Pelagics surface again
  |  First Published: September 2004

SURFACE fish have put in an appearance over the past month with salmon, tailor and even the occasional king showing up.

Salmon have been working between the Heads and while they have been hard to catch most of the time, every now and then they go crazy and take any size lure. Your best shot occurs when the school splits up and fish feed in small groups, rather than as one big foaming school.

Tailor and salmon have been holding in Watsons Bay and feeding just off the point between Camp Cove and Watsons. Troll very deep divers early in the morning.

There have been some kings mixed in with them and we even had one smash a hooked tailor off the lure before getting hooked itself, which is very unseasonable behavior. Have your soft plastic stickbaits ready to cast when the kings follow your hooked fish

Blackfish have been going nuts around Sow and Pigs and the Wedding Cakes, There have been some big fish among them, with models up to a thumping 2kg. Cabbage weed is the best bait and they bite best on the last of the run-out tide on the lead-up to the full moon

You will still find some good flatties among the moorings around Balmoral, Rose Bay and North Harbour. A plastic like the Storm Wild Eye shad is your best option.


Squid are firing at the moment, with all the kelp beds producing whoppers up to a kilo. Most of them end up on the plate at this time of year but, with the occasional king still hanging around, it’s definitely worth putting one out live while you are chasing other species

There are two main types of squid found in the Harbour, the calamari or southern squid and the arrow or common squid.

Calamari squid are the bigger and are found around structure. They are particularly fond of kelp beds but can often be located around jetties, bridge pylons and boat moorings. They are often encountered by live-bait anglers, who consider them a nuisance, although I have never understood why. A live squid, or even a fresh strip, will outfish a yakka any day and even if you don't use them for bait, how could anybody complain about a fresh feed of squid? When it comes to fishing for jew or kingfish, I'd prefer a fresh squid strip over a live yakka any day.

The best way to catch calamari squid is with the standard prawn-style jig pioneered in this country by Yo Zuri. The old plastic bead-style jigs are nowhere near as effective as the prawn imitations but even amongst the latter there are dramatic differences in quality and effectiveness.

Problems I have encountered include poor weighting and weight distribution, blunt jags and, in the worst cases, the jags and leads fall out. A good jig will have needle-sharp, securely fastened jags and leads firmly in place. And, most important of all, it will sink horizontally and slowly. The bottom line on squid jigs is, like most things, you get what you pay for.

Calamari squid can be lured by working the jig very slowly, with regular stops, about two metres above the kelp. They can grow quite big – we've caught them up to 1.5kg – and because of the snaggy nature of the bottom, I'd recommend using no less than 8kg line.

I'd also recommend using a net to land the big ones because they do have a habit of dropping tentacles under strain, not to mention ejecting masses of ink on capture.

Calamari differ from common squid mainly in appearance. Calamari are proportionally shorter and have larger eyes but the most obvious difference is in the length of the wings. Calamari wings run the full length of the tube, where arrow wings run slightly less than half-way down the tube.

You are much more likely to find arrow squid upstream, while calamari mainly congregate in the lower reaches.

Catching arrow squid requires a slightly different approach. They are a schooling squid, where the calamari is a loner or, at best, found in twos or threes.

Arrows congregate in large numbers in the deep bays and are much less structure-orientated. They hang close to the bottom and are caught by letting the jig sink right to the bottom and then slowly jigging it back up.

Quite often, Arrows grab the jig on the way down and are snared on the first retrieve. They are highly excitable and can often be caught one after the other, up to the stage where the large quantity of ink expelled by their panicking mates puts them off the bite. At places where there is some flow in the water to take the ink away, they can be caught in large numbers.

Whether you are collecting squid for bait or food, they should be iced down immediately. Squid for bait are ultimately used fresh but, for prolonged storage, they are best frozen whole in air-tight bags,

Whatever you do, don't put whole squid directly in your ice box, Put them in some sort of container which is then put in the box – the ink is a nightmare to clean up!

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