Looking up on top
  |  First Published: November 2003

THIS IS A big month for surface activity. Salmon, tailor, kings and bonito should all show up on top in the lower Harbour.

By now the salmon should be more condensed and reliable. Traditionally they move farther into the Harbour and feed on bigger bait, which will mean they should be easier to catch. For the past month there’s been no consistency. One day you will catch eight or nine and have schools feeding all over the place. Next day you could find flat, fishless water.

They were most common between the Heads and along the front of North Head to Bluefish Point. Some days the will eat almost any lure, including trolled minnows and cast metals, while other times they will take only the smallest, most well-presented lures. The most consistent lure is a trolled or cast 6” Slug-Go but as the water warms lure choice will not be as critical.

Kings of 50cm to 60cm will be on top in big schools before fragmenting and moving into their Summer structure holding spots. The Seaforth shore in Middle Harbour was a consistent producer earlier in the season. Bluefish Point has also been firing with kings from 60cm to 70cm on lures jigged deep and fresh squid.

John dory will be getting scarce by now but there should still be a few stragglers to be had on live baits in deep water. Best livies are small reef fish like mado and sweep, with the more spiky fish better baits. Dory have a great knack of being able to spit baits and miss the hook but they have more trouble regurgitating spiky fish. Yakkas are easy to catch but do not make great dory baits because they are so easy to spit out.

The best spots to find dory are where lots of small reef fish congregate, such as around moorings, reef edges and jetties. They prefer water from six to 25 metres and tend to bite around the tide turns, with the turn of high best.

Send your rig to the bottom without the bait on. Let your sinker hit bottom and then lift it two metres up and set the rod in the holder. Then pull the line up by hand, pin the live bait and send it back down. If you try to set the depth with the live bait on you’ll find a lot of difficulty in making contact with the bottom because the bait will keep swimming after the sinker has hit the bottom. It’s critical that it is set at the right depth. Best spots have been Neilson park, Watsons Bay, Fairlight Point and Reef beach.

School jews should move into the lower Harbour around the new and full moons of November and early December. Try around Neilson Park and Clifton Gardens with fresh squid..

Although normally considered cold-water fish, trevally can be prolific in the lower Harbour They are normally bigger than their Winter average at this time of year. North harbour and middle harbour should be the spots to try. It’s the best trev run I can remember.

They are thick enough to catch without berley but a mild trail will certainly increase your catches. I send a couple of old fish frames sparingly through the berley pot but some pellets mixed with some tuna oil and sand will also do the trick. Fish very lightly weighted baits of salted slimy mackerel, pilchard or peeled prawns down the trail.

Strangely, trevs respond better to processed and frozen baits than they do to fresh baits. My favourite bait is Bellissimo salted slimy and although I often fish it alongside fresh slimy, the salted stuff always comes out on top. Best spots are Quarantine Bay, Dobroyd Head, Fairlight Point, Vaucluse Bay and Sow and Pigs early in the morning.

The snapper will clear out soon but the big, bronze ocean luderick will take their place around the washes and structures of the lower Harbour. Try the Wedding Cakes, The Spit and Sow and Pigs with cabbage weed.

Lure-fishing for bream and flatties will just get better from now on in the upper reaches of Middle Harbour and the main Harbour. Bouncing Storm Shads around the moorings at North Harbour and Rose Bay should produce flatties.

Tiny soft plastics are still proving successful for my mate Peter Clarke, who picked up eight fish – trevally, salmon, bream and flatties in two metres of water inside Grotto Point. Upstream, he’s been nailing quality bream and flathead along the Killarney shoreline opposite Bantry Bay.

While filming for my new video, Fishing Soft Plastics, we picked up a few kings jigging in the deep water off Bluefish Point and quality flatties to 3kg in Middle Harbour. They were all taken on one lure, a tiny 2” Storm Rattlin Grub in pumpkinseed colour on a 1/8oz head. This is one of the most versatile lures I have used.


Flathead are improving day by day in Sydney Harbour.


Kings of 50cm to 60cm will be on top in big schools before fragmenting and moving into their Summer structure holding spots.

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