Winter is finally over on the calendar and although air temps will start to rise the water temps will remain cold for quite some time. So, this means winter fishing strategies will apply for the next few months. The lower harbour is still the pick of the spots.
For sport fishermen September usually marks the start of the salmon run which have already started to mass around the beaches and headlands. When they finally move into the harbours and bays it will just be a matter of luck as to what they are feeding on. If the prey is tiny then they will be a difficult proposition on casting gear and conventional lures. If this is the case, then fly fishing with tiny flies that ‘match the hatch’ may be the only option. Hopefully we will see a repeat of last year where they were feeding on anything and lures of any size were readily accepted.
John Dory catches should peak throughout spring just before they make their move back offshore to the reefs and wrecks. Fishing the reef\sand patches during the early morning and late afternoon and then the deeper holes later in the day is the way to go for these superb table fish. Live bait is the key and you’ll find that clipping the tail fins off gives the slow-moving dory a better chance of catching your bait.
You’ll also find your live baits coming under increasing attack from squid as things warm up over the next few months. It’s very difficult to land them on live baits as they generally always let go just before reaching the surface but there is a couple of tricks to landing these succulent morsels. If you are very slow and steady you might just get a landing net under one especially the arrow squid which are much greedier and dumber than calamari squid. Otherwise you will have to jag them and there’s two ways to do this. Firstly, there is the baited squid jag which consists of a prong onto which a dead pilchard or yellowtail is placed. At the bottom of that is the standard multi-pronged barbless jag. That is lowered into the water and left hanging on a tight line until the squid grabs it at which time he becomes automatically hooked.
The other method involves your standard YoZuri type squid jig. Once the squid has taken your live bait slowly pull it to the surface. Have a squid jig ready nearby on a handline. The squid will usually release your live bait near the surface in full view. When he does this pull your live bait out of the water as quickly as possible and drop the squid jig in. Most times the squid will come straight back up and grab the jig thinking it is the bait that it has just dropped.
The hardest decision to make now is whether the squid is going back out live on an 8\0 or home into the fry pan as they are sensational for both.
There is still a few kings around and, if last year is any gauge then late September/October should see some very good fishing upstream on both the harbour and middle harbour. Those who go to the effort to get some live mourning cuttlefish will be rewarded. Cuttle can be caught by bouncing small squid jigs on the bottom.
Trevally are another of the winter fish that will peak over the next few months. Trevs are a very under rated species being an excellent fighter and if they are prepared properly also an excellent eating fish. They are only found in the harbour in their juvenile sizes which is around up to two kg’s but half to one kg is more common. They are a schooling fish so where you catch one there is usually more. Trevs prefer deep clear water so generally the lower reaches are the spot to find them but after periods of dry weather they can be located further upstream.
Trevally are really just like big yellowtail and that means they will respond very well to a burly trial. In fact, it is not unusual to hook trevs while you are catching yakkas for bait. Small soft baits like pilchard fillets or peeled prawns on small hooks (size 4-1) are the go as trevs have small soft mouths. The trick is to feed very lightly or even unweighted baits down the burly trail. Bream and even the occasional pan sized reddie are also taken this way. Trevs should be bleed immediately and iced down straight away. Filleted and skinned them pan fried in egg and flour they make an exceptional feed.
We get a good run of big tailor in the harbour at this time of year with fish up to 3 kg. They are found in the deep water in places like Clarke island and the Centurion wreck off Quarantine. They take a variety of baits but you can’t go past a live yakka or slimy maceral. I use 40lb mono trace and while I do get bitten off occasionally , ultimately I land more fish than I would using wire trace which attracts lots fewer bites. Winter tailor tend to be better eating than summer fish being generally larger and having a higher fat content. They need to be bled and iced and eaten within a few days to get the best out of them.
By — Craig McGill