Set up for Spring
  |  First Published: August 2005

It’s pouring outside as I write this, the best rain for years in fact, sending a very much-needed flush of fresh water and nutrients into Sydney waterways.

While this won’t do the fishing much good in the short term, long term it should induce a vast improvement. A lot of our Winter fish such as dory, trevally, snapper, drummer and salmon are clean-water fish that will move out or shut down until the flush clears.

After it all settles they will move back into the Harbour and be ravenous. The jewies that have been biting well in the upper reaches of the Harbour and Middle Harbour won’t mind the disturbance at all as they take advantage of the cover of the cloudy water and the disoriented fish and crustaceans.

It’s about this time of year that the baitfish spawn and they rely heavily on the microscopic nutrients that a flush like this will provide. The success of the baitfish now will have a big bearing on the quality of the fishing right into the coming season.

The salmon are milling around the Heads now and it’s only a matter of time until they move in searching of the newly-spawned baitfish. They will be hard to catch for a while as the baitfish will be tiny at first but as they grow, matching the hatch will get easier.

In the meantime, sharpen up those tiny Raider 10g slices and make sure you have plenty of small Storm Wild Eye Sprat and Finesse Minnows at the ready. Flies are worth a go, too.

So for this has been one of the best john dory seasons for many years. They can be caught from May to October but June to August is the peak time.

They are accessible to boat- and shore-based fishos and are most commonly taken on live baits but are definitely an option on lures.

The setting of your bait is the most critical aspect of dory fishing. While they will occasionally pick up a bait off the bottom they are more commonly a mid-water hunter so suspending your bait off the bottom is a better option.

From a boat this is done by setting your depth before you put your bait on. Drop your unbaited rig to the bottom until you can feel the sinker bouncing on the bottom, then raise it up about two metres and set your rod in the holder.

Now grab the line and retrieve the rig by hand. Pin the bait and throw it out without altering the depth.

You will find it difficult to set the depth with the bait on due to the fact that the constant swimming of the bait will make it hard to get the rig to the bottom. You will eventually find bottom but when the bait finally gets tired and stops swimming it will settle at the wrong depth.

Off the shore, a bobby cork will be your best option for keeping your bait suspended.

Boat anglers should look for spots with deep, clear water, preferably in the vicinity of structure like reefs, moorings, jetties and bridges.

Shore-based fishos are a bit more limited as they need to find deep water in close. Jetties offer the best option. Try Clifton Gardens, the old gasworks at Manly, Parsley and Bantry bays and Balmoral.

Don’t neglect the upper reaches of Middle Harbour, particularly in dry periods.


The blackfish have started to come on the bite in the lower reaches and will move further upstream in the coming months and as the rains clear. At the moment they are firing around Sow and Pigs, the Wedding Cakes and the shoreline along the Zoo wharf.

Cabbage weed is doing the trick but nippers and bloodworms will work early in the season.

Surprisingly, my mate Peter Clarke caught kingfish in Sugarloaf Bay just before the rain in late June. Even more surprising was that they were taken on lures and were feeding on the surface.

I’ve caught kings up Middle Harbour as late as August in the deep holes on fresh squid baits but to have them feeding on top at this time of year is very unusual.

The kings that we took in August were plump and I’m guessing that they were planning to stay there throughout Winter. So if you score a couple of squid it’s always worth a drop at Pickering Point or Bantry Bay.

Trevally are on the chew if you can get through the slimy mackerel. Use lots of berley and unweighted or lightly-weighted baits.

A little trick to help you get past the slimies is to berley heavily close to the boat and then flick your baits as far away from the boat as possible. This way the slimies greedily race into the berley while your bait sinks down behind them to the trevs, which generally sit a bit deeper.

There have been some big tailor around the lower Harbour but they are sitting deep. Try deep-divers along Middle Head and Washaway to Dobroyd or drift baits down a berley trail near the red marker just inside South Head.

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