WAITING FOR THE WINTER BLUESLast month’s article touched on the annual run of tuna that sweeps up the south east coast of Australia, often reaching Sydney’s far wide fishing grounds during July, August, and September.
Whilst these majestic and sought after fish have not turned up wide of Browns Mountain or even around Heatons Hill just yet, they are coming. During July the southern bluefin tuna were thick in the cobalt currents off the game-fishing Meccas of Narooma and Bermagui. Whilst the frenzied surface feeding schools have been 40 nautical miles offshore, glassed off weather conditions provided keen anglers in small boats the chance to get stuck into tuna fishing reminiscent of the old days, with 30 to 40 kilogram specimens on the surface for hours at a time eating everything that hit the water.
Fingers crossed for us more northerly anglers that we get the chance to see action like this for a few days during August.
The downside of the deepest, darkest days of winter are the other blues (not the fishy type) that can accompany short days when there are more dark hours than daylight. We all experience this to some degree, or know of family members and friends who have a struggle to stay buoyant at this time of year. If you’re feeling the funk, make the effort to pick up the phone and make a call, or set time aside in your week to catch up with mates, get outside for some exercise, enjoy some good conversation, and, if they’re partial to it a spot of afternoon fishing, get to the water and wet a line. It’s amazing what a little time by the ocean can do for the soul.
August is also a month to focus on winter visitors to our harbours, particularly the delicious and mysterious John Dory. Rarely encountered by everyday anglers, with a little bit of focus and some patience the rewards can be yours.
It’s worth doing a little reading on where these fish can be found. Once common in winter in the upstream bays of Middle Harbour and on the Lane Cove and Parramatta Rivers, water quality, land-borne pollution, and commercial fishing pressure have all taken their toll on numbers.
John Dory tend to favour the deep, clear bays and harbours, and are rarely taken in shallow or muddy rivers or estuaries. During summer they live out on the deep reefs, and according to divers I’ve spoken to they are also common around wrecks, particularly those on a sand bottom. They move into the bays and harbours in May and retreat back to the offshore reefs in about September.
As such, the best places to start are the deeper bays closer to the heads where populations of small yellowtail scad and baby snapper are prolific. These incredibly successful slow moving ambush predators use stealth and an incredible jaw assembly to gobble down prey most fish this size would only dream about.
The next step is to select a lightweight outfit with a sensitive tip, capable of also putting up a decent fight should a mulloway grab the bait instead.
Use a 10 to 15-kilogram leader, a six to 10-kilogram braid mainline, and a 40-gram bean sinker coupled with a 4/0 or 6/0 light gauge octopus style hook. Fish straight up and down from the boat or suspend from a float cast well away from the shore, and aim to have the bait sitting approximately two metres off the bottom. As always, target the turn of tide (high tide in this instance) or the change of light.
Now start licking those lips in anticipation of that tasty meal.