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Find the Bait, Find the Fish

By Lewis Kennedy-Hunt on March 8, 2022 in Other

A nice harbour king caught on a pink Jerk Shad. Photo: Lewis Kennedy Hunt

February and March are arguably the most productive months to fish our local waters. The diversity of species you can come across in just one day on the water at this time of year always surprises me. Aside from the usual culprits of Kingfish, tailor and salmon, as well as the common demersals (ground dwelling fish), flathead, bream and trevally, other pelagic species such as frigate mackerel, bonito tuna, and mack tuna are a feasible target and great sport on light gear.
Upon returning to the boat ramp after a session on the kings recently, it dawned on me just how good the fishing is in Sydney. Ironically, after travelling far and wide across the country all summer with a car full of rods and tackle, the best fishing I had experienced was only a few kilometres from my own doorstep.

Sydney Harbour
There is a common saying in fishing, “Find the bait and you will find the fish.” This is particularly salient right now with the huge biomasses of bait fish being flushed through the harbour systems with each tidal cycle, with hungry predators in close pursuit.
The kingfish have been around in exceptional numbers lately, with an outing offering anglers an opportunity for cricket score catches. However, the majority of the fish caught are in the smaller size range of 50-65cms. Kings are insatious predators with unmatched aggression and will fall victim to just about any lure you throw at them, as well as poppers and stick baits (if you’re in the right spot). Bigger squid baits and bigger lures allow anglers to sift through the smaller ‘rats’ and find fish up to around 90cm at this time.
A recent session I had saw around 15 kingfish captured between three boats off a favourite marker buoy of mine in the harbour. Marker buoys are a great place to start your hunt for the kings, as they are littered throughout the harbour, offering structure for the kingfish to orient their hunting around. A feasible tactic is to move around from one marker to the other until you catch fish or mark them on the sounder. The eating quality of kingfish is definitely part of the allure, with sashimi and ceviche being the pinnacle.

Running of the Bulls
In recent months my newsfeed has been inundated with videos of bull sharks in Sydney Harbour. One video I came across saw a duo of bull sharks in the 2.5m range that had followed an angler’s kingfish up from the depths right beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
There’s no doubt that this time of year sees a greater number of sharks in the harbour due to increased fish activity. Some anglers even choose to target sharks directly with specialised overhead gear, which succeeded in the capture of a 3m bull shark just west of the coathanger a few weeks ago. It definitely makes me think twice before having a quick swim when I’m out on the water! It’s not all bad though – cobia, or ‘black kingfish’, can be caught as they cruise in close tow to the shark’s back in hope of a feed of the shark’s scraps. Cobia are a rare fish to capture in our inshore waters and can be caught with lures and baits offering anglers a prized trophy catch.

Rock Hopping
The rock fishing is also firing at this time of year, with a host of pelagic species and demersals on the chew. Reports of good numbers of bonito and kingfish, as well as the usual suspects salmon and tailor are common. Beast Publisher James has been getting his eye in on the land-based snapper fishing recently, although he will probably fire me if I reveal the whereabouts of his honey holes. What I can share though is that a 20lb leader with a light ball sinker running straight to a size 2/0 hook pinned through half a pilchard will get you halfway to a tasty plate-sized red.

The Good Old FADs
The offshore Fish Aggregation Devices are offering amazing fishing right now for those anglers able to make the journey afar. Double digit numbers of mahi mahi can be caught in a session using a range of lures and live baits. The aggression of these fish when they see a well-presented offering is second to none and will give you a heart-in-mouth fight as they zing around and jump acrobatically once hooked.