It’s probably the best time of year to target Jewfish in the upper reaches of the harbour.
It is assumed that the Jewies follow the mullet run upstream and it’s no co-incidence that some of the best jewie spots are near the areas of the greatest mullet concentrations.
If you are chasing jewies through the daylight hours there’s no question that fresh squid baits are first choice. Live squid aren’t necessary as most of our daytime jews are caught on strips of the tube or, ultimately, the heads and guts. If you are after really big jews then live squid and big live baits like mullet or pike is probably the way to go.
Night fishing is a different matter and while I’m sure that squid are still the best bait, they are hard to use because they get hammered by tailor and many other non-target species. So generally, you can’t keep a bait in the water long enough to attract a jew. The good news is that Tailor make great live baits so that if you do lose your squid baits to tailor at least you can but the tailor straight back out live. Don’t be scared to use big tailor for live baits, as even a 10kg jew will have no problem swallowing a 1kg tailor.
Spots worth a try are;
North Harbour: Fairlight pt., reef beach, Cannae pt.
Middle harbor; The hole at the Spit, Killarney pt., Seaforth bluff, Pickering pt. and under the power lines above Roseville bridge.
Main Harbour; Neilson pk, Clifton gardens, the red marker inside south hd, Blues pt., Balls head and the deep holes around Gladesville.
Bridges at night are top jew spots. Jews are an ambush predator. This means that they use dirty or dark water to hide in. This differs from structure-oriented predator like flatties, who bury in the sand or bass who hide in a snag or weed bed. Lights on a road bridge throw light onto the water next to the bridge and cast a shadow of the bridge under it. This sets up three ideal situations for jewfish to feed. The light water attracts bait like squid and mullet, the shadow gives the jews a place to hide and mount their attack and the pylons create a pressure wave for the jews to rest in while they are not attacking . The scenario is like this. Bait swarms in the light water. Jewfish hide in the dark water and every now and then burst into the light water to grab a feed. Jews and the baitfish will always face into the current and the bait, at night, is generally on the surface. From all this we can see that the best way to catch jews around a bridge at night is; with surface lures/poppers, on the side of the bridge that the current is flowing onto and right along the line where the bridge casts a shadow on the water.
Its also a very good time to be targeting big kings in the harbour. The winter kingfish run gets better every year as a result of the average size increasing. Small kings can’t tolerate the cold harbour waters and move offshore to where the water is warmer. Big kings were rare 20 years ago, so the winter fishery was almost nonexistent. Oddly enough the best of the big winter king fishing happens where the water is at its coldest. If you are looking big kings now, then I would suggest looking upstream of the harbor and Spit bridges.
Whether you decide to target kings or jewfish then there is no better bait than big squid. The best jew and king fishermen that I know are also the best squid fishermen.
Huge quantities of squid can be found in the harbour and can present a great alternative on the slow days. Not only are squid excellent table fare but if looked after properly make an excellent bait supply.
There’s two main types of squid found in the harbour that being the calamari or southern squid and the common or Hawkesbury squid.
Calamari squid are the bigger of the two and are found around structure. They are particularly fond of kelp beds but can often be located around jetties, bridge pylons and boat moorings. They are often encountered by live bait fisherman who consider them a nuisance, although I have never understood why. A live squid or even a strip of squid will out fish a yakka any day and even if you don’t use them for bait how could anybody complain about a fresh feed of calamari. Most of you will probably laugh, but when it comes to jew or king fishing I’d prefer a fresh squid strip over a live yakka any day.
The best way to catch calamari squid is with the standard prawn imitation style jig. A good jig will have needle sharp jags, securely fastened jags and leads and most important of all, sink horizontally and slowly. The bottom line on squid jigs is, like most things, you get what you pay for. If your jig sinks too fast or head down, take to it with your wire cutters. Slowly clip little pieces of lead off the weight until you have it sinking to your desire. After you snip each bit off drop the jig in the water to see your progress before snipping the next bit
Calamari squid can be lured by working the jig very slowly, with regular stops, about two meters above the kelp. The retrieve is similar to what you would use when jigging the bottom for flathead with a soft plastic – just a lot slower. Give it a couple of sharp flicks then let it rest for a while before the next flick. The length of the rest intervals will depend on how deep the water is. Obviously in deep water you will need to let it sink for longer than in shallow water.
Southern squid can grow quite big — we’ve caught them up to 1.5 kg — and because of the snagy nature of the bottom, I’d recommend using no less than eight kg line.
I’d also recommend using a net to land the big ones as they do have a habit of dropping tentacles under strain. They also like good water quality so if you are struggling to locate one go in search of good clean, clear ocean water.
Southern Calamari differ from common squid mainly in appearance. Calamari are proportionally shorter and have larger green eyes but the most obvious difference is in the length of the wings. Calamari wings run the full length of the tube where common wings run slightly less than half way down the tube. You are much more likely to find common squid upstream where calamari mainly congregate in the lower reaches.
Catching common squid requires a slightly different approach. They are a schooling squid where the calamari is a loner or at best, found in small groups of two to six. Common squid congregate in large numbers in the deep bays and are much less structure orientated. They hang close to the bottom and are caught by letting the jig sink right to the bottom and then slowly jigging it back up. Quite often they grab it on the way down and are snared on the first retrieve. They are highly excitable and can often be caught one after the other, up to the stage where the large quantity of ink expelled by their panicking mates, puts them off the bight. At places where there is some flow in the water to take the ink away, they can be caught in large numbers.
Whether you are collecting squid for bait or food, they should be iced down immediately. Squid for bait are ultimately used fresh but for prolonged storage they are best frozen whole. Whatever you do don’t put whole squid directly in your ice box. Put them in some sort of container which is then put in the ice box. The ink is a nightmare to clean up. If you are collecting squid to use the next day I would suggest putting them in two zip lock sandwich bags and then submersing them in an ice slurry made on salt water. Try to avoid letting the water (particularly fresh water) come in contact with them.
By — Craig McGill