inside South Head will often fish well when there is a bit of a southerly bump coming through the Heads. Casting into the whitewater created by the breaking waves coming around the headland will often find you small to medium size fish. Abalone gut, cunjevoi or peeled prawns are the best baits. Red morwong are an occasional catch here, too.
Most of the rock walls and jetties around the Harbour foreshores are fishing well for leatherjackets. The yellow-finned jacket is the most common species caught in the estuaries, although the more popular is the fan-bellied leatherjacket. They tend to be caught at a bigger size and are more attractive, with their large fan-shaped tail and belly flap. Take care when handling any of the leatherjacket family as their erectile dorsal spine is strong, serrated and has a razor-sharp membrane connecting from the back of the spine to the body. Although not poisonous, a jab or cut from the spine can cause a nasty injury to your hand.
The surface action continues with tailor, salmon and even kingfish schooling around the lower end of the Harbour. The pelagic fish went into hiding, or off the bite, following the consistent rain that fell at the end of Autumn and dirtied the water, but they are back in numbers and we can only hope that the kingies might stay in the estuary right through Winter and into Spring, which would be a first.
Nighttime anglers have been catching some reasonable hauls of bream in Willoughby Bay. Just near the wreck is the hot spot. The quiet approach is needed here as the water is not all that deep and the fish tend to be a bit spooky. A rising tide on a moonless night will give the best results, with live nippers or bloodworms the best bait. You won’t catch big fish, with 27cm to 28cm the average size.
The area around Wisemans Ferry has been offering some excellent fishing. Flathead has been the main species taken with school jew and bream also worth chasing. The flathead will tend to stay up in this area right through Winter before heading down near the mouth in Spring to spawn. There is always a chance of a big jewfish being caught up-river during Winter. Every year we usually hear of a couple of big jewies, in the 20kg to 30kg class, being caught between Bar Point and Wisemans. So far it has only been schoolies up to 4kg.
It looks like being a poor season on the hairtail. Despite some reports early in the year of hairtail being caught around Box Head, and the odd appearance of hairtail near Peat Island and Bar Point, it appears the hairtail have not moved into Cowan Creek, their traditional Winter haunt.
It’s still worth a trip up into Cowan Creek, however, as the deep water is holding plenty of other species. Squid can be jigged under the lights at Cottage Point at night. Legal-sized snapper and quality bream can be found in Akuna Bay and Illawong Bay. Both of these areas have had some attention from anglers seeking hairtail, which means that there has been a fair amount of berley dispersed, attracting other fish. Some big whiting have been caught in the creek above Halvorsens at Bobbin Head but you definitely need live bloodworms or squirt worms for bait.
Lots of trevally in the Bay, but they’re mainly on the small side. If you land one around the kilo mark you could claim it as a trophy fish for this year. Best spots have been the wall at Molineaux Point, Watts Reef and the bommie at Bare Island. Berley is a must though if you want fish in numbers. If you aren’t berleying, you can bet fishos near you will be and they will be attracting all the fish.
There has been a good run of tailor over the past month or so and they are showing no indication of moving on. The hot water outlet at Kurnell is a good place to start looking for them but, if you do find them, catch them while you can, as they only seem to hold in an area for a short period before continuing their circuit of the Bay.
NSW Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture Ian Macdonald is obviously a hands-on politician. The author accompanied the Minister, NSW Fisheries director Steve Dunn and principal recreational fisheries manager John Diplock for a morning session on the lower Harbour for a catch of trevally, bream and leatherjackets aboard Fishabout Tours.
Here’s a welcome feed – john dory and a nice flathead that took live yellowtail baits fished around the boat moorings off Forty Baskets Beach in North Harbour.Reads: 4988