Each year February surprises me and I hope this year will be no different.
It seems to bring schools of baitfish from Broken Bay into Pittwater and the kingfish finally start to hang around structure, allowing anglers to be in with a real chance of a decent fish.
The recipe for success is as simple as catching live squid or yellowtail and trolling them deep.
Pittwater has a local rule that allows everyone to fish the limited fish-holding areas and structure along the river. I didn’t make this rule, it has been about for years, but with the extra pressure on these sites, I thought I would pass it along so everyone can enjoy fishing these areas, not just the first few.
The first and only ‘local rule’ is not to anchor near the wrecks of The Supermarket or Aisle 10. This is so that everyone can fish these areas, not just the one person who anchors or holds directly over the wreck so no one else can fish it. No one wants to see 50 boats fighting over small areas like they do in other areas of Sydney and I believe that if this local rule is followed, everyone will enjoy catching fish.
The second reason is that it chokes the channels that allow safe passage to the main river for the many vessels which moor in the area.
If you don’t or can’t troll and still wish to fish these wrecks, the idea is to drift over the tops of them with baits suspended. This way many boats can drift over the structure and downrig around it and everyone can catch some fish.
A tip: When drifting over a wreck, start a good 20m before it and drift the same distance after because a lot of the time the bigger fish are at the outside of the structure with the smaller fish closer to the wreck.
The wrecks to anchor over or near are many, with the easiest area to find being Bothams Reef. This area holds a few sunken boats as well as an array of concrete blocks that at this time of the year produce bream, flathead, jewfish and kingfish.
The area needs to be berleyed for best results and live squid or yellowtail will put you in with a real chance of a kingfish. The jewfish here tend to be small fish to about 60cm and eagerly pounce on squid heads or big prawns.
Over the past month I have seen some big bust-offs on charters using downriggers. These brutes have all been big kingfish but there is a lot of water between them. The fish are there but are shutting down at different times and refusing to eat anything.
Last week we found a massive school of big kings at Bothams Reef while downrigging. We lowered squid heads, pilchards, live yellowtail, soft plastics, hard-bodied lures and poppers for just the odd look. The next day at the same time it was similar.
But the following day we had a double hook-up and double loss on the first pass, the same result on the next pass and on the third caught a small kingfish of 60cm. The first four chances were fish over 80cm which we saw on the downrigger camera before the strike.
It just goes to show that the fish are quite often there but sometimes they just don’t want to eat. I suppose they didn’t get to be so big by eating anything that moves.
We also must remember that if we persist and trust our sounders, use live bait or food that the predators are eating, you can really do no more except wait.
Areas to try for bigger kingfish at the moment include at the mouth of Pittwater at both headlands and around the reef at Lion Island, where schools of slimy mackerel attract the predators and provide the bait.
The trawlers have stopped working Pittwater for the next few months, allowing a few bream and flathead to be caught on some of the ‘traditional’ drifts off the point between Currawong Beach and Mackeral Beach. The whole area from the red channel marker pole in front of Palm Beach all the way across to West Head and up to Longnose Point will hold some decent flathead as well as bream.
Big bream are around the marinas near Bayview and Newport but require a berley trail of mashed chicken pellets, mashed bread and tuna oil to bring them on the feed. The best baits are live nippers or live bloodworms (available from Narrabeen Bait and Tackle) for bream and pilchards or yellowtail for the flathead. If you can get your hands on a mullet, don’t waste it, big flathead love them.
Big soft plastics will also account for some big flatties over coming months and with clean clear water over the sand flats, sight fishing is possible.
Some switched on anglers have been catching whiting along Pittwater with small poppers and from all of the hoots and hollers, they have been having a ball. The weedy areas at Towlers Bay are perfect for this type of fishing on a high tide.
I mention the weedy areas because these are the places the whiting are scouting around for feed. The other area where quite a few have been caught is the sand flat at Mackeral Beach. This beach is still worked by commercial beach haulers and netters so can be hit-and-miss.
If you luck out in these areas, drift the sand flat between Palm Beach and Barrenjoey Headland. This is one massive area so a keen pair of eyes to watch for any fish.
There are plenty of big blue swimmer crabs about but fresh baits are a must if you want to catch a decent number. If you want a little extra to attract crabs from a distance, try piercing a can of cat food tuna and tying it in your trap. The better spots have been Towlers Bay, Currawong Beach and around Bayview.
Recently I took a few mates out to the Broken Bay FAD and was surprised to see so many smaller vessels making the journey out to chase mahi mahi and other game fish. There were 4.5m to 5m open centre consoles as well as an array of small runabouts.
These boats are travelling 12 miles offshore and putting their crews in potential danger. If you want to fish off shore at least have all of the safety equipment, including radios, flares, PFDs, EPIRBs and the like. All are required safety items for a reason.
The best bet is to go out on vessels of 6m or more and always check the weather before and during fishing.
The other thing that surprised me was the number of people who raced straight over to the FAD and proceeded to catch the many 25cm kingfish that were about. They could have saved a lot of fuel and caught bigger fish in Pittwater or Broken Bay.
Hardly any of the Late Brigade had any idea of how to catch the many mahi mahi on offer. We arrived early and the first passes with small dark pusher-type lures produced five dollies of 55cm that we released.
While we dealt with the fifth fish three boats cruised right up to the FAD and berlied and sent pilchards drifting back to the structure. The kingfish immediately responded to the berley and the dollies moved away from the FAD.
Our downrigger cameras told the story. We trolled around the FAD and other than kingfish as big as our live squid and horse slimies, there was nothing at 6m so I decided to lower the baits to 12m. When we went we immediately had success with mahi mahi to 6kg climbing all over the squid.
The tip I here is to fish deeper and a lot of the time the mahi mahi are feeding down-current of the FAD.
The easiest way to tempt one is to use a trolling hook with a sinker on top. Use a cube trail and start 100m up-current of the FAD and continue at least the same distance past it. Use your GPS plotter to work the area you have berlied. Before leaving the area, troll around to see if there are other fish that are on the chew.
This kind of fishing will be available to all of our customers within the next few weeks so call us if you want to join in on the ‘dolly run’ or any of our other charters.
• Peter Le Blang operates Harbour & Estuary Fishing Charters out of Pittwater, phone 02 9999 2574 or visit www.estuaryfishingcharters.com.au.Reads: 3554