Top conditions, great bags
  |  First Published: April 2010

May is a great time for mixed bags. All the Summer fish are feeding up frantically to put on fat for Winter and some of the Winter fish are starting to make an appearance.

You will generally pick up the bigger specimens of most species at this time of year.

And to top it all off, weather patterns are very stable, making fishing on the lower Harbour a pleasure. And because air temps are starting to drop, general boat traffic is tapering off, giving fishos a bit more space to work.

The vast diversity of species calls for a variety of baits, lures and techniques.

Flatties are firing, as are bream, tailor and kings, so don’t put the lures away yet. In fact when it comes to bream and flattie luring, there is no better time of year.

Trolling minnow-style lures up around Rushcutters Bay will produce whopping tailor.

They won’t be obvious on the surface so you will need to use your sounder to find the bait clouds. The tailor won’t be far away and best results will be around sunrise.

Kings will also be sitting deeper so it’s time to add a bit of weight to your stickbaits. Best method is to put a barrel sinker above a swivel ahead of about 1m of mono trace.

The marker buoys are still the spots to try but let your lures sink right to the bottom before ripping them back in.

Flatties will be prolific up the backs of the bays around the boat moorings in the lower reaches and, again, finding the bait clouds will be the key to success. The lizards will be feeding on anchovies so lures like the Tsunami Split Tail Minnow bounced along the bottom under the bait schools should be successful.

Jewies will start to fire now and May-June is peak season for luring up a jew in the upper reaches and around the bridges.

Kings are going nuts on fresh squid baits and this is the time when you are most likely to pick up a jew as a by-catch when chasing kings.

Baits for kings are usually suspended somewhere between midwater and the bottom but I thoroughly recommend putting at least one big squid bait on the bottom to increase your chances of picking up a stray jewfish.

Of course, it’s well worth targeting jew specifically now and you will find them around the wrecks, reefs and holes in the upper reaches. Work big squid baits on the bottom and fish the tide changes.

I rarely use live fish baits but at this time of year it’s worth having at least one out with the chance of picking up big flatties, jew, dory, kings or big tailor. You will find a few garfish starting to move in and really big kings go nuts for them.

Big bream move down into the channels and holes in the lower Harbour and a few trevally will start to come in, so it’s worth having a bit of berley going and a cut bait of pilchard or salted mackerel fished near the bottom.


Numbers of smaller kingfish have started to thin out and move around but based on previous years, they will still be available for at least another month. The compensation for fewer fish will be an increase in average size.

Tactics need to change now, as will the kingies’ holding positions. You will still get them around places like the Wedding Cakes and other navigation markers but they have become fussy, requiring berley and smaller, lightly weighted baits.

There are more fish concentrated around the Heads and Sow and Pigs Reef as they begin their migration to sea. Best bait is still squid but make good use of the prime baits like the heads and guts and cut the tubes into smaller strips.

Baits should be presented on lighter gear, lighter leaders, smaller sinkers, smaller hooks and down a cube trail.

While I’m generally a strong proponent of fresh squid for bait, big kings do develop a hankering for garfish at this time of year, when we often get a good run of gar in the Harbour.

You will find gar at places like Quarantine and Watsons bays and around Sow and Pigs Reef. A bit of bread or pellet burley mixed with tuna oil will get them behind the boat in no time.

My favourite gar bait is pilchard gut on a short-shank No 12 or No 14 hook under a light quill float. I suspend the bait about 30cm under the float with no lead and use as light a line as possible.


To keep them alive you will need a good-sized, well-aerated (preferably circulating) bait tank.

One of the most successful and spectacular (huge surface strikes) ways to fish a live gar is to swim it out under a bobby cork with no lead. The rig is simple and consists of a 1m mono trace with a bobby fixed at the point where the trace meets the main line.

No lead is used so that the gar, pinned on a 6/0 octopus-style hook, swims on the surface.

Pin the gar under the lateral line just behind the anal fin. By having the hook on the underside, you naturally keel the bait. A gar hooked above the lateral line will have to constantly fight the hook and will tire more quickly. When it does tire, the hook weight will pull the gar upside down and it will die.

An alternative is to drop the bobby cork and let the gar swim free. This is a great natural presentation with the disadvantage of not always knowing where your bait is and the resultant tangles. If you are going to use this method you will need to keep a constant check on your bait’s position.

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