Monthly Report Oct -18

The Marine parks debate exploded onto the scene recently with the announcement of 25 angler lock-out zones between Wollongong and Newcastle. Backlash from anglers and media was immediate and intense. The facebook page ‘Stop The Lockout” went from zero to 46 thousand members in 10 days and still growing. Ray Hadley slammed the minister Niall Blair on radio 2GB telling the minister that “he would lose his job over this “ and comparing the situation to Mike Bairds attempted grey hounds ban.

Some of the closures were farcical with lock-out boundaries stopping right on the boundaries of waterfront properties, effectively locking out kilometers of accessible shore-based angling options. Most ridiculous of all was a ‘special purpose zone’ within a lock-out zone, to allow jetty anglers to continue to go fishing and boating. On closer inspection of the map, 90% of that special purpose zone was inside a public swimming enclosure where fishing is banned by the local council. Clearly, whoever drew the map had never actually visited the location or consulted the council. Its anyone’s guess where this issue will be at by the time you read this but I’m predicting that the wrong decision will cost the liberal govt the next election.

On the fishing front, Australian Salmon have been around in huge numbers. September through to January is traditionally the time when they appear in the lower reaches of the Harbour and Broken bay. The closing of the cannery at Eden has seen decreased commercial pressure on stocks in the last decade and it appears that numbers have increased quite dramatically. Salmon fishing has been sensational over the last few years and should continue providing the commercial fishos don’t start hitting them again

The lower reaches of Sydney Harbour is salmon heaven. This is mainly because it is also baitfish heaven.

Sydney harbour is a harbour and not a river. This might sound like a bad case of stating the obvious but the differences are often over looked.

The Hawkesbury river has the depth and the baitfish but not the salmon. This is because the Hawkesbury pumps huge volumes of fresh water into the ocean . This creates two conditions unfavorable to salmon — lower salinity and turbid, low visibility, water. Pelagics are physically less able to deal with fresh water than estuary fish like bream or mullet for example. They are also visual hunters so clear water is an obvious advantage. Having said that, the lower reaches around Broken bay and Pittwater can be a salmon hotspot providing there hasn’t been too much rain upstream.

The harbour, on the other hand, has a tiny freshwater catchment when compared to the Hawkesbury and, except in times of severe flooding , remains clear.

Why depth is so important to salmon is not so obvious. It certainly gives them another option when fleeing from predators but mostly it gives those sensitive, lidless eyes a break from the midday sun.

Coastal harbours are a baitfish magnet being warm, still and clear. They obviously supply the nutrients they require as well.

So, Sydney Harbour has it all — masses of food and clear deep saline water.

Most people I know would rather cast to salmon than troll for them. What do you do though if you want to cast a lure or fly to pelagics but can’t them on the surface? Troll until you find them and then cast. Trolling lures is a legitimate fish finding tool, even if you do not like or intend to catch them this way.

Trolling lures is a great way of finding salmon. Trolling the headlands, particularly north, south and middle heads is the preferred option when the fish or the baitfish cannot be visually or electronically located in open water. Of course, with their highly mobile nature salmon can be expected to turn up anywhere and we have even caught them as far upstream as Bantry bay in middle harbour.

In fact, strong concentrations of bait fish have been known to lead them well up into the mangrove country but this is the exception rather than the rule.

Salmon regularly work bait on the surface. At these times they can be visually located, often kilometers away, by looking for the accompanying flocks of seabirds cashing in on the left-over baitfish. Not every surface feeding school has birds but even they can be visually located just by looking for the surface disturbance. Obviously good sea conditions make the job a lot easier.

Lure selection in these situations is more a matter of size than type or colour. You are all familiar with the concept of ‘matching the hatch’ but how do we determine the hatch.?

Seabirds help a lot. They won’t even show up unless it’s worth their while. A birdless patch of feeding salmon usually indicates that the prey is very tiny. And to the other extreme, the bigger the patch of birds the bigger the prey.   Tiny bait inhaled whole leaves little to interest a seagull but a four-inch pilchard chopped in half or stunned by a crushing blow certainly provides an easy and worthwhile target

If you are lucky you might even see the prey as it showers from the water in an effort to escape. If all else fails, start with your smallest lure and work your way up. Fish honed in on a certain size prey will regularly eat something smaller but rarely anything bigger.

The winter kings have continued to bite right through the cold season despite some very cold water this year. We took a great fish of 115cm in middle harbor and there has been plenty in the 65 to 85cm bracket. Live cuttlefish and squid baits are the go. If last year is any indication, then October should see some very good kingfishing spark up in the middle reaches of middle harbour and the main harbour.

by –Craig McGill



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