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Sydney Harbour kingfish

Sydney Harbour Kingfish

A return to clarity….

Moving out of the Covid times meant a return (more or less) to fishing when we wanted, where we wanted. Little did we know that mother nature was about to throw a spanner in the works as we entered one of the most powerful la Nina events in a generation.

A year of rain in three months that covered the Sydney basin and beyond, front after front dumped rain into the catchments until the ground, dams, lakes and rivers could hold no more. The harbour water quality stayed strong for a while but it wasn’t long before it gave in and we became inundated with a brown rubbish filled freshwater soup! Even if you did get a break in the weather to throw a line, it wasn’t so much finding somewhere worth fishing but finding somewhere your fly, lure, or bait could break through the surface clutter – near impossible!
Some days I’d be looking at the water thinking maybe, just maybe it might clear up for a decent session this weekend. But every time the clouds would build again by Thursday or Friday just in time for the weekend, adding another 100 mm of fresh to the mix.
The bream boomed for sure. Unseasonal monster snapper were caught all the way up to the Harbour Bridge, and we saw multiple baitfish spawning events. But anything pelagic or sensitive to the big fresh seemed to leave the harbour in search of a better quality of life.
It wasn’t completely hopeless by any means. Sure, catching regular southern green eye squid became a distant dream but there were still countless sessions with non stop, I mean NON-STOP catching!
Fast forward a few months and the rain still falls but it’s light enough for the harbour to absorb it all so we could get back to the clarity we expect at this time of year.

Although it’s been tough, I can’t help but feel we are going to have a great winter. Right now the water temperature inside the main harbour hangs at 21 degrees, visibility is much improved, and we still have extra large mac tuna and prize bonito in really good numbers. Kingfish from rats to hoodlums can be found but they seem to come and go much faster than usual. And theres even some Australian salmon that seem to have decided to hang around all summer to wait for their usual winter in the harbour.

Sydney Harbour kingfish

Nice kingfish on fly

On fly.
The fish are there but by God you need to get that fly in front of them quickly. It would be a rare session where you could present your fly more than a handful of times to a bust up of some variety. Fly choice hasn’t been as critical; it’s speed of presentation, in general small surf candies that will get whacked. Large chartreuse clousers are dynamite for whatever kings are still about. And be prepared to lose a few flies because I can’t remember this many chopper tailor. My fly of choice right now is a creation from Complete Anglers’ own saltwater fly artist Lionel Kemp – seriously serious flies. His Pole Dance Popper, inspired by a Sugarpen, is the best popper I’ve ever used! Get into the city store and grab a couple.

The water is still reasonably warm but the humble luderick are starting to do their thing in the upper estuary. I’ve found I need plenty of berley to get the number there to take a fly. But if you persist you can do really well. Although every day is different it’s definitely an exciting time to be fly fishing on the harbour.

Sydney Harbour Bonito

Sydney Harbour Bonito

On bait….

Don’t waste your time squidding is all I can say. I’ve heard they’re getting plenty of arrow-squid west of the bridge, but on average the prized green eyes are painfully slow and it’s heartbreaking when you drop the only touch of the day. And even when you get them, the kings can kick you in the guts by just not being there! Luckily there are plenty of extra small yakkas about which will be eaten by just about everything! Large tailor, flathead, bonito, mac tuna, salmon, amberjack, and of course kingfish.

But my favourite all round bait has to be the pilchard cube or tail. Make sure you buy your pillies from somewhere with a good turnover to avoid dried out and freezer burnt bags. I look for no yellowing of the gill or tail. And there’s something more plump about the eyes of fresher frozen fish. And signs of red blood is another great indicator.

I’ve heard some talk lately about just how necessary it is to use good quality, fresh local bait. Well my response to this is that you can catch a fish on anything, but if you want to catch ‘the best fish’ get ‘the best bait’ and the freshest and most local you can.To finish off, it feels like the season started late so it should finish late. I can’t wait to see what happens over the next few months. Reports from offshore are saying all the right things and I expect schools of extra large kings to start making their way into their usual harbour winter haunts really soon. Squidding can only get better and my personal favourite, fly fishing, is going to get better and better. A client came out on a bait trip last week. He could fly cast a bit so grabbed the fly gear and immediately connected with a monster, screaming off backing before getting absolutely smoked!

Snowy Mountains Trout
The Eucumbene and Thredbo brown trout runs are in full swing. An unbelievable season with more big fish than anyone can remember. Two years of Covid, and amazing growth years thanks to great rain and stable lake levels have made all the difference. If anyone needs a better example of the rule ‘you can only kill a fish once’ as the mantra for good trout fishery management this is it. Give the lake fisheries a break and they thrive, and so do the rivers, Win-win! Again, get into the Compleat Angler for flies and advice before heading south to the mountains. Last weekend another 10,000 advanced rainbows went into Eucumbene from the Gaden hatchery. Great work guys!