May is one of the most diverse months of the year: All the Summer fish are feeding up frantically to put on some fat for Winter and some of the Winter fish are starting to make an appearance.
You will generally pick up the bigger specimens of most species at this time of year.
To top it all off, weather patterns are very stable, making fishing on the lower Harbour a pleasure and because air temps are starting to cool, general boat traffic is tapering off, giving fishos a bit more space to work.
It’s a time for mixed bags, which means working a variety of baits, lures and techniques.
Flatties are firing, as are bream, tailor and kings, so don’t put the lures away yet. In fact, when it comes to bream and flattie luring, there is no better time of year.
Trolling minnow-style lures up around Rushcutters Bay will produce whopping tailor.
Kings will also be sitting deeper, so it’s time to add a bit of weight to your stickbaits. Best method is to put a barrel sinker above a swivel ahead of about 1m of mono trace.
The marker buoys are still the spots to try but let your lures sink right to the bottom before ripping them back in.
Flatties will be prolific up the backs of the bays around the boat moorings in the lower reaches and, once again, finding the bait clouds will be the key to success.
They will be feeding on anchovies so lures like the Tsunami Split Tail Minnow bounced along the bottom, under the bait schools, should be successful.
Jewies will start to fire now and May to June is peak season for luring up a jew in the upper reaches and around the bridges.
Kings are going nuts on fresh squid baits and this is the time when you are most likely to pick up a jewie as a king by-catch. Baits for kings are usually suspended somewhere between mid-water and the bottom but I thoroughly recommend putting at least one big squid bait on the bottom to increase your chances of picking up a stray jewfish.
Of course, it’s well worth targeting jew specifically now and you will find them around the wrecks, reefs and holes in the upper reaches. Work big squid baits on the bottom and fish the tide changes.
I rarely use live fish baits but at this time of year it’s worth having at least one out with the chance of picking up big flatties, jew, dory, kings or big tailor. You will find a few gar starting to move in and really big kings go nuts for them.
Big bream move down into the channels and holes in the lower Harbour and a few trevally will start to come in, so it’s worth having a bit of berley going and a cut bait of pilchard or salted mackerel fished near the bottom.
Despite the fact that the water is cooling down, tropical ring-ins are traditionally at their best now.
Your chances of catching a cobia are always slim but might be improved if you target them specifically. They are most common between February and May and most captures have coincided with a large influx of sharks into the Harbour (which we have certainly had this year!) and captures of remoras in the same area.
The fish I cleaned once had three stingrays in its gut, which is a fair indication that they feed on or near the bottom.
Discussions with land-based game boys revealed that the best locations are rock platforms that fall onto a sand bottom. Best baits include sand crabs, yakkas, squid and slimies and, who knows, it might even be worth putting out a baby stingray!
Best spots in the Harbour include Cannae Point, North Head, Middle Head and Clifton Gardens.
Cobia are the most delicious pelagic I have ever eaten and the flesh is more like reef fish than game fish. This most likely reflects their diet.
Samson fish are much more common but fluctuate in numbers, with our best year producing over 50 and our worst only two. Generally, they appear to be becoming more common.
They can come in as early as December but are most prolific around Easter.
You will also find that the years that amberjack are most prolific the samson are the least, and vice-versa.
Samson are most often taken in the lower reaches but we have caught a few upstream in Middle Harbour. They are caught in most of the spots that you take kings and are usually a by-catch.
We have taken a few trolling lures along the Washaway/Dobroyd run and over in Quarantine Bay but they are primarily a bait target.
Best bait by a long way is squid, followed by yakkas and slimies.
I generally fish just below mid-water for kings but if you are specifically targeting samson then drop it a bit deeper, but not on the bottom.
On average they run about 3kg but we did get one weighing 6kg one year. Best spots are Fairlight Point, Dobroyd Head and Quarantine Bay. They are good eating.
Amberjack can at times be very common. One season we were taking one amber to every two kings.
Their average size is about 2kg but every year we get a handful at 6kg and once again, usually as by-catch of kingfish.
Unlike sams, they are targeted specifically with exactly the same methods you would for kings. The little ones are happy to dine on squid strips but all the big ones have taken live squid.
We have taken a couple on deep-jigged Slug-Gos but they are mostly a bait proposition. We have caught them in February-March but they are at their best in April and May.
Prime spots include The Spit for the larger fish, Dobroyd Point, Middle Head and North Head. We have also taken a few up at Pickering Point in Middle Harbour. They have very similar eating qualities to kings.
You will see the occasional rainbow runner but, like cobia, they are very rare. They are always small, around a kilo, and swim with kings.
There was a school of them at the yellow marker near Quarantine Bay a few weeks back but that is the first time I have seen them for six years
Watson’s leaping bonito come in rarely. I can remember only three seasons when they have entered the Harbour but they were in huge numbers, so they are a feast or a famine.
You will catch them with small metal slugs, just as you would normal bonito. They often swim with frigate mackerel and are ordinary tucker with very red meat, certainly much more so than common bonito. And I’ve never seen them leap!
Tropical long tom come in most years in large numbers but are seldom caught, simply because they are so hard to hook.
If you get them to swallow a small unweighted bait they are great sport, leaping high and often. They are mostly in the lower reaches, particularly around North Head.Reads: 1949