Got the winter blues?

The colder weather is certainly upon us and indoor activities are always tempting. But so long as you are rugged up there can be some hot fishing in the bays and along our rivers as Sydney-based professional fishing guide Peter Le Blang explains in this timely article.

Ah winter …. the time of year for sitting inside, watching old fishing videos and dreaming of long hot summer days.  Well that maybe the case for some but there are still plenty of options for those who make the effort to get out. Not only are we blessed with wonderful scenery along our entire coast we are lucky to witness some great winter fishing and awesome displays from nature.
Follow Peter's cool weather fishing tips and catch big winter kingfish like this!

Follow Peter’s cool weather fishing tips and catch big winter kingfish like this!

Big Winter Kings

Now is the time to target big kingfish along the rivers/ bays with live squid and cuttlefish or hit the bays and mouth of the rivers to target trevally, salmon and tailor on lures at first light. It really can be an exciting experience to fish first light on those calm cool mornings with fish schools feeding freely on the surface. The roar of moving water is only interrupted by explosions of larger fish on the outer edge of the feeding mass. Seagulls squawking, mutton birds diving, roaring water from feeding fish and screaming fishing reels, who could ask for more than that? This is what can be out there waiting for you, just cover ground and look for nature’s signs to show you where the action is. Once you do find the action there are a few factors to look at before tossing that first lure or drifting down that first bait.

‘Matching the Hatch’

Another nice kingy, hard-pulling fish in anyone's language.

Another nice kingy, hard-pulling fish in anyone’s language.

The first is of course to try to see the approximate size of the bait being devoured and try to match those fish. On most occasions it is important to have at least something about the right size but there are days when they will just about climb onto anything that moves in the water. This can be especially true with schools of tailor. My guide is to start off with smaller lures and then work my way up. For instance when I am using metal lures I will start off casting 5-10g lures before working my way up in size. If you are lucky enough to find a school of working salmon it is best to try to match the baitfish with small metal lures, soft plastics or flies.

Salmon on Lures

Aussie salmon are a great sport fish and worthy target during the cooler winter months.

Aussie salmon are a great sport fish and worthy target during the cooler winter months.

The most important part about catching salmon on lures is to vary the retrieve until you find “the butter zone” and the right lure. Two more very important points to remember about salmon fishing is to be in stealth mode and to place your vessel up wind of the feeding frenzy. Quite often salmon will push their small prey towards the surface and work them into the wind waves for an easy feed. There will be other salmon eating further down the water column as well so a cast that is allowed to sink with the bail arm open is always worth a shot as well. A lot of the time when we get to see this amazing spectacle on Broken Bay I see a lot of anglers racing from one bust up to another. This is good that there are so fixated on the fish in front of them but they are missing out on other species. If they target the bottom third of the water column under and around the feeding frenzy with other baits or lures there are other fish to be caught.

Live Squid – the Perfect Bait !

Another nice salmon caught in Pittwater, New South Wales.

Another nice salmon caught in Pittwater, New South Wales.

For instance on charter we will often catch a few live squid (the bigger the better) before heading out to the feeding schools. This time of the year is when we also see big squid being caught around the kelp beds and headlands. These big squid are loved by anything that can fit it into its mouth and the oceanic yellow tailed thug (Yellowtail Kingfish) is our main target. By dropping the big squid down to the bottom third of the water column will see a real chance of a metre long kingfish if they are around. Downrigging can also be very effective but by placing the rod in a rod holder and just drifting, you can still target other species at the same time. Chasing big kings around the salmon schools always has you on the edge of your seat. Sometimes it all comes together but on most occasions you will get hit by a shark or your prized bait will be picked to bits by over enthusiastic tailor. Those days when it does come together though, makes the wait and failed attempts fade into a distant memory.

Downrigging 101

Bigger fish like this king can be hooked while down deep thanks to the careful use of down rigging equipment.

Bigger fish like this king can be hooked while down deep thanks to the careful use of down rigging equipment.

As mentioned when I downrig around the surface activity I use two downriggers, on one we use the already mentioned “ink machines” as bait (squid) and on the other we use a fresh caught salmon. By using two downriggers and two different baits I can then target two different water depths. The one with the salmon will be placed so that it is in the top third of the water column preferably just below his feeding mates and the squid is used to cover the bottom third of the water column. Those that are prepared to fish light and drift down, pilchard pieces, strips of squid cut into long thin strips can also catch smaller mouthed species along the bottom. Trevally follow the surface action and feed near the bottom on those baitfish injured in the melee above. These fish will actively attack soft plastics hopped along the bottom and usually the smaller soft plastics in the 2 to 3 inch range will produce the goods but sometimes micro soft plastics may be needed.

Everyone’s a Winner

Lucky Dip: All manner of sporty inshore pelagics are available during the cooler months.

Lucky Dip: All manner of sporty inshore pelagics are available during the cooler months.

The big bonus about fishing this kind feeding frenzy is it is really a lucky dip. There is always a chance you will still catch other species as well. Flathead, bream, bonito, flounder and jewfish are also other fish that may be tangled with. I must point out that to target the bottom species you don’t have to be right under the surface with your lures or baits. Normally there is such an amount of activity down below the activity can be 50m behind the action on the surface, depending on current. If you own a small or large boat this action that happens up and down our part of the NSW coast can be enjoyed by everyone and can be a great change from anchoring up and burlying to try to attract fish to you. Go and chase them instead.

Go Get Amongst ‘Em

It really is a matter of getting out there and enjoying the day, your surrounds and the company of others. In short, you won’t catch many fish whilst you are sitting on the lounge so get out on the water with some friends and enjoy a great day on the water.

Even an estuary shark like this whaler can put a decent bend in the rod and provide good fishing action during the cooler months.

Peter LeBlang

About Peter LeBlang

I have had a passion for fishing since the tender age of 3 when I caught my first mackerel with my father and grandfather. I never liked to eat fish back then and still don’t now! Since then I have been lucky enough to catch massive dogtooth tuna in Vanuatu, big Gt’s at Fiji, Barra, Mackerel, Jacks and Queenies at the top end of Australia just to mention a few. Now days I love to target and show people how to catch big kingfish, jewfish, snapper and flathead with a variety of techniques. My favourite fish to catch are kingfish using live bait on downriggers. I am lucky enough to be based on Pittwater in Sydney. I own and operate Harbour & Estuary Fishing Charters and this has led me into article writing and reporting for wonderful outlets such as Kaydo Fishing World. I also do fishing reports on radio for ABC Big Fish programme, 2CCC (Central Coast) on Saturday mornings. My biggest love in life are my kids, wife and family. Remember that fishing is only fishing when alone but when you can share it with someone, then it becomes an adventure. Peter.

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