The next few months are traditionally the slowest of the year with nearly all factors working against fish and anglers alike.
The variety of species is reduced, with migratory pelagic fish moving away in search of warmer water.
The fish that do stay are faced with cold, clear and still water. Metabolisms slow down, bright light penetrates deep and strong offshore winds push the water flat, reducing levels of dissolved oxygen.
Large, slow-moving pressure systems create extended periods of very bad and very good weather. It’s not unusual at this time of year to experience a full week of atrocious, unfishable weather, followed by a week of ‘as good as it gets’.
Whatever the weather, mornings are always bitterly cold and the majority of anglers just stay at home.
Naturally, fish must feed sooner or later so when a group of favourable conditions come together, there are fish to be caught. In fact, at times, it is possible to take home a bag of fish as good as any you could expect to catch in the warmer months – it’s just that these times happen less regularly.
There are a number of things you can do to improve your odds during these quiet months, including making fewer trips. At first this might sound like a good way to decrease your chances but if you measure your success in terms of numbers of fishless trips against the times you actually catch something, then it might make sense to occasionally opt to simply stay in bed.
Let’s say your planned fishing day falls on Saturday, September 12. The tide chart says there's a low tide in the morning, which is not really the best tide in general for Sydney Harbour at this time of year.
There's a slow-moving low centred over Melbourne, the cold westerly that has been blowing for the past few days is still blowing when you get up, the water is dead calm and crystal clear and the sun is shinning bright – that's bad. I really don't like your chances.
If you go that morning, chances are that you are going to have to record it as a fishless day. If you stay in bed then that day doesn't count as a fishing day!
For the rest of the year staying in bed is not an option I would normally recommend but if we are talking fishless trips then July August, September and October are when they are most likely to happen.
Of course, for many of us a day on the water is good enough reason to get out of bed!
John dory are one of the more available and succulent species around through the colder months so here’s a quick refresher course.
Dory are primarily an offshore species but between about May and September they move into the bays and harbours to breed. They prefer deep, clear water with places like Sydney Harbour and Pittwater ideal.
Areas of broken reef on a sand base and the type of sandy bottom around marinas and jetties will attract baitfish and, in turn, dory. Their food preference is for small reef-dwelling species like mado, sweep, yakkas and cockney bream (baby snapper).
You can catch dory right through the day but, as with all species, early morning and late afternoon are the peak periods. They particularly like the turn of the high tide.
The rig I use consists of a threadline outfit loaded with about 10kg line. This line is definitely overkill for dory but when you’re fishing in deep water with a high concentration of baitfish, jewies and kingies are always on the cards.
I use a 6/0 octopus-style hook on one metre of 15kg trace connected to the main line with a swivel, which acts as a stopper for a medium-sized bean sinker on the main line.
Lower the rig to the bottom without the bait and set the depth by waiting until the sinker hits the bottom, then raising it about 2m. If you try this with a strongly swimming livie it will be very difficult to determine exactly what depth you are at.
Once you have set the depth then handline the line back in, bait up and send it on its way.
On a good day you might get half a dozen dory but, realistically, two or three is about average. They are a pretty poor fighting fish but I would definitely recommend using a landing net because they have very brittle mouths.
The john dory has superb white flesh that lends itself to any style of cooking and, providing they are iced down as soon as they are caught, you won’t find a better eating fish inshore.Reads: 711