Summer is still around for the fish
  |  First Published: June 2008

In early May the air temperature was still relatively cold at around 16C. That's a long way down on normal summer temperatures, which are usually between 25-30C. However, the fish don't know or care how cold it is on land or in the air.

Remember that old saying that's been going around for years that if you want to become a better angler then 'think like a fish'. Well we need to apply that philosophy in relation to temperature – if a fish thinks its summer because the water is warm then it is 'fish summer'.

The water temperature in Sydney harbour is currently 19C, which is only a couple of degrees colder than normal summer water temperatures. As a result we are still doing quite well on a number of summer species. A few days ago we had a sensational session catching kingfish around the wedding cake near Watsons Bay, something considered very much a summer activity. Samson and amberjack are still hanging around and I even witnessed the capture of a 12kg cobia in middle harbour.

So the bottom line is that we must start paying much more attention to the thermometer in the water and not the one on the land.


Trevally must have a wide temperature tolerance because they are very common in summer and winter. They are a very good fighting fish and are sometimes underrated as a table fish.

Just like dory, trevally like clear, deep water but will range well upstream in dry weather. Being an active pelagic fish they are happy to hold in the current, which makes them more common around the main channels and headlands. At times they will school and feed on the surface. When this happens they will readily accept small lures and provide very good sport.

The most common method of fishing for trevally is with bait on very lightly weighted rigs. They mostly feed from mid water to the bottom so you must choose a sinker that will take your bait into that zone.

The best rig is a main line of 4kg with a nylon trace about the same. The sinker runs on the main line and stops at the swivel that separates the main line from the trace. Hook size should be somewhere between no.4 and no.1. A bait holder pattern is most suited to the type of baits used.

Best baits are small cuts of baitfish like pilchard, gar, bonito or slimy mackerel. A good burly trail of pellets or mashed fish is also very beneficial.

John dory

John Dory are one of the classic winter immigrants. They live on the offshore reefs in summer and move into the bays and harbours when the water gets cold. They are mostly found around the lower reaches but they have been known to roam up stream when the water quality is good.

They like deep, still, clear water and congregate around structure that holds plenty of baitfish. Boat moorings, bridge pylons, jettys, reefs and drop-offs are all prime spots.

It’s very rare to catch dory on anything other than live baits. Best livies include yellowtail (with the tail trimmed) or any small reef fish like sweep or mado. Dory have an enormous mouth and will have no trouble swallowing a 15cm sweep.

They are not a good fighting fish but, due to the possibility of picking up larger predatory fish on your live bait, I would suggest using no less than 6kg line. Your rig should consist of a size 4 bean sinker on the main line terminated by a swivel. Use a 5ft nylon trace with about 10kg breaking strain and tie to the swivel and finish off with a 4\0 to 6\0 Dynatec suicide hook.

The bait should then be suspended directly under the boat or jetty about 2m off the bottom. The best time to catch dory is on the turn of the high tide in the early morning or late afternoon.


Luderick are a very good winter standby. They inhabit the reefs, rocky shorelines and structure throughout the harbour, but specialised gear is required.

Rods are generally long and light action (about 9ft) and are best coupled with a small threadline reel loaded with 4kg line. As blackfish usually feed from mid water to the surface a long stemmed float is used to drift the bait around the fish holding area, a No. 6-10 sneck hook in green colour are ideal for blackfish.

Blackfish are primarily vegetarian so weed baits are the most effective, although there are times when they can be caught on worms, yabbies or small pieces of peeled prawn. Cabbage weed found around the ocean rocks is best for blackfish on the lower reaches of the harbour while the long hair like weed found in the canals on the upper reaches is best for blackfish upstream. This same weed, chopped finely and mixed with sand, also makes good burley.

Salmon and Tailor

Salmon and tailor are two good pelagic sportfish that stay around for winter. Their full potential is realised when they are targeted with lures, although both species will accept live and even cut baits.

Salmon regularly feed on the surface in large foaming schools that are easily visually located. They are not always easy to catch when they are like this but your best chances is to try flicking small lures or flies into the school and retrieve them rapidly. Salmon are tenacious fighters, I’d recommend no less than a 4kg outfit. By using heavier line you will effectively shorten the fight, giving the fish a better chance of survival when released as they are poor table fish.

Tailor are better eating providing they are bleed and iced immediately and eaten fresh. In summer it’s common to see tailor feeding on the surface, like salmon, but in winter they stay deep.

The best way to locate tailor in winter is by trolling deep diving minnow lures around the headlines. My favourite lures are Tsunami minnows in the moderate to deep diving models. Tailor also respond well to live baits fished in the deep holes during the day. Salmon tackle will also double up as a good tailor outfit.


When the fishing goes very quiet, leatherjackets will usually save the day. They hang around the rocky shores, bridge and jetty pylons, marker buoy blocks and reefs.

Fresh squid and prawns are the best bait. The jackets mouth is very tiny so bait must be kept small and be used on small hooks. A no. 10 long shank is a good choice as it is important to stop the jackets teeth coming in contact with the line. Even though their teeth are not sharp, they are still very powerful and will snip even heavy line. Occasionally they will even snap the hook.

The best rig is the paternoster. Make this rig by tying the sinker to the end of the line and then tying two evenly spaced loops above it, then tie a hook to each of these loops. Fish this rig straight below you.

The leatherjackets bite is very slight so it will be necessary to use light gear in order to feel them.

Apart from being abundant, their other big advantage is that they can be caught all day and at any tide.

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