Fail to plan, plan to fail
  |  First Published: May 2008

Over the next month Pittwater will become a haven for the wind-blown angler. The fishing will slower than in Summer but with persistent efforts, unlocking Winter fishing secrets can be worth the chilly conditions.

The first rule of Winter fishing is to have plans A, B and C ready to be put into action.

Plan A for me usually means heading to Broken Bay to locate schools of feeding salmon, tailor, trevally and even big kingfish. Most can be tempted with soft plastics or other lures or flies. When we catch smaller pelagics we troll them for big kingies and sharks.

Plan B usually consists of finding live squid or cuttlefish and yellowtail to be used around the wrecks along the river.

One of the better areas is Bothams Reef but this area can also hold heaps of pickers and leatherjackets. The usual targets with livies are kingfish or jewfish.

This area has a lot of rough ground and accurate anchoring is needed over the baitfish. This area doesn’t have a great deal of current so use finely ground berley or puncture a tuna oil bottle and put it in a weighted berley cage and tie it off a metre from the bottom, where the oil will slowly disperse and rise to the surface, berleying the whole water column.

If this fails, plan C is scraped out of the barrel. It’s anchoring or drifting the deeper holes and drop-offs for flathead, flounder and bream. The better areas are Soldiers Point, Portuguese Beach and The Hill.

The Hill rises 15m from a depth of 25m and then drops to 20m on the other side. If you get it right, the whole drift is about 300m long and you can catch flathead, trevally, school jewfish and snapper to 50cm after rough seas offshore.

The one thing that all these plans require is live bait. Fresh dead bait can be successful at most times but if you really want to catch a decent fish then live baits are a necessity. The live bait grounds in Pittwater for yellowtail, slimy mackerel, garfish and squid are West Head or Barrenjoey Head.

Find baitfish schools on the sounder and then stop and berley. You can drop a squid jig as well because the squid are often attracted to big yakka schools.

For garfish we use bread soaked in tuna oil as berley, 2kg line, soft rods and small long-shank hooks or small blackfish hooks baited with small pieces of peeled prawn. Hooking gar is a skill because of their fixed lower jaw so gently bring the rod back sideways to set the hook.

Nippers can be pumped along the muddy or sandy beaches. Plan your trip for the low tide of less than .4m so you don’t have to get too wet pumping them.

Squid can be caught in many of the bays with weed and patches of sand. Target areas out of the wind and look for small patches of baitfish. If there is rock or structure close by then all the better.

If you are an early riser, target the wharves with lights on them and cast towards the edges of light, where squid will be lurking. The best areas at the moment are Palm Beach Wharf and Mackeral Beach.


In Pittwater the cooler water has slowed the kingies but the better captures have been in Broken Bay at West Head, Barrenjoey Head and the bommie at Barrenjoey Headland. They like yellowtail one day and squid the next.

Our best king for the was 84cm but there were some bigger fish about that were very hard to tempt.

The surprise of the month was the capture of a 50cm snapper on a prawn in Pittwater by Claire Geelan as we were drifting The Hill for flathead (Plan C).

The other great capture was a 70cm samson that ate a trolled live cuttlefish. I saw this fish strike on the Walker Strikevision camera and it confirmed what I had seen on all previous hits from samson. These fish go past the live bait and towards the boat, then turn and strike.

I recently took out mate Dave Fox and his wife Dawn for a fish offshore to a FAD for a big session on mahi mahi to 6kg on live yellowtail.

The 50m mark is still polluted with leatherjackets but with luck you can find the odd patch of blue-spot flathead.

Off Long Reef is starting to fire for snapper, as are some of the deeper reefs off the Central Coast. Most of the decent reds have been caught around sunrise so cold starts to the day are the norm. Best baits are squid or cuttlefish heads, pike and pilchards.

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