This season looks a beauty
  |  First Published: December 2007

Despite some occasional wild weather this season is shaping up to be a beauty. This is the second Summer since the removal of the pros from the Harbour and although it’s too early to draw any definitive conclusions, things are looking very promising.

At the bottom of the food chain, prawns and whitebait are present in an abundance that I have not experienced in 25 years of fishing the Harbour. Don’t underestimate the importance of this because despite how perfect all other variables are in the Harbour, the fish will not stay around for long is there’s no food.

Kingfish have made a strong early run and despite my concern about the limitations of the new 65cm size limit, we are yet to catch an undersize fish. There are plenty of fish up around 80cm in the middle reaches of the Harbour and Middle Harbour.

Jewfish have been abundant and are congregating around the lower Harbour reefs and holes. They are typically school fish in the 70cm to 100cm range and if this influx is anything to go by, lure-chuckers are going to have a ball on the upper reaches this Autumn.

Smaller flatties have dried up on the shallow flats but some quality specimens can be found by locating the baitfish concentrations in the deeper reaches


Sydney Harbour has a tiny catchment when compared with a big river like the Hawkesbury. Sydney Heads are deep and wide and much of the lower reaches consists of short, still bays. This adds up to minimal water flow when compared with the big rivers.

The water, particularly around the shores of these bays, get very warm and with minimal current to take the warm water away, the bays end up a few degrees warmer than the main body of water. Fish love them.

Still, warm water is a particular favourite of the huge schools of baitfish like pilchards and whitebait that are spawned along our coastline every year. They find Sydney Harbour a very favourable environment.

Early in the season (November to January) when the water temperature around the shores is still down, the depth sounder blacks out with baitfish up the main shipping channel. The predatory fish are found in open water at this time. They will often attack all day, feeling reasonably comfortable in the deep.

Later on in the year when the bays warm up, you can see the black swarms of bait crowded up in the shallows along the shore. The predatory fish attack them early morning and late afternoon but get a bit shy in the shallows around midday – except when it is overcast.

I used to think that the bait went into the shallows to escape the predatory fish but if this were the case, why do they stay in the deep earlier in the season regardless of the fact that they are under attack? The shallows are too cold for comfort.

Whether they are in the deep or the shallows, the predators will get them, you can be sure of that. At least in Summer they die in comfort.

The shallows of these bays often have sandy bottoms and flathead and flounder lie in huge numbers underneath these bait schools.


This doesn't necessarily mean that they are easy to catch. Their taste buds are tuned to one thing – whitebait. North Harbour is a classic bait-holding ground for all the abovementioned reasons.

North Harbour has it all. The holes are deep enough to harbour kingies and jewies, there are heaps of squid grounds, lots of structure to hide bream, sand drifts, those bait-holding shallows and somewhere to hide from any wind direction.

On the downside, there's no public jetty and the piddling excuse for a boat ramp is a write-off in a southerly. I’ve been unable to retrieve my boat there on at least two occasions and had to go around to Roseville ramp, then taxi back to Manly to get my car – a major hassle.

Prime spots include:

• Davis Marina for bream, flatties and bait-gathering for slimies and yakkas.

• Fairlight Point for bream, kingies, jewies and tailor.

• Little Manly Point for squid.

• Spring Cove for kings, jew, bream, flathead and flounder.

• Cannae Point for kings, leatherjackets, groper, bonito, tailor and bream.

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