4 observations from a weekend of blackfishing to help improve your catch rates

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Fishing for Estuary Luderick or Blackfish is fast becoming a favourite Winter pastime for me.  The idea of going for a quick fish, sometimes spontaneously with a couple of mates, having a chat  – a relaxed vibe, is very appealing, especially during these times of cold, wet weekends, chock-a-block full of activities. There’s not all that much gear to collect and prepare, no boat to rig and more importantly to wash afterwards and there are any number of great spots within a stones throw from my home.

The favourite time for me is the afternoon session.  Call me selfish, but, these days when I get the opportunity for a little bit of a sleep in, I grab it without so much as a consideration. An 8.30am wakeup, a late breakfast, leisurely morning followed by an early afternoon Blackfish session is often just what the doctor ordered, and this Monday Public Holiday was no exception.

When the fishing’s not red hot there’s plenty of time for reflection between conversations and re-rigging rods for an excitable 6 year old fishing buddy.

Fishing for blackfish is not something I’ve done a hell of a lot of, not like bream fishing, so every trip is a learning experience to add to the memory bank. Anyway the point of me telling you that was that I had time to reflect in readiness for this week’s blog.

I made a number of general observations on the weekend and some more specific ones about the fishing at this particular spot.

The Weed

It seems weed is quite difficult to source at the moment, particularly the “stringy” weed that I’ve been shown how to collect. Ben and I walked the banks of the Parramatta River for what seemed like an eternity trying to find a good source of weed. Quite honestly all we managed was a handful of the stuff that was only half worthy of bait, and I reckon we were lucky to actually get 3 or 4 baits out of it. There was plenty of short matted weed around, but that was quite fragile and only good for berley.

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Fortunately for us, Paul has a source of “cabbage” weed, and was able to collect enough for 4 of us for a 3 hour session. This weed is much more durable, even on the hook, and we actually used less of the stuff than we would normally have for a session of that duration.

Keeping this in mind, only take what you need when you find a source of the stuff. No doubt you’ll be sharing with others, and if last year was anything to go by it got harder and harder to find as the season went on.

The Tide

I know it’s pretty obvious that tide plays an important role in all forms of fishing. As we stood there for the afternoon, on a general level, it became really apparent that the bites became more frequent as the tide started to run. You know the old saying “no run, no fun”. But more specifically, we noticed a 40 minute window when the fishing really heated up, and the bigger fish came out to play.

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In all, over half of the fish we hooked came in the bite window at the top part of the tide just before it slowed back down.  Ben, who had spent the best part of the afternoon grizzling because he’d only had a couple of downs, hooked 3 beauties in quick succession.

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The first, over 40cm, he managed to land, but the other 2 fish won their freedom back on the reef.  The highlight of the three was the last fish he hooked.  Picture a 6 year old kid, 6 foot rod in hand, leaning back like he was hooked up on a sea monster, winding like crazy to stop the fish making it back into the rocks. No words muttered, just frantic winding and the “SNAP” as the line breaks. He looks across, drops his rod and shrugs his shoulders as if to say “WHAT”?

The point of me telling you this? Sometimes you need to stick it out until you get to that “sweet spot” in the tide, and then all hell will break lose.

The Berley

Until this weekend, Berley is perhaps the underrated component of the system to me. We don’t use it with lure fishing, so in some respects it seems quite foreign to me.

We berleyed hard all afternoon, for what seemed like little result in the beginning, but as the afternoon went on, and we started catching a few, it became evident that the berley had done its job.

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Paul had decided to take a couple of fish home for a feed, and while he was cleaning them, noticed that they were all full of the berley.  I can only guess that they were around in the area grazing in the berley trail, and started to eat more aggressively once the tide was more to their liking.

More to the point, once we ran put of berley, the fishing slowed down remarkably.

The Weed Fly

I’ve been trying to catch a blackfish on fly for a few sessions now, and although I’ve managed a few “downs”, I hadn’t successfully achieved my goal.

This week I tried again once the fishing became more constant. The fly takes a lot longer to waft down into the strike zone than a bait, and although it mightn’t be surprising to some, they actually work.

I’m not sure how others are fishing them, but I rigged mine under 2 bright orange, foam strike indicators at the desired depth. This system seems to work ok and doesn’t hinder casting.

On one occasion, whilst re-rigging Ben’s line, I left the fly in the water only to hear Paul yelling at me, that I was on. Unfortunately by the time I got to the rod, the fish had dropped the fly, but it was all the encouragement I needed to persevere.

Ironically the next down came whilst re-baiting Ben’s hook. I wasn’t watching, but he walked over with the rod in hand saying he just lost a fish and had sore knuckles from the fly reel. I wasn’t really sure whether to believe him at the time, but when I discovered the fly was gone and the Tippett was all chaffed, I guess there was no real argument.

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I’m sure there will be days when the weed-fly will out-fish the real thing, and there’s no doubt that they work, so I’m determined that I’ll tick a blackfish off my “caught on fly” bucketlist soon enough.

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