Luderick are one of my favourite Winter fish, mainly because they can usually be relied upon during even the worst shutdown. This doesn’t mean that they are not available through the Summer or that they are not worthy opponents in their own right.
They require specific techniques that can take a considerable time to learn, but once you’ve mastered them, fish flow freely.
The following might help shorten the initial learning curve.
The tricky bit to blackfish angling is in the control of the rig. Light floats, long drops, wind-resistant baits and lots of sinkers add up to a rig that demands constant attention.
A running float is stopped a certain distance from the hook by a split shot and prevented from running all the way up the line by a stopper of light twine or a commercially produced rubber model. Either type of stopper is adjustable to allow a theoretically infinite depth adjustment.
This running rig is easy to cast but is prone to tangling because the wind-resistant bait is very close to the float during the cast. It’s common for the line and bait to tangle around the float.
The fixed-float rig entails a split shot clamped above and below the float which is fixed on the line at the full depth you are fishing. Any depth more than the rod length is difficult to handle.
However, this rig is much less prone to tangling during the cast.
The float must be weighted so that the cork or foam section is under water, leaving about one-third of the stem above the float.
The float is weighted with split shot, running sinkers, strip lead around the stem of the float or a combination of all these.
In windy, rough water you need a big, heavy float and in calm conditions the smaller the float, the better. A quill float makes an ideal stillwater float.
Blackfish rods are long to handle the long drop used under the float and to lift the belly out of the line when you go to strike.
The rod must be soft because the blackfish's mouth is soft and small and so are the hooks. A stiff rod would pull the hook clean out of the fish’s mouth.
A long, soft rod also acts as a shock absorber during the fish’s strong lunges.
Centrepin reels are still used by traditionalists, while Alvey sidecast blackfish models offer extra castability.
I prefer a threadline, which offers open-face casting, a fast retrieve to pick up line belly and the ability to feed line smoothly to the float to allow it to drift.
For smaller river blackfish quality 6lb nylon mono line and a No 8 or No 10 hook will suffice. The big ocean bronzies require a No 6 hook with 5kg to 6kg line.
Low-stretch braided lines have a reputation for tearing hooks out of fish, a problem already prevalent with blackfish. However, most braided lines float, a huge advantage when picking up belly in line on a drift. Some nylon mono users do actually grease their line to keep it afloat for this reason.
Gelspun or braid makes an excellent blackfish line in experienced hands holding soft rods.
Other species that might be encountered while targeting blackfish are surgeonfish and black or silver drummer so it’s nice to have the back-up of the heavier gelspun line for these powerful adversaries.
Here is a quick run-down on a few of my favourite Harbour blackfish spots.
This area has big fish but deserves a word of caution; Sow and Pigs can break dangerously in big seas.
This mid-Harbour reef is a boat-only spot which and fishes well on both tides, although I prefer the last of the incoming. On the outgoing tide, fish on the city or upstream side of the reef and drift baits back towards the upstream face, which drops fairly abruptly into about 8m of water.
Floats can be drifted right up to this face but be sure not to go too close as this will result in foul-ups. The water flow here usually comes downstream and then off to the western side of the reef.
With practice you can use this natural drift to take your float down to the reef and then along the face to the west.
To position the boat, place one anchor directly upstream and a rear anchor back on the reef itself. Then pull back on the front anchor so you are about 40m from the reef.
On the incoming tide you will be fishing the eastern side of the reef. Throw your front anchor well to the east and your rear anchor on the reef. Position your boat so you are on the edge where the reef drops into the deep water to the east.
Fish your drifts so that your float runs parallel down the reef edge.
Both of the distinctive ‘wedding cake’ channel markers used to fish well for big blackfish until one fell down but I always preferred the eastern cake, which is the one still standing. There’s talk of rebuilding the other one so hopefully it will be back in action soon.
This is a safe spot but anchoring accurately is critical and difficult. You must anchor across current directly up-current of the structure.
You will need two sand picks and because the bottom is soft and in deep water, you will need to let out a lot of rope front and back.
Obviously you will have to anchor upstream on the outgoing tide and downstream on the incoming.
Find the drift that takes your float to the centre of the cake. By careful manipulation of your line, you can then manoeuvre your float to drift down to the cake, then along its face and finally around the sides.
The fish here are smaller on average but there is the potential for bigger fish. Fishing here is shore-based only, due to Waterways anchoring restrictions.
On the Mosman side of the bridge on the upstream side there is a retaining wall that fishes very well but gets crowded.
The water rips hard through The Spit but luckily it eddies around the point, creating a good drift. This area is best fished on the last of the run in and first of the run out.
On the other side of the bridge on the downstream side is a long, deep and rocky shore which offers easy access and good fishing. Both tides work well, especially the outgoing.
This spot is less crowded, which is good, because the best method of fishing this spot is to drop your float in upstream and walk down with it, letting it run parallel to the shore.Reads: 2230