Blackfish Basics

by Roosterman

Gathering bait
it is a cheap way of fishing when the bait you use is freely available along most rock platforms and ocean rock pools. It is also found in estuary systems and rivers but harder to find. There are 2 main types of weed, string/ribbon type and cabbage.string weed is most common in the river estuary systems but some ocean rock pools also have it. Cabbage type is easier to come by and is everywhere along the coastal rocks and beach headlands. When you harvest your weed be responsible and take only whats needed and if there is enough get some for burly..the weed generally dies off a lot through the colder winter months. It is best not to squeeze the water out but let excess water drain but if in a hurry a gentle squeeze is ok.lay weed in newspaperor hessian bag and fold / roll up and put in can keep it in bottom of the fridge for up to a week but fresh is always best.

After you have sorted out whats needed for bait you can chop the rest very finely and put in bucket/container for burley.i found the easies way to mix burley is to tip all the chopped mix in a pile on dry sand beach.dig up a nice pile of dry sand, now get a handful of weed mix put on top of small pile of sand and keep picking up and rubbing between hands until mixed.put pile into bucket and continue until all done.when you arrive at fishing spot put enough water in to wet sand so you can make little burly bombs.

Rigging Up
I like to use a light rod around 6lb to 10lb and about 10 to 12ft long. the length helps to steer the fish away from structure when they fight dirty. I also match this with an alvey sidecast but an eggbeater style is ok also. I like to use 10lb mono line not braid as I like to have the stretch mono provides when those big niggers give you some stick. they have soft mouths so it helps. This is just my personal opinion and I know others that use braid and catch fish.. I like to use a size 10 hook and generally use a 2 hook rig , this helps to find target depth and also able to try different cabbage one hook and string the other. Thread your stopper onto line then your float put your small ball sinker on then your swivel (3 way if 2 hook setup) put a trace/leader of lighter line 4lb/6lb of between 150mm to 200mm put another a small ball sinker then swivel. Put another trace/leader of same about 100mm to 150mm then hook, if using 2 hook setup only use shorter length of around 100mm on top hook.. its trial and error at first with sinker weights but you must keep the bottom weights heavier so it casts and sits better. i like these removable splitshots to fine tune my float, cannot recommend them enough.I like to have enough weight to keep the float as close to neutral buoyancy as conditions allow, this means it takes less to make the float go down and less resistance for the fish to feel… this takes practice and usually carefully watch float at first to see how it behaves on the day…..For the stopper I found these great cheap rubber ones that are on wire loop and you thread mainline through loop and pull stopper onto line(make sure you wet first to stop line damage as you do when tying knots and whenever moving stopper…

Fishing Spots
The things to look out for are good weed and kelp areas as this is where they congregate. You will find most ferry wharves and jetties good nigger territory. Also along breakwalls and shorelines with kelp beds. If fishing from the ocean rocks look for gutters and fish the edges of the wash.

Baiting Up
When using string weed get a thin piece of a couple strands then starting at the bottom of hook leave about 10mm then wind up hook about three turns trying to keep tight. one or two more turns around line section then twist to get nice and firm around hook and line. repeat this down the line then thread last strands over the hook barb then pinch excess off about 5mm to 15mm depending on fish biting. Bait should be nice and straight and thin with a nice tail piece fluffing out when put into water, good to check for this when new.
When using cabbage if its thin slender stuff you can try similar style to fit on hook. If its regular big leaf variety then get one piece and fold a little bit on end/corner and thread onto hook pass hook through a couple of times and use a half hitch loop to hold top of bait to line…
Now with all nigger baits you do not want big clumps of bait, remember they have small soft mouths.. Bait presentation will mean the difference if fish are fussy.

When first starting to fish move your stopper to give more depth than where fishing, float should lay on side as sinkers rest on bottom..Now move stopper until float rights itself.. You want to start fishing just off the bottom.. If you don’t get any downs/hits within a few drifts (try different areas in close out wider close to pylons/walls) then keep changing depths until you find where they are feeding…keep an eye on stopper depth as sometimes when you wind in especially fighting a fish the stopper may catch on rod tip or runner and slide changing your target depth..this can mean when bait put back in water your fishing the wrong depth. usually they have a good feed on first light hitting the water but will feed throughout the day. some spots prefer different tides etc.You can increase your success rate by using burly to either bring them on the bite or keep them in the target zone… remember to use the same weed as your bait chopped very fine, mix with sand and wet so you can make little burly bombs.. Now do not overdo this, you want to tempt them into taking your bigger bait not feed them. also beware weed is light and will flow downstream and you may end up making the feeding zone further down current from where your fishing.i like to try and get different types of bait when possible as sometimes niggers can get very fussy and the crap they turn down today they go nuts on tomorrow. This is when experience and skill come into it to get success..
Take the time when first starting to notice how your float reacts in normal conditions so you can see when something’s happening that’s not normal,eg wave actions/current/hooking certain bottom structures in kelp etc. keep an eye on your mainline to your float tip,(some vasaline helps to keep it floating but I don’t use it normally)and keep feeding line and watching so you have just enough slack that you can lift rod to strike if needed.. When you see your float go down,( this is why a nigger bite is generally referred to as a down) or anything out of the norm can mean fish action..It does not always go can have slight jerks/stops drifting (fish mouthing bait) / sideways moving / float lifting (usually means your fishing too deep as fish grabs bait and swims back up to feeding zone) float can lift if you’re on bottom also. when you do get a bite you mostly wait between 5 to 10 seconds then lift rod firmly to set hook. be careful as they have small soft mouths. if your float starts to come back up before striking wait till he grabs bait again then strike after a few seconds.. now this varies on how they are feeding so trial and error is the key on the day.try different tactics if you don’t have any luck, this is where experience really helps...
Once hooked play the fish away from structure and then gently get him to the surface,now be careful as they have a big powerful tail and give a good account of themselves.once the fish is getting tired you get him to the surface hand he will splash about on his side shaking his head.very important keep him in this position without lifting his head out of water and do not let him drop his head back down otherwise he will swim upright and make a run for that nearby structure. Slowly guide him into awaiting net and your size is 25cm but as of 3rd September 2007 it will be 27cm and limit of 20. Put him into a keeper net to keep him alive. Using some basics here you will Taylor your own skills and theories as different places req different needs…

Cleaning your catch
at the end of fishing you need to bleed your catch, I just cut their throat and bend head back a bit then put back into keeper net and jiggle net if required. After about 5 or so minutes you can get them back up and scale and gut them. It is very important you get the black lining off the stomach wall of the catch otherwise it will taint the fish and spoil it… this is why you never buy them from the fish shop as they have a dirty taste from not being cleaned properly. they have a beautiful flavour and one of my top fish to eat and if cleaned and boneless filleted put in lightly greased baking dish with a little fresh cracked salt/pepper and cooked for about 10 to 15 min at 150c to 180c yummo.
I hope this gives you enough to get into the art of blackfish, it’s a very rewarding style of fishing and at times requires a lot of thinking and float work as you are always trying something to get that great adrenaline pumping down. So what are you waiting for get down and get some weed and try it out armed with these basics you too can score some nice niggers…
Tight lines guys...... Steve……. Roosterman..