Estuary Blackfish 101 – Beginners guide…

Of late, Vicki and I have been talking about doing some basic fishing days for kids.  She has a couple of kids that are really keen to do some fishing, and combined with my clan, thought it would be an idea to do a joint venture and get them all out for a day by the water. The fishing needs to be “easy”, ideally visual, and safe.


A quality Sydney Harbour Blackfish

I’ve been doing some Blackfishing of late – the inshore kind, with Ben and Justin, and we have concluded that this could be a good option for our mini clinic.

It needn’t be an expensive affair to get out and have some fun, estuary blackfishing. Without a doubt, you can go all out, and go crazy setting up your gear, but initially any light spinning rod and reel combination that you already own, up to about 3 meters will be sufficient to get you going – heck, Ben is currently using a 6 foot rod and a 2000 size reel because it is easy for him to manage, and he’s been successful in landing some quality fish on that outfit.


Even on standard Bream gear, Blackfish are a ton of fun

To present your weed, bait, you will need some split shot on your leader to weight the rig beneath a float.  Check out the basic Blackfish rig below.

blackfish rig

The critical thing to mention is to use only enough split shot so that the float is as close to neutrally buoyant as possible, thereby providing a more natural presentation of the bait whilst allowing you to detect even subtle bites more efficiently.  Quite honestly, we’ve been using our long bream rods and reels with braided line and a fluorocarbon leader and having a ball.

Blackfish weed

Weed on the rocky edges that line the Harbour

Bait collecting is fun part of the exercise.  We’ve been collecting our green weed from the rocky shorelines and pools around the Harbour, but I’m told it also grows in stormwater drains.  Using a paint scraper, collect enough for bait for the planned fishing session and a bit mixed with some sand for berley.  Apparently the weed does not keep well once collected, so don’t take more than you need.

Present the weed on a size 6 or size 8 hook by wrapping it around the hook several times and remember you don’t necessarily need a huge bait, but you can adjust the size of your presentation until you work out what the fish want. If you can’t find any weed, another option is a weed fly.  These are inexpensive also, and many tackle stores stock them.  I’ve just purchased a handful from BWC Flies, and they didn’t break the bank.

Weed fly

BWC Flies come in 2 different colours

As bycatch, we’ve caught Blackfish in every conceivable location whilst chasing Bream.  Pontoons and jetties, rockwalls and rocky points, boat hulls and in the oyster racks.  We’ve caught them on the mangrove edges and on deep cockle bed flats, on crankbaits, soft plastics and blades. This suggests to me that you’ll catch Blackfish pretty well anywhere you catch Bream.

We’ve been concentrating our efforts on rocky shorelines and points that are adjacent to some deep water and are influenced by the tide and current. I’ve no doubt that Blackfish experts (and I’m not one of them) will tell you that there’s more to it, but at its simplest level, the technique involves casting your rig up current and letting the float and bait drift back with the water flow through the strike zone, while adjusting your bait depth to the conditions.  Adjusting the drift of your bait slightly, and sometimes even moving a short distance may be the difference between finding the “sweet spot” in the strike zone and catching fish, and not getting a bite.  This to me is the beauty of this kind of fishing with kids. Don’t get me wrong, nothing beats the excitement of getting a hookup, but the process of watching the float and anticipating the bites is almost as much fun as catching a fish.


Remember, the current creates eddies around the outcrops and submerged reefs that provide structure for the fish, so, when it comes to tide influence, where there’s “no run, there’s no fun”…

2 responses to “Estuary Blackfish 101 – Beginners guide…

  1. Great beginners guide! BLackfishing is terrific fun & even better eating! Firm white flesh that suits pan frying, grilling and even smoking (my favourite!) They really fight ‘above their weight’ and when you get them over 40cm, you really know you are hooked! It is my FAVOURITE form of fishing and even more so when targeting the brawlers amongst the oyster leases in the yak. It is a great way to get kids into fishing – just DON’T TAKE YOUR EYES OFF THAT FLOAT!! Make sure that your leader is quite a bit lighter than your main line – that way if you get snagged, the leader should break rather than the main line – ‘cos it is a REAL pain when you lose your float!!

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