Fishing with David LockwoodDavid Lockwood 

Nanna catches a whopper

We’re often talking about kids and fishing. After all, they are a natural pairing. But what about the senior anglers who have enjoyed the pastime all their lives. Take the 85-year-old great grandmother who reeled in a 385kg black marlin off Cooktown earlier this month.
Connie Laurie chartered the big-game boat Top Shot for a day’s heavy-tackle fishing. She opened with a 6kg mackerel that, as they are wont to do up this way, was converted into bait.
Nanna catches a whopperTalk about lady luck. Before long, while trolling Ribbon Reef #2, a giant black marlin jumped on the hook. After Connie came up tight to the leviathan, she was twice lifted out of the chair.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do all my life, to go out and fish for something big,” she told the Cairns Post. “I got my wish. It was absolutely fantastic and made my holiday.”
Ron Finlayson, the skipper from his eponymous Marlin Charters business, assisted with some deft driving, but it’s also clear from the pics that Connie has some impressive techniques. Apparently, her parents used to write fishing tips for the Cairns Post in the 1940s.
Although the fish was tagged and released, Captain Finlayson called ahead and a shore party was on hand to celebrate the great feat.

Kids Capers

Arghhh! The kids are in the tackle box. My fish-attracting luminescent tubing now serves as a bracelet, the fluoro beads are reduced to trinkets, while my favourite soft plastic kingfish lure has become a companion. I can’t get it back.
But you have to love the way minnows take to fishing like the proverbial ducks to water. Summer (4) has her own pink fishing rod, picks up live nippers as though they are lollies, and can reel-in a bream with all the grace of Dolly Dyer.
Sandy (11 months) is the typical boy. Everything goes into his mouth. But he loves playing with the bait. A yellowtail in a bucket provides untold entertainment before we set it free. Then land another.
As we all gear up for the holidays this month, remember that kids and fishing are a great fit. You can spend hours just catching the bait. The key is to keep busy. By all means dispatch a line for the big ‘uns, but put the kids onto the more abundant tiddlers to keep them keen. Crush the barb on your hooks for easier release.
Teach them to respect the environment, to be aware of potential dangers like oysters and spines, and play it safe around the water at all times. But let them discover the joys on their own as well.
As for gear, a handline is a good way to start, while a bobbing float is an excellent visual bite indicator. Make some floats from wine-bottle corks and cane sticks, create lures from feathers, tinsel and thread. Think of it as fishing craft.
The ultimate reward comes when you sit down to dinner and, quick as that, the plate of fish you’ve landed is demolished by the tykes. So do yourself a favour this summer and take them fishing.
What’s more, tackle has never been cheaper. A terrific rod and reel costs about $70. After three keeper flathead, whose fillets sell for $40 a kilo these days, you will have broken even. Every other fish thereafter is a bonus. See for kid fishing tips.

Sustainable Seafood

Seafood and summer are a seasonal match but for today’s consumers – and their stretched suppliers – sustainability is an increasingly important part in the selection process.
By definition sustainability means capable of being maintained at a steady level without exhausting natural resources or causing severe ecological damage.
Most commercial and recreational fisheries have by-catch, so it’s a matter of managing that rather than saying ­– don’t eat seafood at all. Intensive farming on land can have a greater impact.
But with each Australian consuming about 20kg of seafood per year, up from some 15kg in the 1990s, there’s now a pressing need to shore-up supply chains for the future. This needs to be done sustainably if big business wants to grow.
Woolworths own data reveals it sells 22.7 million kilos of fresh seafood in 803 supermarkets across the country; 29 million cans of its own label tuna and salmon (line and pole caught is sustainable); and 100,000 million kilos of its own label frozen pre-packaged seafood products.
But if you want to hear from the horse’s mouth regarding our commercial fisheries, download the 452-page Fisheries Status Report 2010 at These are the findings of hard-working scientists whose management advice is helping sustain our fisheries.
The bottom line: eat local, eat lower on the food chain, and catch it yourself if you can.


fishDavid Lockwood’s Guide to Fishing – January

As I write this the forecast is a for yet another wetter-than-average summer. Indeed, the skies are leaden, the showers are scuttling past, while the steely water between Sydney Heads, glimpsed from my office, has white horses galloping past. Bad news? Hardly.
Look on the bright side. The forecast late La Nina should mean less lines in the water, more fish to go around, and overcast weather always stirs the fish into biting. They drop their guard as though dawn or twilight and just bite all day. Add discoloured water and forage fish like bream actively sniff your bait out.
Although offshore fishers might be kept at bay, inshore fisheries will be firing. To this end, you will do well to fish your own backyard as much as those holiday seaside towns. January really is a hot month.
One species that’s jumped out of the blocks in recent weeks is the prized jewfish. The fish are along the beaches, up the rivers, even in the relative confines of Narrabeen Lagoon, reports the local tackle shop. Jewfish love wet weather, muddy water, wind and waves. So try the deep-water headlands and bridge pylons (those with lights are best at night) around your favourite estuary this month.
The other B-I-G news is the big kingfish. Gee the fishing for these pullers has turned around in recent years. Each new season the fish just seem to be getting bigger. Whereas you’d pop the cork if you landed one over 100cm from hard-fished waterways like Sydney Harbour or Pittwater last year, this year the measure is more like 110cm.
But as the warm water arrives this month – well, that’s the seasonal forecast but time will tell – so too will the rat kingfish. Take a tip and fish with bigger baits to tempt the bigger fish. The upside is that Samson fish and their kissing cousins Amberjack should also join kings. Both of those fish are, in my opinion, even better tucker than kings.
At the time of writing, the onshore winds were stirring up a cool current and the offshore reef fishing had slowed. This  happens in La Nina years; it’s called a temperature inversion. Central Coast skipper Paul Minto says thank heavens for the flathead drifts – a common comment – as there’s only a smattering of snapper and morwong.
Interestingly, I’ve heard of two gummy sharks captures in mid-December. The southern species, prized in Victoria, must have swum north in the cold current. But that should change in January. And Central Coast skipper Scott Thorrington was among those who had already tagged striped marlin from the Norah Head canyons. The warmest water he saw was 18.5°C, but previously it had climbed to mid-21°C. Expect 22-23°C out wide in January and some dolphin fish or mahi mahi.
Hawkesbury guide Ron Osman says the fishing is fabulous in the otherwise glum weather. He’s taken 80cm kingfish, heaps of bonito and a few nice jewfish to 10kg in recent outings. But much bigger kingfish have been coming from Pittwater. Narrabeen Bait weighed one of 9.3kg cleaned and then an 11kg specimen. Downrigging with squid is the go. Or tow live bonito.
Along the beaches, bream and big whiting are biting. Expect a lot more whiting this month. But if you want to catch the big ones on CBD beaches then night is best. And if you’re going to do that then adopt a two-rod approach and soak a fresh squid for jewfish.
January is peak time to go prawning and, naturally enough, the beaches around lake or lagoon mouths are hot fishing. The other crustacean on the move is the blue swimmer crab. But if we get heavy rains then switch from witches hat nets to sturdier traps and try the mangroves for muddies instead.
Meantime, there have been truckloads of surface fish about: kingfish mixed with bonito, Aussie salmon and tailor. That will continue. But if you see the fish chasing sprats do drop a lure to the bottom for opportunistic flathead. They will be active in January.
Between all that, you shouldn’t go hungry these summer holidays. As ever, play it safe. But do play outdoors in what is the very best time to go fishing. Don’t let the rain put you off, instead, see it as an opportunity to wet a line. Other La Nina periods include 2007-08, 1998-01, 1988-89, 1973-76 and 1970-72. I won’t go any further back, but if you keep catch records consult those years.


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Afloat Magazine January 2012 Sydney Fishing KeyFishing Key —

B    Bream
Berleying with chopped pilchard and floating lightly weighted pilchard fillets back into the berley using light tackle and fine line. Suitable method from both boat and shore. Hook size No 1 to 2/0. Or try using the latest soft-plastic lures jigged around the harbour wharves, jetties and rock walls on ultra-light flick sticks and 4kg braided line with a 4kg monofilament trace.
DF    Dolphin fish
Head to the fish aggregating devices (FADS) off Sydney – locations found at recreational/saltwater-fishing/fads/locations – at dawn or fish into the dusk to beat the crowds. Cast live baits at the FADs for the biggest dolphin fish. Smaller specimens fall for pilchard baits, lures and saltwater flies. Great sport and, when kept on ice, delicious eating.
F    Flathead
Drift with whitebait or frog-mouthed pilchards hooked through the eyes and bounced along the sandy bottom. Glue reflective tape to the sinker for added flash and appeal. Early morning before busy boat traffic is best. Or use rubber-tailed jigs flicked around the foreshore.
J    Jewfish
The prize of the estuaries, jewfish gather in the deep holes in our harbours and bays from November through to the end of summer. The fish is most active right on dusk, especially when that coincides with the last hour of a run-in tide. Use large cut baits of mullet, slimy mackerel or tuna, or fresh squid strips, set on the bottom. Berleying with cut fish pieces can help attract the fish to your bait. Ranging from 3-8kg, though specimens to 20kg aren’t unheard of, the general run of jewfish is easily subdued with 10kg tackle and a 4/0 hook.
K    Kingfish
Fish the deep, tidal shores or around the harbour channel markers with live or strips or heads from fresh-caught squid. Stagger the depth at which you fish the baits until the school is located. Berley helps keep the fish around your boat.
L    Leatherjackets
Found around kelp beds and foraging off wharf pylons, retaining walls and other submerged structures. Easy to catch with a long-shanked hook topped with peeled prawn or try using the flesh from mussels gathered at the fishing grounds.
MAR    Marlin
In a good season with warm water, marlin pass just a few hundred metres from shore. Troll a staggered spread of assorted small 15cm-long skirted lures at 7-8 knots from 40 metres to 120 metres of water, concentrating around the bait schools, birdlife and current lines. Striped marlin join in the party, along with dolphin fish and sometimes wahoo out wide. And the game fishing is even more fun when you can see the city clear as day.
S    Snapper
Fish the inshore reefs in 30-50 metre of water with 6kg-10kg tackle. Anchor up and berley with chopped pilchards and chicken pellets. Drift a half pilchard bait on a 4/0 chemically-sharpened hook back down the berley, with a pea-sized running sinker or just enough lead for the bait to waft down to the bottom. Dawn and dusk is best.  
T    Tailor
An aggressive schooling fish, named for its ability to slash baitfish to ribbons, the tailor is a snap to catch. Troll or cast and retrieve lures around the schools of fish hunting around headlands and estuaries in winter. Or cast a pilchard from the shore or boat during the flood tide and at night around Sow and Pigs or The Spit.
W    Whiting
Warm water heralds the whiting run along the beaches. The sweet-tasting fish are a cinch to catch, the only prerequisite being live worms for bait. Fish in the deep gutters and where there are rips and no surfers. Night sessions can be most rewarding from the harbour beaches.