The mornings and evenings are starting to chill off but water temps will remain high for quite a while after the land has cooled down. Due to the nature of the currents, winter in the water comes sometime after winter on the land. What this means is that our activity will slow down regardless of the fact that there is still some excellent fishing to be had through May and June. I know it’s tough to drag yourself out of bed but at least for the next month it is still worth the effort especially on the lower reaches of the harbour where the currents have the most influence.
The upper reaches, being shallow and more affected by air temperature will start to shut down about mid-May. Although fish numbers will be down, this time of year has always accounted for the best quality fish of the season. My diary shows that May produced the biggest jew, flathead, kings and bream for last year. So, if you are after trophy fish then now is the time to concentrate your efforts.
It is also the season for mixed bags as the first of the winter species start to move in and mingle with the remnants of the summer fish. These species include john dory, trevally, morwong and drummer. The dory have already started to make an appearance with the odd one being picked up around Balmoral Beach and North harbour.
The kingies are still in the harbour in both good numbers and size although they seemed to have wised up to lures for this season. The best way to approach them at this time of year is with live baits, especially squid.
This is the time of year when we get our biggest Southern calamari squid. They move into the harbour from the close offshore reefs and ocean rocks to spawn and nearly all the big ones (up to 1.5 kg) will have have eggs. Curiously some of the big ones have both egg and milt sacks which raises the question as to what sex they are. You will nearly always find the big ones in pairs so keep an eye out towards the water behind a big squid as you bring it to the boat as its partner will often follow it in. If this doesn’t happen then make sure that you throw your jig back to the exact same position that you caught the last one. They could be territorial because I have never caught more than two big ones from one anchor point. If you want big kings or jew, don’t be scared to put one of these whoppers out live. They might look too big for a live bait but I can assure you that a 10kg king will have no problem swallowing a 1kg squid.
We also have large swarms of mullet congregating in the lower harbour at the moment. They are also getting ready to spawn along the coast. In May they will move back up the rivers drawing the Jewfish and bigger Kings along with them.
When you combine these two major food sources with the fact that fish are now concentrating on putting on some fat for the cold water which is just around the corner, then it is fair to assume that now is the time to be targeting big fish.
Numbers of smaller kingfish have started to thin out and move around but based on previous years’ experience they will still be available for at least another month. The compensation for fewer fish will be an increase in average size.
Tactics need to change now, as will the kingies holding positions. You will still get them around places like the wedding cakes and other navigation markers but they have become fussy requiring a bit of burley and smaller, lightly weighted baits. Their interest in lures is slowing down as well. There’s more fish concentrated around the heads and sow and pigs reef as they commence their migration out to sea. Best bait is still squid but make good use of the prime baits like the heads guts and cut the tubes into smaller strips. Baits should be presented on lighter gear, lighter leaders, less sinker, smaller hooks and down a cube trail. Live gar work pretty well at this time of year as well.
If you want to target the larger kings use whole, live squid around the Spit bridge, north and south head and the deeper channel markers like Neilson pk, Clifton gardens and Rose bay.
Big kings have already started to show and we have taken a few to 10kg in the lower reaches. The obvious spots to look for them are the deep-water locations around structure. From my experience, kings and Jews don’t like to be in the same spot at the same time although they do like the same type of habitat. I’ve had a run of jews replaced by a run on Kings on more than one occasion, with very little cross over (i.e. jews are replaced very quickly with kings). There’s probably a territorial battle going on down there and I’d put my money on the kings. The exceptions to this is on areas that are only used as feeding grounds rather than holding grounds where you will find kings by day and jew at night. These feeding grounds are usually in shallower water (10 to 20ft) than you would traditionally target holding fish and will work best either very early morning or late arvo (kings) or night (jew) and usually have kelp beds nearby.
Holding spots will be deep (20 to 60ft) and have some structure, preferably with shade (buoys, jetties, bridges or rock ledges etc) and some current.
Some harbour holding spots for big fish include: inner nth head, Neilson pk, the mouth of Rose bay, particularly around Shark island (please note that most of this area is a no anchor zone and is therefore only suitable to drifting in reasonable weather or spot-locking for those with electric motors), inner south hd, Wedding cakes and Seaforth, VB reef and Pickering pt in middle harbour . These are spots that you would typically fish through the day.
Feeding spots include; Middle hd, Fairlight, sow and pigs, Washaway beach, Obelisk beach and Quarantine. These are good early morning, late arvo and night spots.
There’s been some better than average harbour snapper around although they have been hard to locate consistently. I always put a fresh prawn bait out on the bottom where ever I fish and this accounts for a few but if you want to target them seriously try the deeper reefs. Best spots are Parsley bay, Taylor’s bay and the yellow marker off Neilson pk. We’ve caught a number of fish up to 2kg which is well up on previous years average. Lightly weighted fresh squid baits will attract the bigger ones and the best bite usually occurs just on sun-up.
Article by –Craig McGill