The close waters off Sydney?s Broken Bay are an increasingly popular fishing spot for east coast anglers. Local fishing writer, Colin Buckley, gives the good oil on working the reefs and bottom features of this area.
Fishing maps, offshore GPS coordinates, best fishing time tables,
for this region, at the bottom of this page.
Fishing maps, offshore GPS coordinates, best fishing time tables,
Every weekend many fishos launch their boats in high expectation of getting a feed out there in the blue yonder. The radio chatter goes on non-stop as skippers ask around how each of his mates is going, just in case one boat has hit the jackpot, and of course, everyone listens in to try and decipher where that magic spot is.
Alas though, many a time the boat fisho returns to his home ramp without a fish, but with a hundred explanations why it wasn?t happening that particular day. In most cases the reason is simply he didn?t have a game plan. Off Broken Bay there is an area of coastal water which has many different features such as reefs, rock, weed, mud, large boulders, sharp drop-offs, deep chasms and dandy patches. These area are home to a huge variety of fish, and all can be caught if you are willing to put a bit of effort into your fishing effort.
There are names for these fish attracting areas such as Boltons, Trawleys, Reggies Close and Reggies Wide, Georges Hole, Esmeralda, Juddy?s East Reef, West Reef, Dudder and The Gravel Patch to name just a few. The names of these areas might add, change occasionally depending to whom you are talking! However it really is not vital important to know the correct name of every fish attracting place. As you get to know the place you soon get the feel of the names, talking to other fishos and listening to the radio. You will, fine the main productive areas are in the 30-35 fathom depth range. These are not that far out at all, seven miles for the furthermost which is Esmeralda. These ?close waters? are therefore readily accessible to the trailer boater in good weather.
These spots can be quite quickly reached from the launching ramps in Pittwater, Brisbane Waters and the lower Hawkesbury most of the time due to the deep water entrance of the bay. Further these close offshore waters can yield a good catch if you are prepared to try something a bit different.
If you are venturing outside for the first time be sure that you have all the safety gear which is required by law and that the crew are fully informed about life jackets, flares, V sheet. two-way radio procedures etc. Most importantly stay within your comfort zone (no heroics!) until you gain experience and if the weather, or the seas looks a trifle dicky. turn back. Remember there is always another day.
A good echo sounder is a prerequisite for success. There are many low priced sounders on the market. yet most are designed for American shallow lake fishing and will not perform well offshore. A high pixel count, good depth range and high power are the main features to look for as you need to know depth, what sort of ground you are fishing over, and some idea what fish are there. The cheap sounders will not give you this type of information with good detail and clarity.
With precise clear read outs at your fingertips, you can then set a game plan in motion to give yourself a more than even chance of snaring a feed. When you are out looking for a location to fish, a good place to stain is fish floats. The reason the pros put the floats (fish traps) there is because it is an area which has a feature, or features where fish will be milling about. Spend some time sounding over the ground where the floats are so that you get a good feel of what is underneath the boat.
What you are looking for on the screen are the schools of bait - the tell-tale signs are eyebrow arches indicating individual fish. As you move along note what sort of bottom terrain the fish are holding over. If it is a calm day try a slow drift over the target area first and if you get hits in a consistent spot, squirt a mixture of cooking oil and Glowbait on the water, and then drop anchor and manoeuvre your self back over the green stain in the water.
One should always respect the fact that the pro makes his living out of fishing and never tie up to the floats as you can drag the trap until it snags up and becomes ineffective. Calculate wind and current before you drop the pick so you don?t snag the anchor or rope on the trap itself.
If the pro retrieves a trap whilst you are there, consider this as a bonus as it will stir up the bottom and usually kick-off some action.
Look For Action
If you have had no success after 20-30 minutes at a promising looking area, move on. Look for more floats and go through, the routine again. When there is a current running, anchor the boat, over a drop-of on the lee side of a reef, as fish will be holing up there in the eddy, waiting for food to come to them. If an area you have anchored up on looks pretty flat and featureless on the sounder, because it is mud, gravel or small broken reef, let out more anchor line in five metre lots every 20 minutes or so when there is no action, until you start getting hits.
When you are over a promising looking area and the drift is too quick because of wind or current, a sea anchor or a bucket attached to the painter (bow line) will slow the drift down to a point where you will be able to get your lead to the ocean floor.
When fishing from a boat, use as little lead as conditions will allow. Try to think of lead like insurance, a necessary evil! That way you will present your offering in a more natural way, not just a piece of bait suspended under a heavy weight. Have at least two lines out which are totally unweighted, (floaters) or if there is a current running, just a pea sinker secured by a swivel 10-15 feet above the hook, to get the baits to drift down as slowly as possible. Berley is always an, aid as it will get the fish interested in your unweighted offerings. Beware when a strong current is running or if you are fishing in deep water, as surface berley could actually take the fish, away from your baits, so check out conditions and adjust your berleying accordingly. Don?t thrash the hell out of the berley pot every half hour or when you remember to di it, as this just puts unconnected clouds of food in the water and leads the fish to nowhere. Give the pot a nice gentle grind every five minutes to get a nice even flow of appetiser out to the fish.
Cutting bait up into little cubes and tossing one or two in the water every couple of minutes or so will get the interest of any passing pelagic and guide them, to your offering. Doing the berleying this way is a lot less tiring. It will also make your berley last longer, won?t direct the fish away from your baits and won?t scare them with noise.
Wrapping fish frames and pieces of bait in a brown paper bag with a stone in it and dropping it over the side will help when you are on a bite, to keep it going.
Have a bait jig or live bait line in the water till you secure a yakka or small mackerel. Then, pin on a strong handline or stout spare rod, with the hook just off centre towards the tail to keep it swimming down all the time. This live bait gives you another option to the bait lines and once again increases your chances of a feed. If you catch another small fish think about slabbing it up and cutting it into bait-size strips. Sew a single hook (3/0-4/0) through the bait and use either a small keeper hook, or a half hitch of the main line round the bend of the hook.
Fresh caught oozing bait will out fish packet bait ten to one. When sending flesh baits down to the deep, cut the tail into strips so it looks like a squid?s tentacles - it will make a fish just that little more curios to check it out.
The same trick can be done with pilchards by cutting off the tail and butterflying them with a sharp knife so it gives a fluttering effect as well as putting out a little mini berley trail of its own. This is more effective if you use this method on the unweighted floater as it makes the pilchard pulsate. This method is really dynamite on snapper and trevally.
Occasionally we put out the prawn look-alike squid jig and the result is that night we have calamari as an hors d?oeuvre before the main fish meal. However if you have the courage to sacrifice the delicious squid you catch, it makes for great snapper bait on the floater.
Jigging Over Reefs
The chasms in between the reefs are good flathead drifting country so keep a bait on the bottom when the sounder shows you are over sand. Unfortunately the down side of this method is all the rays and shovel nose sharks which also make this area their home and will attack any of your tasty offerings. The type of rubbish fish you catch will also tell you a lot about the terrain you are fishing over, for example sergeant baker and sweep...broken reef, red rock cod...reef, moray eels and wirrah cod...hard reef, pike and nannygai..broken reef with drop-offs on to sand or mud or gravel, rays and Port Jackson sharks..sand or mud.
Take some metal jigs with you in all sizes and give them a good workout over the reefs. Besides kingfish it is amazing what will take these artificial lures. We have had jewfish latch on, and even scored a few decent tuna, flathead, trevally and teraglin.
I know its hard work jigging, but the hit, when it comes, gives you renewed energy, so persevere.
Mark the Spot
When you strike success with any method, note the marks you are on very carefully both north and south with a couple of check marks for good measure, and write them all down with a little sketch if possible. Take an exact depth reading from the sounder as another reference point. Give the spot a name that s relevant to the marks like ?Dimple Hill? or ?Stilt-House drop-off?. At the same time write down time, tide, moon, current direction and wind direction. This will be the start of your very own ?Hot Spots? notebook which ultimately will be a super valuable tool which will give you that edge when fish are hard to find.
Don?t trust any marks to memory because next time you go out they will not always be so easy to pick up, particularly when there is s bit of summer haze along the shore.
This of course is where a GPS unit is great help. All you have to do is press the waypoint button and ?alpha? in the name of the spot. Trolling Lures. Another string to your bow is trolling. Use different sized plastic lures and some of the large bibbed minnow variety in a ?W? trolling pattern, some close to the boat and some 40-50 yards behind. Vary the boat speed until you get a strike, and keep an eye out for birds working a bait school to increase your chance of a hook up. Troll over likely looking fish areas such as reefs and drop-offs.
Current lines are also worth exploring and don?t forget to do some passes close inshore. Watch the sounder whilst trolling to locate any ?fishy looking? bottom spots and if a place real grabs your fancy, squirt some of that cooking oil/Glowbait mixture in the water and go back and fish it over. Otherwise record the position for future reference.
Some of the fish caught trolling in this area such as bonito, small mackerel etc. make for great bait, either used live or slabbed, and the frames can then be used for the berley pot.
By continually moving and trying different methods you will increase your chance of getting fish, and more importantly it will keep you eager and keen, as opposed to that lethargic, ?what?s the point? feeling that can develop if there is a long period of no action.
Also involve your crew mate in the ?think-tank? discuss different tactics and the pros and cons of new locations. Experiment with new rigs and don?t always go back to the same old reef which produced the goods six months ago. Try new locations, even those which don?t have the pros fish floats. Who knows, you could be the first person who ever stopped to fish that particular area!
This is probably a departure from the normal way you fish, but at least when you come in from a days fishing you can sav that you save it your best shot. When you have washed the boat the gear down, have a debrief session with the crew over a beverage. What did we do right? What extra things could we have done to make the day more successful?
Boat fishos who continually catch fish don?t do it just by chance. They weigh up all the information available on that day which gives them a plan to work to. This plan isn?t always perfectly executed, but it gives them their best shot at bagging a fish. There is so much to take in when out on the sea such as wind, current, temperature, birds. current lines, time of day, tides, moon, water colour etc.
Be very aware of your surroundings on the water and try to understand what they are telling you. All of the variables have some bearing on your catch for the day. Try to relate your successes and failures to each and every one of them to help build that vast data base of fishing knowledge in the brain. It sure is a satisfying feeling motoring in to the boat ramp after a day out on the briny, lifting with a grunt the heavy fishbox over the gunnels and walking to the cleaning tables with a throng of people asking a hundred questions. Where were you? What are they? What bait did you use? What Tackle....? etc. As I said, all that?s needed is a game plan and the will to stick to it.
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