Rain fires up the flatties
  |  First Published: May 2009

Big doses of rain in late Autumn have kept estuaries running well and there’ve been some good catches in the Hawkesbury and Brisbane Water.

Flathead, especially, have been very keen to play and both the bait and soft plastic brigades have been taking fish.

One of my favourite patches to target flathead is around Ettalong and Umina beaches. I catch the ferry from Palm Beach, then wander up and down the Central Coast sand tracks chucking out a range of soft plastics. When the stomach worms tell me it’s getting close to lunchtime, there are plenty of fast food outlets to get a quick fix.

Other prime wading spots for lizards include the Pittwater beaches such as Paradise and Clareville. Don’t forget Snapperman and down the northern side of Careel Bay.

All that’s needed is a light spinning rod, small eggbeater reel, 3kg braid, a roll of fluorocarbon leader and a range of soft plastics and jig heads. I carry the terminal tackle in my waist-worn beachworm container.

In my pocket is a small digital camera and a set of long-nosed pliers for easy fish release.

Polaroid sunnies, a wide-brim hat and a water bottle are the other essentials. I have had two hours turn into a whole day as I wander about, fan-casting the area, thinking of a million things, soaking in the scenery while in my head putting the world to rights.

Hits, when they happen, shoot you back to reality and then you want more.


Talking of restful, relaxing methods, catching john dory would have to rate high on my list.

After anchoring my boat fore and aft (to stop it swinging), I drop live baits over the side and wait.

Places like Mackerel Beach, The Basin and West Head are very popular dory possies. In fact, anywhere there are baitfish, the dory will be waiting on the sidelines.

A flask of home-made pea and ham soup, another flask of hot coffee, Eric Clapton’s Unplugged – does it get any better?

Offshore, my target is usually snapper (chinaman leatherjackets willing) but I’m always surprised at the number of bonito we catch in the Winter.

No complaints from me, these speedsters slab into beautiful baits for the freezer and fresh, they make for very tasty sashimi.

Another excellent freezer bait is the humble slimy mackerel. Always in plentiful supply in the Winter, these small fish are in numbers when the water cools down.

West Head, East Reef, the Hole in the Wall at Avalon and the middle marker in Pittwater all have fish and a multi-hook bait jig is a great attack weapon in the hunt for these mini fighters.

Now a quick rundown of what’s been happening here recently.


I steamed out one rare day recently at full throttle and explored the deeper water as the seas were so flat.

Snapper and morwong came from the 30-fathom mark as we drifted over structure. I say drifted, but the boat hardly moved in an hour. It was disappointing to see such little surface activity as the water was still warm for this time of year and I would have thought pelagics might have been in a feeding mood.

‘Hustler’ and his mate Colin also fished deep but were plagued by chinaman leatherjackets. They did manage snapper, cuttlefish and a morwong before the jackets took over.

Those wonderful fighters, blackfish, are thick off the rocks. I have been getting numerous reports of fish taken from Palm Beach through to Harbord.

There’s plenty of cabbage on the rocks and although berley has helped, fish are so hungry it’s not that essential.

Working cooked prawn baits off a secret location, Lance Jansen took home some tasty drummer. These ‘pigs’ fight hard and Lance has just converted to an Alvey reel, which took a bit of getting used to because he’s not a natural-born Queenslander!

Lance has a secret berley recipe for these fish which I’ll try and extract from him one day.

It’s been a bit disappointing in the Hawkesbury. Some anglers have taken fish but in the main there’ve been a lot of outs.

Regular flathead drifts have come up zero and pesky catfish have been out in force, especially targeting those who use prawn baits. Gunyah has seen bream on the incoming as well as a few soapy jewfish.

The back end of Pittwater has been firing with the Western Foreshores coughing up jew, flathead and bream.

Just in front of the Pasadena, one angler nailed four keeper bream in a session using nippers pumped at Church Point.

Big bully mullet are giving the Narrabeen Lake bread brigade heaps of fun at Wimbledon Avenue. Try also Pittwater Bridge for these fighters. I go down there and catch mullet for beach jew baits as they contain local flavour and are well accepted by patrolling sand mulloway.

I heard a report of two yellowtail kingfish taken from the lake recently. Where and how the fish were caught, and by whom, I have yet to find out. If anyone has any info, please drop me an email.


That 8-knot, then 4-knot limit as you come back into Winneremmy Bay (Bayview boat ramp) is there for a reason – no wash.

There are many who abuse the speed limit and Maritime and Water Police will be clamping down and fining offenders.

We use the time to do final housework such as washdown, taking down of rods from the rocket launcher, rubbish clean-up and general tidy before the boat gets back to the ramp.

I got an email about a large cruiser up Smiths Creek lazily swinging on its anchor. Breaking out the chocolate, the family tucked into a feed of this sweet delight. One of the youngsters decided to knead some chocolate onto a hook and hey, presto, a large bream found the treat too good to ignore.

I think someone’s having a lend of me….What do you reckon?

Monthly tip: Have you tried garlic as a berley additive? It’s been proven quite effective, especially when targeting bream.

I use the ready-made product in a jar and all that’s needed is a small dollop in the chook pellet/bread mash. Give it a go and let me know the results.

Spooky-looking hairtail might be reminiscent of something from the Alien movies but they provide excitement on cold nights and plenty of tasty meat.

Bream are popular targets in the lower estuaries this month.

A variety of baits can be used to tempt bream but is that Smiths Creek rumour about chocolate for real?

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