The water will be really cold by now meaning that fish activity will have generally slowed down. Fish, being cold blooded, have a metabolism linked directly to temperature. They eat less when they are cold simply because they can’t process it as quickly as when it’s warm – so they eat less often. This means you have less opportunities to catch them. Vegetarian fish like Luderick generally spend more time eating than carnivores. They get less energy from vegetable matter and therefore must eat more to achieve the same result as their meat eating counterparts. So even in winter when the water is cold they are on the feed more often than most other fish. This is good for us as it means they present more opportunity to catch them at this time of year when many other species are shut down .
Luderick move into the harbor at this time of year and can be caught in good numbers and sizes. Fortunately, on the lower harbour, they will take cabbage weed, being primarily ocean blackfish, as opposed to the smaller river luderick who prefer the often hard to obtain river weed.
Cabbage can be found on most ocean rock platforms. You’ll need a bucket of sand as well, which is mixed with some chopped cabbage weed and used for burly.
Sow and pigs, the wedding cakes and the Spit are prime spots for boaties while the rocks around from Reef beach, the foreshore around Taronga zoo, the spit, middle head and inner south head are all top spots for shore-based anglers.
Luderick are one of the hardest fish to pin a tide on and it seems to vary dramatically from spot to spot, so it’s just a matter of getting to know each location.
Although they are obviously exactly the same species, blackfish often get categorised into river blackfish and ocean blackfish.
River blackfish are generally smaller, darker fish found in the upper reaches of the harbour. They usually don’t exceed about half a kilo and therefore require a scaling down in tackle compared to that used to catch their much larger ocean brothers.
Rods still need to be long but are of lighter construction. There are a couple of reasons for the long rods used for blackfish the main ones being that they are required to lift the belly of line that often forms between the rod tip and the float. The other is to cushion against the fishs numerous powerful lunges and avoid pulling the tiny hooks used for blackfish, from their small mouths.
I prefer an egg-beater reel to the traditional centrepin and load it up with two or three kg line.
Quill floats are far more efficient than the heavy, long stemmed floats used for the ocean fish.
A number 10 Mustad sneck hook completes the rig.
River weed, which is the hair like weed found in the brackish reaches, is the preferred bait for river blackfish.
Some of the better spots in the Harbour include; Greenwich, Long nose Point, lane cove river, blues Pt, Balls head, valentia St wharf and the wall near Luna park. In Middle Harbour; Roseville, Killarney pt., Spit Bridge and Beauty Pt are the pick of the spots.
The lower harbour has a number of spots that attract some superb quality ocean Blackfish.
These fish are in the same class as the fish you would expect to find off the ocean rocks. They are of a good average size at around the kilo mark and are much lighter in colour with prominent bands running down their body. They are found in much rougher country so accordingly the tackle must be scaled up a bit.
Rods are slightly heavier in the butt section and four or five kg line is more appropriate. The heavier, long stemmed floats are used and a no. 8 or 6 hook is more suited to these larger fish.
The other main difference between these ocean fish and the river fish is the bait. Cabbage weed commonly found on the ocean rocks grows in abundance on the lower reaches of the harbour and is therefore the obvious bait.
You’ll have to gather your cabbage from the ocean platforms though, as taking anything from the intertidal zone of Sydney Harbour is prohibited.
They are a top eating fish if they are blead, iced, filleted and skinned. Don’t forget to remove the black lining from the stomach.
Bream fishing has improved out of sight over recent years on the harbour. This has become very obvious to me while chasing yellowtail for bait. Because of the heavy burly used for yakkas there has been a few bream in the burley trail in previous years. Recently though their numbers have increased considerably to the point where they have almost become a nuisance. They displace the yakkas , darting in in large numbers, scaring the yakkas and grabbing the tiny baits. This is great if you want bream but a pain if you are focused on yakkas.
Bream will eat almost anything providing its fresh and sometimes even when it’s not fresh. They are an opportunist feeder but this does not mean that they will not actively hunt live pray. Examination of most breams stomach content will nearly always reveal shell grit and this is particularly so in the bigger specimens. I was cleaning a good-sized Bream the other day at Berowra and found only a yellowish pasty substance which I could not identify until I found a small label stuck to one piece with the letters Jarls on it. It clicked later that it was half of the Jarlsberg cheese label. The only problem was that we had not been using cheese for either bait or burley.
Top Bream baits include;
Dead; Mullet and chicken gut, skirt steak, chicken breast fillet, prawns and fish flesh pieces but I stress fresh for all of the above.
Live; Prawns, yabbies, worms, pippies and black crabs.
Tackle for bream can be as simple as a handline and I know people who still prefer this method. More common these days is a rod and reel combo matched for four to six kg line. The bait runner style of reel has become very popular in the nineties amongst the majority who prefer to let their Bream run before striking. This system allows the angler to let the fish run straight off the spool while the bail remains closed. A quick flick of the lever and the spool is engaged and you are in direct contact with the fish. Personally I don’t let the fish run and find I get more positive hook-ups by either striking immediately or just leaving the rod in the holder and letting the fish hook itself. A light threadline or baitcasting outfit capable of holding two hundred meters of four kg matched to a light spinning rod about 1.8 m would be ideal.
My rig consists of a running sinker above a swivel on the main line with a trace of about half a meter of six kg line finished off with a size 4 to 1\0 hook depending on the bait being used. You should only use enough lead to hold bottom. Very often no lead at all will prove the most effective.
by — Craig McGill