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Prime time for trophy fish
  |  First Published: May 2008



This past season has been the most turbulent I can remember with absurd weather and wacky currents making the fishing unpredictable. We have had our good and bad runs and hopefully overall, the long-term benefits will outweigh the short-term inconveniences.

Predictions have become difficult but here are my thoughts for the end of the season, which is, incidentally, my favourite time of year.

The mornings and evenings are starting to chill off but water temps will remain high for quite a while after the land has cooled down.

Due to the nature of the currents, Winter in the water comes some time after Winter on the land. This means our activity will slow down regardless of the fact that there is still some excellent fishing to be had through May and June.

I know it's tough to drag yourself out of bed but at least for the next month it is still worth the effort, especially on the lower reaches of the Harbour and the Hawkesbury where the currents have the most influence.

The upper reaches, being shallow and more affected by air temperature, will start to shut down about mid-May.

Although fish numbers will be down, this time of year has always accounted for the best quality fish of the season. My diary shows that April-May produced the biggest jew, flathead and particularly bream last year.

So if you are after trophy fish then now is the time to concentrate your efforts.

If the hot jewfish run at the beginning of the season was anything to go by then April to July should be a bumper for lure-throwers in the upper reaches.

Jewfish follow the mullet run back upstream at this time of year and don’t seem to mind the cold water.

Bridges at night are top jew spots. Jewies are open-water ambush predators, so they use dirty or dark water to hide in.

This differs from structure oriented predators like flatties, which bury in the sand, or bass, which hide in snags or weeds.

Lights on a road bridge throw light onto the water next to the bridge and the bridge casts a shadow under it.

This sets up three ideal situations for jewfish to feed. The lit water attracts bait like squid and mullet, the shadow gives the jewies a place to hide and mount their attack and the pylons create a pressure wave for the jewfish to rest in while they are not attacking.

The scenario is like this. Bait swarms in the lit water. Jewfish hide in the dark water and every now and then burst into the lit water to grab a feed.

Jewfish and the bait will always face into the current and the bait at night is generally on the surface.

From all this we can see that the best way to catch jew around a bridge at night is with surface lures/poppers, on the side of the bridge that the current is flowing onto and right along the line where the bridge casts a shadow on the water.

This time of year is also the season for mixed bags as the first of the Winter species start to move in and mingle with the remnants of the Summer fish.

The former species include john dory, tailor, trevally, morwong and drummer. The dory have already started to appear with the odd one being picked up around Balmoral Beach and North Harbour.

The kingies are still in the Harbour in good numbers and size although they seemed to have wised up to lures for this season. The best way to approach them at this time of year is with live baits, especially squid and gar.

WHOPPER FLATTIES

There also are some whopping flathead around at the moment and they should continue into the cooler months.

Flathead spend most of their lives buried up to their eyes in sand or mud. To their prey they are virtually undetectable and when you combine this with a cavernous, needle-lined mouth and lightning-fast reflexes, you come up with what could possibly be the ultimate piscatorial predator. This makes them very susceptible to lure fishing.

Most lure fishing for flatties is done in 1m to 10m of water. Trolling is an option but the most fun is to be had by casting around the shallow sand banks and weed beds.

A lot of this type of fishing is visual and in shallow water on lures, the flattie’s reputation as a poor fighting fish goes out the window.

There are three main types of lures that I carry when I chase flatties – soft stickbaits, soft plastic/jig head combinations and diving minnows.

To work the weed beds there is no better lure than the soft plastic stickbait. With the hook point lying flush with the lure, they are virtually weedproof and can be very effectively worked over, around and even through the weed. The Slug-Go style of stickbait is an ideal choice for this purpose.

To fish the drop-offs and deeper channels, soft plastic/jig head combos are my first choice.

The main advantage of this type of lure is its ability to be bounced along the bottom regardless of water depth. This means it can be bounced down a drop-off or along a channel bed, spending longer in the target species’ strike zone.

Finally, for trolling you will need to carry lures that can be relied on to maintain a specific depth. Trolling is used to prospect the more featureless areas like over the tops of sand or mud banks at high tide and along the channels at low tide.

These areas are usually a fairly constant depth and can be covered more extensively by trolling a lure about 60cm above the bottom.

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