THIS is a month where there are quite a few hurdles to overcome.
Toadfish love cold water and monofilament line – and often terminal tackle is left down the bottom as the toothy toads nibble at the soft, clingy Winter weed that sticks to line like chocolate cake to carpet.
Carefully-prepared baits also get mangled by hungry barracouta that take up residence under boats in large schools and demand to get fed. Water clarity is at a premium, spooking fish into deeper water or to take refuge under cover and stay there.
Strong westerly winds keep inshore waters flat as a tack but out wide, it is nigh unfishable.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are still fish to target, such as snapper, tailor, john dory, trevally and salmon.
The Wrecks off Narrabeen have been productive, with leatherjackets, small snapper and some big john dory coming from these sunken lumps of steel. Divers report large schools of jewfish, all around 10kg to 15kg, stationed near the bottom at this artificial reef.
Trawleys Reef has tailor right through the water column and there have also been a few small shark captures there.
As I pen this column, we have had a good run of westerly weather with little swell and there has been plenty of small-boat activity offshore. Catches have been sporadic, to say the least.
Some boats have taken snapper, trevally, leatherjackets and morwong but many have come back fishless.
To get fish in the mood, an appetiser is needed so it is a must to take out berley and dispense it little and often. Fresh or live bait is the way to get attention.
By using the sounder and the GPS, position the boat right over productive drop-offs, shale or boulders so that baits get right into the fishes’ dining room.
The recent flat seas have not helped the beach anglers. Fish will not venture close in clear water, preferring the froth and bubble for cover. At dusk and afterwards, tailor and salmon have come from the far northern corner of Palm Beach, as well as The Alley at North Narrabeen and down the southern end of Dee Why.
Big baits, fished on a set of 5/0 to 6/0 ganged hooks, allow a chance at these attack-then-run fish. Remember to keep baits on the move as they will attract more attention than just a stationary hunk of fish that will get buried by sand and eaten by crabs.
Blackfish are taking cabbage at the Hole in the Wall at Avalon, Warriewood and Curl Curl on the plentiful cabbage available on the rock platforms. Drummer are there, too, but are being coy. I have had no recent reports of this pugnacious fish being taken from the Barrenjoey Peninsula.
Up near Mooney Mooney on the Hawkesbury, the water is very cold with my temperature gauge showing a very chilly 11.9° recently. This was reflected in my poor catch, with only a couple of flathead and a solitary tailor taken on soft plastic lures.
Col Renshaw nailed a couple of small flathead on deep-diving lures at the back of Towlers Bay in Pittwater and there have been catches of john dory from Mackerel Beach, the Basin and off West Head.
Hairtail are active at Jerusalem Bay, Coal and Candle Creek and at Waratah Bay but they have been very much here-today, gone-tomorrow propositions. Live bait is the preferred attractor but a whole pilchard or garfish on a set of very sharp gangs will suffice.
With hairtail , let the bite develop before you strike because these fish have an annoying habit of holding baits at the tips of their beaky mouths and four out of five strikes never get a hold.
Cold water has put the resident flathead to bed in our coastal lagoons but other species, such as mullet and bream, are still very receptive to bait or lure. Queenscliff lagoon has bream near the golf course and fish are being taken on a sinking Crazy Charlie flies fished slowly on an intermediate, weight-forward line.
I am heading up to Darwin later this month for some barramundi at one of the many billabongs. Saratoga are also one of my targets on lure and fly. I will let you know how it all went.
• Monthly tip: When using live nippers, pin them around the third segment from the tail. This keeps them alive.
Also resist the temptation to get rid of the large white nipper because this is an integral part of the bait and fish do notice if it’s gone.Reads: 485