Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sydney Summer fishing

We hope you all had a great Christmas and New Years break and that the time you spent fishing was productive. At this time of year it is hard to go past chasing the tackle busting yellowtail kingfish to test your angling skills and put some tasty food on your plate.

I was lucky enough to spend a number of days in pursuit of these majestic fish and after a few days of catching nothing but undersize fish, the plan was hatched to get up well before the sun catch some livies and head to the near-shore reefs and try our luck.
After an hour or so of fishing one headland where fish had been sighted days earlier, the call was made to move to another rocky reefy headland and tow the weighted baits (in this instance yellowtail scad affectionately known as 'yakkas') around there before calling it a day and heading for home and the comfort of a reclined deck chair and a refreshing amber ale. On the first pass we noticed some great looking reads on the colour sounder and after passing back into the deep water and approaching from a different angle, the doubled over rod and singing drag was almost instantaneous to the reads on the Lowrance. As quickly as the first bait had been smashed the second rod doubled over and we had a brace of solid fish hooked up and fighting hard. With little more than 35 feet of water between us and the reefy bottom, the battles were hard fought with hands on spools stopping these fish from making it back into structure and bringing our rush of excitement to an abrupt end. As the fights drew on a got a glimpse of what I wanted to see, flashing colour just below the boat, reaching for the net single handedly, after a few attempts I managed to get this beauty in the net, before swiftly clearing the landing net and more gracefully sliding this prized fish into the net for my brother. The perseverance had paid off with a pair of solid Sydney fish, the bite lasted for about half an hour and saw us land and release a number of 80cm+ fish before the 'rats' (undersized yellowtail kingfish) moved in and we decided to move on.

When planning a fishing trip I always refer to the tides and with that in mind schedule my bait catching and travel time to allow us at least an hours fishing before the tide and an hour after the tide to maximise the chances of success. When heading offshore to target large predatory fish always aim to have a variety of fresh or live baits to present to the target species. When chasing yellowtail kingish (legal size limit in NSW waters 65cm, bag limit of 5 per person) the following are the baits I'd select for; slimie mackerel are my first pick, followed by Southern calamari squid, then yakka's (yellowtail scad), garfish if you can find them and finally the yellowfinned pike. Areas to target when catching baitfish should have some form of vertical structure, wharves are often great places as are shallow water reefs close to rocky headlands. In Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) most of the wharves east of the harbour bridge will hold yellowtail most of the time. For best results start early and concentrate your efforts around dawn, once the sun gets to high in the sky baitfish seem to get skittish and whilst they maybe visible getting them to eat a bait on a small hook with light line can be one of the most frustrating ways to start the day. Also try the larger channel markers like the eastern wedding cake, use a fine oily berley consistently to draw the small fish to the back of the boat and fish lightly weighted or unweighted baits on size 8-12 long shank hooks. Slimie mackerel whilst a great bait can be hard to come by, if they are in the berley trail and are not eating your presentations try taking off any weight you may be using and flick the bait away from the boat and allow it to sink slowly, weighted baits will often be ignored so have both set-ups at the ready. A large plumbed bait tank is a must if you plan to keep the baits alive for any length of time, if you do not have a live bait system using a large bucket or tub with a secure fitting lid and change the water regularly to keep the supply of oxygen high and thus the fish healthy and active, pouring the fresh sea water at some height into the tank will increase the amount of dissolved oxygen. Catching squid is a bit of an art, again concentrating your efforts around dawn and dusk, the change of light times of the day will increase your chances of success. Once the sun's rays are shining deeper into the water try moving into deeper areas with good weed cover and add a ball sinker to the rig running straight up to the lure in order to get the squid jig nice and deep so that you can work it just above the kelp or rocky bottom.
Once you've got enough baits to fish head to your target spot ASAP and get your baits into the water. Good locations for yellowtail kingfish are areas with substantial vertical rise, try working wrecks, hard reefy structure, buoy chains and markers poles, also areas with numerous moorings can produce the goods. In Sydney Harbour I spend anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours catching bait then head for places like the eastern wedding cake, the yellow marker off Neilson Park, also try the yellow marker off 'Old Mans Hat' and work the moorings in deep water either side of the Spit Bridge. If you have a down-rigger, pin your live baitfish through the nose with a hook to match the size of your baits, or pin the squid through the pointy end of the hood (if the squid is big, consider using a double hook rig with the lower hook pinned lightly through the head - this way any bait snatchers can also be hooked rather making off with a free tasty meal. If you don't have a down rigger but still want to cover some territory, try using a large sinker and the slowest troll speed possible, whilst not as effective at getting your baits down covering more of the water column will again improve your chances. If you want to anchor try and position your boat over the highest point of the structure or reef, or within easy casting distance of the bouy or marker poles. Many people think (wrongly) that because the yellowtail kingfish is pelagic fish it spends all its time hunting in the surface waters, this is a incorrect assumption, always fish your baits intended for kingfish in the middle or lower half of the water column, having said this it is also worth having one bait unweighted and out the back under a float or ballon, for the just in case fish that breaks the rules. If fishing in water greater than 80 feet at anchor I usually bring my bait 3-4 full arm lengths off the bottom and set it there, I also like to fish my kingfish baits with the drag set at the level I plan to fight the fish, remember these fish will head for the closest cover once hooked so be ready to start the battle immediately.

Keep watching this space for new blogs popping up regularly... how to catch and cook blue swimmer crabs will be the next installment

Dan and Dan

1 comment:

ketchikanalaskafishing said...

As for me, its more fun doing fishing on a summer days - combination of crystal-clear water and blue-sky is just perfect.

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