If you can’t beat’ em, eat ’em!
  |  First Published: July 2009

In the days before you are due to head offshore to fish the close reefs for snapper, morwong, trevally and kingfish, you spend hours getting all your gear up to scratch, restocking your swivels, hooks, sinkers and leaders, preparing a few leaders and topping up your reels.

The day comes and you and your mates are out on your favourite section of close reef. The first rig goes down and in a short time, up comes a nice pan-sized snapper.

A couple of silver trevally come aboard and then someone yells, “Those bloody chinaman leatherjackets are here!”

Now you start to think of all the time you have spent tying those leaders and restocking your terminal tackle, only to have those evil, nipping teeth snip it off in no time.

The question is, should you move or should you stay? I prefer to stay and get myself a good feed of leatherjackets.

My jacket action plan is:

• Downsize to a No 1 or No 2 long-shanked, chemically sharpened hook;

• Downsize my bait to just enough to fit in the gap of the hook.

• Make sure that the hook point always protrudes from the bait;

• Try a salted bait for extra toughness on the hook;

• Always use braid;

• Use dull swivels to avoid attracting the fish;

• Keep tension on the line when lowering the bait down;

• Use only short dropper leaders (10cm) or even wire;

• Don’t allow small bits of bait to get onto the line – the fish will nip them off.

Once I have could a feed of jackets I move to another spot.


When targeting leatherjackets in bays and estuaries I use a No 8 to No 10 long-shanked hook baited with a small piece of squid, peeled prawn, pink nipper or pilchard.

I never use wire for my leader for these smaller fish, preferring nylon mono line all the way, with two 10cm leader droppers on a paternoster rig with no swivel.

I have the rod tip facing towards the water, turn the bail arm over and when the sinker hits the bottom, I immediately engage the reel and lift the sinker so that it is just off the bottom.

This puts a slight bend in the tip of your rod. When I see any downward movement in the rod tip, I strike with an upward motion. If I feel the weight of the leatherjacket I just keep up a slow and steady wind to get the fish to the surface.

In estuaries and bays leatherjackets just love to hang around structure like pylons, wharfs, drop-offs, rock walls, weed beds, under boats, kelps beds and mooring chains.

Jackets are highly attracted to berley, but remember to not to use too much. The best is a steady but sparse stream if chopped prawn heads and shells.

Places worth a try for a jacket in Botany Bay include the Drums, Trevally Alley, the port and starboard markers, the Goalpost, the breakwall at the entrance to the Cooks River, the groynes off Dolls Point and Kurnell.

In the Georges River you could try Bald Face Point, Kangaroo Point and Picnic Point, Como and the Captain Cook and Tom Uglys bridges.

In Port Hacking head to any of the deeper bays, North and South West arms, the rock walls and the Ballast Heap.

This month you could also target luderick, silver trevally, bream, snapper, mulloway, flathead, tailor and salmon.

Don’t let the cold weather put you off; get yourself rugged up and get out there and you may be surprised at what you can catch.

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