The very warm water off Sydney this season has attracted some tropical ring ins including cobia. Your chances of ever catching one are slim but might be improved if you target them specifically. I must admit though that all the ones we took, the best of them to 120cm, were all by-catch of kingie fishing
They are generally caught between February and May. Most captures have coincided with a large influx of sharks into the harbour and captures of Remora in the same area. The fish I cleaned recently had three stingrays in its gut which is a fair indication that they feed on or near the bottom. You regularly hear fishos from the tropical north say that it’s common to see cobia swimming along under stingrays. The theory is that they are using the ray as an ambush point, hiding in their shadow and darting out to grab prey. Is it actually possible that they are swimming under a pregnant stingray that is about to drop its young with a view to eating them.? Rays give birth to live young and would no doubt be trailing embryonic fluid immediately prior to giving birth. Baby stingray eaters would undoubtedly be attuned to this.
Fishing Guide Nick Martin spotted a very rare leatherback turtle swimming off Sydney heads recently and it had a big Cobia cruising along with it
Discussions with LGB boys revealed that the best locations are rock platforms that fall onto a sand bottom. We have taken our biggest ones in middle harbor around banrty bay. Best baits include sand crabs, yakkas, squid and slimies. Best spots in the harbour would include Cannae pt., Nth Head, Middle head, middle harbor and Clifton gardens. They are the most delicious pelagic I have ever eaten and is more like reef fish than game fish. This most likely reflects their diet.
Despite the fact that the water is cooling down, tropical ring-ins are traditionally at their best now.
Samson fish are much more common but fluctuate in numbers with our best year producing over 50 and our worst only 2. Generally, they appear to be coming more common. They can come in as early as December but are most prolific around Easter You will also find that the years that Amberjack are most prolific the Samson are least prolific and vice versa. They are most often taken in the lower reaches, but we have caught a few upstream in middle harbour. They are caught in most of the spots that you take kings and are usually a by catch. We have taken a few trolling lures along the washaway/dobroyd run and over in quarantine bay, but they are primarily a bait target. Best bait is squid by a long way followed by yakkas and slimies. I generally fish just below mid water for kings but if you are specifically targeting Sams then drop it a bit deeper but not on the bottom. On average they run at about 3kg, but we did get one weighing 6kg one year. Best spots are Fairlight pt., Dobroyd and Quarantine bay. They are good eating
Amberjack can at times be very common. One season we were taking one amber to every two kings. Their average size is about 2kg but every year we get a handful at 6kg and once again usually a by-catch of king fishing. Unlike Sams they are targeted specifically with exactly the same method you would for kings. The little ones are happy on squid strips, but all the big ones have taken live squid. We have taken a couple on deep jigged slug-go’s but they are mostly a bait proposition. We have caught them in Feb March, but they are at their best in April May. Prime spots include the Spit for the larger fish, Dobroyd, middle head and Nth head. We have taken a few up at Pickering pt. in middle harbour. They have very similar eating qualities to kings.
You will see the occasional rainbow runner but like cobia they are very rare . They are always small around 1kg and swim with kings. There was a school of them at the yellow marker near quarantine a few weeks back but that is the first time I have seen them for six years
Watson’s Leaping Bonito come in rarely. I can only remember 3 seasons when they have entered the harbour but they were in huge numbers, so they are feast or famine. You will catch them with small metal slugs just as you would normal bonito. They often swim with frigate mackerel They are ordinary tucker being very red meat, certainly much more so than bonito. I’ve never seen them leap.
Tropical Long Tom come in most years in large numbers but are seldom caught simply because they are so hard to hook. If you get them to swallow a small unweighted bait they are great sport leaping high and often. They are mostly in the lower reaches, particularly around Nth Head.
We have been getting some spectacular king fishing of late and, hopefully, with the late start to the season we will get a late finish, taking the warm water and kings right through to June. This is the time of year for bigger than average kings and an addition to tactics. 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. This is not surprising given that we get a good run of gar in the harbour about now.
You will find Gar in places like Quarantine and Watson’s bay. and around sow and pigs reef. A bit of bread or pellet burley mixed with tuna oil will get them in behind the boat in no time. My favorite gar bait is pilchard gut on a short shank no 12 or 14 hook under a light quill float. I suspend the bait about 30cm under the float with no lead. Use as light 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 the live gar is to swim them 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 tire more quickly. When it does tire the hook weight will pull the gar upside down and it will die.
An alternative rig 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 resultant tangles. If you are going to use this method you will need to keep a constant check on your baits position.
While gar are great at this time of year don’t write off the squid. A big, whole, live squid fished deep will take its share of big kings and still rates as number one bait with the advantage of picking up a stray Jew.
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By — Craig McGill