With Winter now well upon us, it’s time to make a few adjustments to our fishing style.
Lure fishing, so productive through the warmer months, will be all but shut down with the exception of trolling the deeper water for tailor, and maybe some bream spinning on the upper reaches of the Harbour.
You'll rarely see tailor feeding on the surface at this time of year. The best way to find them is by keeping a close eye on your sounder for large concentrations of baitfish.
Quite often you'll even find the tailor schools themselves, that will appear as larger shapes around or under the bait showings.
The tailor tend to concentrate around headlands and drop-offs on reef edges. Minnows that can dive to 5m or more are the way to go and the tailor bite tapers off rapidly after sunrise.
One fish that should come on in good numbers over the next few months is the silver trevally. Trevs are very underrated: They’re excellent fighters and if they are prepared properly, are excellent eating.
They are found in the Harbour only in their juvenile sizes, up to 2kg, but 500g to a kilo is more common.
They are schooling fish so where you catch one there is usually more so if you keep the berley flowing you should be able to take half a dozen of more.
They are a lot like yellowtail in the way they station themselves in a berley trail. Normally they feed from mid-water to the bottom but on a good day you can berley then right up to the boat.
There's no need for heavily weighted rigs, which will in fact take the bait away from the fish.
The trick with trevally is to present the bait as if it were part of the berley trail. This means very lightly weighted rigs where there is water flow and possibly even no weight in the quiet bays where there is little current.
Trevs prefer small, soft baits like peeled prawns and pilchard fillets.
They are the only fish that I can think of that doesn't respond well to fresh baits and in a lot of cases they have shown a marked preference for packet bait over freshly caught fillets. The exception is when you present a live yabby or bloodworm, which are second to none.
The trevs have small, soft mouths so small hooks and light line are the way to go. I prefer a No 4 VMC baitholder and 3kg or 4kg line. The light line helps avoid pulling the small hook from the soft mouth.
You'll find trevally throughout the Harbour, depending on how much rain we've had. They like clear, saline water so after long dry spells they can be found in the upper reaches. After heavy rain they will be confined to the lower reaches.
Trevs should be bled and iced down straight away. Filleted, skinned and pan-fried in egg and flour, they make an exceptional feed.
Morwong, normally offshore species, will move into the Harbour and take up residence around the deep reefs and headlands. They usually run to about 1.5 kg and are caught almost exclusively on squid and prawns.
The best rig I have found is a light, two-dropper paternoster, much like you would use when fishing for estuary leatherjackets. Number-six baitholder hooks baited with a small piece of bait fished on the bottom should do the trick. Try Quarantine Point and Dobroyd Reef.
Most winter fishing revolves around deep water and bait, mainly due to the generally very clear Harbour water at this time of year. You sometimes can see the bottom in 10m of water. Obviously under these conditions the fish are very spooky and retreat to the deep water as soon as it’s light.
Jewies will move into the estuaries, as will john dory and trevally. Bream, flathead, gar and reddies will still be around so it pays to fish a wide variety of baits and rigs.
Although the flatties and bream will not be present in Summer numbers, the average size will be well up.
A typical Winter session should involve four different baits set at different depths and a good berley trail.
Typically, I would have a squid set about 1m off the bottom for jewies and a live yellowtail at the same depth for dory.
I'd cast another yellowtail out wide on the bottom for flatties and then spread three light rods away from the boat, on the bottom for bream and reddies. These would be alternately baited with prawn or pilchard pieces.
I’d then have one unweighted prawn or pilchard bait drifting down the berley trail for trevally.
By covering all your options you give yourself a much better chance of taking home a feed during the slower times of the year.Reads: 1023