Big kings dominate
  |  First Published: February 2010

This year has produced the best run of big kingfish I have ever experienced. During one week in mid-January we hooked over 40 fish, all around 1m long.

They have been predictably fluctuating with moon cycles at about 2-week intervals and have favoured the second half of the run-in tide.

North Head has fired along with Rose Bay, Garden Island, Clifton Gardens, the Wedding Cakes and Middle Harbour.

They are loving whole live squid and we have had to upgrade our tackle to 24kg due to the rough terrain the fish have frequented.

Surface action has been good with tailor, salmon and a better than average bonito run happening around North and South heads and the area between Taylors Bay and Garden Island.

This month they will be less obvious on the surface and will be best located by trolling diving minnows, but keep an eye on your sounder.

Squid are abundant but small at the moment so we are using 1.5 jigs. By March they will have grown enough to justify using 2.0 and 2.5 sizes. In April and May, go up to 2.5s and 3.0s.

I keep hearing reports of large numbers of small jewfish being taken in the upper reaches.

It’s my belief that this is a direct result of the banning of the trawlers. Not only are the jewfish escaping the nets but prawns are now prolific, providing an abundant food supply.

Things look very promising for the future of jewfish stocks in the Harbour.


What is the most important variable in fishing? Quality tackle contributes to the catch and I’m sure that fish have been lost due to dodgy gear. Likewise with line.

Sharp, quality hooks will produce more hook-ups. Fish finding skills are important, as is presentation.

But I believe that the single most important item is bait. The only anomaly to this theory is, on occasions, lures will outfish bait. However, a lure is a bait, albeit an artificial one with the absence of smell and taste compensated for with movement and skilled presentation.

Similarly the lack of appeal that a dead gar has over a live one can be partially compensated for by putting it on a set of gangs and retrieving it through a wash. In the case of lures and retrieved baits, tackle does become somewhat more important.

Someone with good fish fighting tactics and a good understanding of tackle can compensate for dodgy tackle and line. In most cases, even a blunt hook will find the mark and sharp hooks contribute to only a percentage of additional hook-ups. Hook penetration is usually an equation of sharpness over pressure applied.

The bottom line is, though, no matter how good your tackle, line, hooks, and skills, if you can’t entice the fish to eat your bait then the rest is irrelevant. Bait is the vehicle that takes the hook into the fish’s mouth.

If the fish says no to the bait then it’s game over.


So it still surprises me how many people spend huge dollars on everything from boats to fancy fishing shirts but then skimp on bait. Even if you haven’t spent a fortune on setting up, it still makes sense to invest the time/money to source good bait.

Even if money is not an issue then I’m sure your time is and this alone makes quality bait the smart option

The good news is – and this isn’t going to win me any friends in tackle shops – the best bait is the stuff you catch yourself. There are some exceptions; good tackle outlets sell live worms and nippers and on occasions I’ve seen packet bait outfish live bait on the likes of bream and trevally.

Sydney Harbour’s main two big predatory fish are jewfish and kingfish. If you want to catch these regularly then there is no alternative to catching your own squid bait.

Frozen squid doesn’t cut it and the effort involved in getting the ‘right’ squid from the market is harder and less reliable than catching it yourself.

The main types of squid found in the Harbour are southern calamari and the common squid.

Calamari are bigger and are found around structure. They are particularly fond of kelp beds but can often be located around jetties, bridge pylons and boat moorings.

The best way to catch calamari squid is with the standard prawn imitation jig the likes of Yamashita. The old plastic bead-style jigs are nowhere as effective and even among them, there are dramatic differences in quality and effectiveness.

I have encountered poor weighting and weight distribution, blunt jags and in the worst cases, the jags and leads fall out. A good jig will have needle-sharp jags, securely fastened jags and leads and, most importantly, sink horizontally and slowly.


The bottom line on squid jigs is, like most things, you get what you pay for.

Calamari squid can be lured by working the jig very slowly, with regular stops, about 2m above the kelp. We've caught them up to 1.5 kg and because of the snaggy nature of the bottom, I recommend using at least 8kg line.

I'd also recommend using a net to land the big ones, which have a habit of dropping tentacles under strain.

You are much more likely to find common squid upstream, while calamari mainly congregate in the lower reaches.

Catching common squid requires a slightly different approach. They are schooling creatures where a calamari is a loner or at best, found in twos or threes.

Common squid congregate in large numbers in the deep bays and are much less structure-orientated.

They hang close to the bottom and are caught by letting the jig sink right to the bottom and then slowly jigging it back up.

A paternoster rig is a good way to present a jig in deep water. Quite often they grab it on the way down and are snared on the first retrieve.

Common squid are highly excitable and can often be caught one after another until the large volume of ink expelled by their panicking mates puts them off the bite.

At places where there is some flow in the water to take the ink away, they can be caught in large numbers.

My favourite tools for squid are the following:

Top of the range: Yamashita 1.8, 2.0, 2.5 and 3.0

Sasuke jigs represent exceptionally good quality for a budget priced jig and I predict they will soon sweep the market. Best sizes 1.5, 2.0, 2.5 and 3.0 in naturals and colours.

Finally, if you like a more relaxed approach to squidding then the new Squid Witch jag is the best available for use with fresh baits like whole yellowtail or slimy mackerel.

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