Trolling light gear around the Broken Bay area can be a lot of fun. You can catch bonito, striped tuna,Ê kingfish, salmon, frigate mackerel , mackerel tuna & tailorÊ at different stages of the year. This article will just be about trolling light gear in close for sport. A lot of fun can be had doing this & I have spent a lot of time doing this having a ball. I have had a few boring forgettable ones also but its all part of the fishing game.
This type of fishing calls for quality tackle with a good drag system & it needs to be in good condition. It does not have to be specializedÊ tackle for this type of fishing & all the gear I troll in close doubles as casting outfits as well. Remember this is not about targeting large fish such as Marlin & Yellowfin just little tunas & the like. I troll a variety of tackle depending on the season. I normally troll 3 outfits but at times I use 4. I use 2 overhead outfits both have Shimano Speedmaster 6 to 1 reels on them. One is spooled with 8 kilo line the other with 6 kilo. In addition to these I have a 3 threadline outfits one of which is spooled with 6 kilo line the other 2 are spooled with 3 kilo line. As I said these are not special trolling outfits & the rods I am using vary from 2 to 3 meters in length. Provided your gear is in good nick it will be OK for this fishing . If you intend to go out wider some quality game fishing tackle is worth the investment for sure. I use Berkley Fireline & Spiderwire Fusion on the gear I am using & find it works very well. Any quality standard mono will be fine as well I think its just a matter of what line you like using.
I use the same rig for this type of fishing as I do when I am casting lures at schools of surface fish. I wont repeat it all here as the information is on my page on Striped Tuna. The only difference between rigs is I fish my trolled lures on a 1 meter trace of 15 or 20 kilo mono & use a single straight stainless hook in a size to suit the lure when using Xmas trees. When I am using minnow lures or flies I tie them on using a loop knot . This improves the swimming action considerably & a little trick I use to do this is tie a uni knot but don't pull it down 100% tight leave a small loop. It will pull tight on a strike & you can free it up a bit & make another loop before you start trolling again.
There are many lures which are very suitable for trolling for these species & having a variety of types & colours is a good idea. Saltwater flies are VERY effective when trolling especially on Frigate Mackerel & Salmon. I use surface lures like Xmas trees, minnow lures & flies & there are many brands available & each brand has a different way of sizing lures so I will not be too specific so when buying use your own judgment. It pays to have a couple of each type in different sizes & colours. I like to have Xmas trees in small & medium sizes. A small Xmas tree to me is about 60mm in length & a medium about 90mm. I prefer Xmas trees made with a plastic head instead of metal but on windy days I use metal ones to keep the lines a bit straighter & prevent tangles when turning. With minnow lures I am a big fan of Rapala minnows in the CD series in size 7 to 11 & maybe a 14. I like the mackerel pattern in green & have had a lot of success with plain blue & orange as well. Any deep running minnow lure will work fine just have a couple of choices of size & colour. It is very important that minnow lures run straight & upright when trolling them. At the bottom of this article I will make a note about tuning them & I stress again it is VERY important. When I use flies I normally use my own home made ones but in colours look for flies that are predominantly white with a bit of flash in them. Some commercially made flies that are suitable are Deceivers , Surf candy & Clouser minnows. They come in a few brand names but I really like Felties Flies. They are readily available & reasonably priced. Get a couple sizes from around 25mm in length up to 50mm long. These lures will cover just about all situations & species.
There is normally a few fish available all year round but winter can be slow. From September to December the main species are Salmon , Kingfish & Striped & Mackerel Tuna. Bonito generally show up around late November is numbers & are about through to June. Frigate Mackerel turn up late January & are about till May. Tailor are available just about all year round. The seasons I have laid out are just to give you a general idea of which species you are likely to catch at what time of year & the amount of time that species is about for varies as well. I think that areas have resident populations of salmon, kings , bonito & tailor & that the numbers of them just increase when a non resident school arrives. The tunas & frigate mackerel are both seasonal & dependant on water temps , bait & vary in numbers a lot year to year. The bottom line is a bit of effort should score a fish just about all year round.
I have a few favorite areas that consistently produce & none of them are secret spots so be warned you will be sharing them unless you fish mid week. Barrenjoey is a great area to troll especially very early in the morning. I start from near the bommie on the northern side & generally troll about 50 meters out from the rocks right around the point & about halfway along it towards Palm Beach. Some prefer to troll very close to the rocks but I have never caught any more fish doing this than out a bit wider & if your motor is not reliable there is NO margin for error. Work through & along the edge of the white water. After that I troll down to the southern end of Palm Beach & again follow the rocks around to Whale beach. Please spare a thought for the rock hoppers & don't interfere with their fishing they have a hard enough time as it is. Give them a wide berth. Depending on the weather I often just keep trolling south along the headlands & if it is slow I head out a bit wider & troll over Reggies ground & out to Bolton's Reef. You are likely to get a hit in any of these areas & you just need to keep looking until you score. A bit of a tip on a run out tide is to troll the area about 500 meters offshore from Barrenjoey across to about the halfway point between Barrenjoey & Lion Island as fish are often in this area as the tide starts running out. Barrenjoey is normally a pretty good indicator & if you get an early start & get no hits around the Joey you could be in for a very slow day.
Tides & time of day play a big part in this shallow water fishing. When I am trolling around the headlands I like to start at first light as I find the fishing slows after the sun is up a bit. Some days it makes no difference but generally early is better than later. On tides I find a rising tide & full tide the best while the first of the run out also produces. On a lot of occasions particularly when the fish are slow you will get a burst of activity right on high tide & this will often be combined with schools feeding on the surface as well. This is just a rule of thumb & there are times when the fish change habits for a while, but to me a high tide around 7 am is what I generally look for & would be confident of scoring on these days.
Trolling successfully is not simply a matter of chucking a lure or 2 out the back & dragging them about for a while. This works when the fish are thick sure but mostly you will only get the odd fish. The 3 most important things when you are trolling are:
To set your boat speed right until you get used to the best speeds for different lures simply put your lure in the water alongside the boat & watch it as you increase speed. Lures like Xmas trees work best when they pop through the surface occasionally before going back under dragging a trail of bubbles with them. Minnow lures I like to troll at a speed where they have a very strong action but not popping through the surface. I think it pays to always check the action of minnow lures before starting out & after each fish as a good hit & the pressure from the fight can alter the action. Saltwater flies work at any speed from barely moving to 12 knots. A point to remember with flies is they will often just drag along the surface when you troll them short & a rubber band looped around the line & then around a stern cleat will keep the line low & the fly in the water. It will break on a strike no problems at all unless of course you are using a band that is built more like an octopus strap :-) A bit of judgment is needed here.
The distance you put your lures behind the boat needs to be staggered so the lines will not cross when you are turning plus minnow lures don't work well in water that is full of bubbles from your wash & will tend to pop out of the water. In my boat I set a minnow lure on my starboard side around 30 meters back & a Xmas tree on my port side around 20 meters back. When they are out I then run a saltwater fly down the centre about 15 meters back. This works well in my 4.5 meter centre console &Ê I often put a 4th line out at around ten meters. Set up like this you should always turn your boat to starboard (the side of the longest line) when you are maneuvering & the lines will not cross. Fish are attracted by the bubbles in your wake & will come very close. trimming your motor out a bit to make a bit more wash also helps. Lures trolled way back will get hit but no where near as often as the close ones. If the action is slow sometimes it is because the fish are a bit boat shy if there has been a lot of water traffic so it pays to drop one out long from time to time.
Action of minnow lures & fixing it will be covered last at the bottom of this page.
Setting the drag on the reel is something that there are many opinions on especially among game fisherman after marlin. This is simple trolling on simple tackle for small fish. My recommendation is set your drag so line runs off when you have a good bend in the rod then back it off slightly. You need enough pressure to set a hook but seeing that you HAVE nice SHARP hooks that you checked before you started fishing this doesn't need to be a lot to drive them in. You can always increase the pressure a bit during the fight if needed but its a bit late to back it offÊ if the line breaks on the strike.
Once you are set it is just a matter of covering some water waiting for a hit. There are no set patterns to it. If things are quite try changing lure colour & size & a little trick that works particularly well on bonito is too slow the boat almost to a stop then increase back to normal trolling pace. The fish will often strike as the lure picks up speed. I like to do long zig zags when I'm trolling as the different angles across the sea will vary the speed & action a bit. The more water you cover the better until you find fish. I look for signs of baitfish both on my sounder & by watching sea birds also. If I find a good school of bait on the sounder I will troll that area for a while. When I get a strike I will keep trolling that area for a while also.
There are different schools of thought on what you should do when a strike comes. Some say a quick burst of speed to set the hooks & others stop the boat immediately. I don't agree with either of these theories. Speeding up the boat does nothing except lose more line as your drag is set to release at a certain pressure & speed doesn't change that. Stopping the boat won't hurt but often can lose you an extra strike. I like to keep going for a few seconds at the same speed then slow the boat down to 2 or 3 knots until the fish is close to the boat. the reasons are that often you can get a second hookup on another fish from the same school & secondly it keeps your other lines out straight so you can clear the fish from them easily particularly if the closest lure has gone off. That's why I do anyhow but every one has their own ideas. Once the fish is hooked the rest is up to you. Not much else to say here but a couple little tricks that work when all else fails is try slow trolling alive yellowtail that has been hooked up through his top jaw with the reel either in free spool & thumbing the line or on threadline have the bail open & hold the line in front of the reel. You have your engine running as slow as possible & give the fish ten or so feet of line after the strike before hitting him. the strike will just feel like a hard bump. Another one that works is use a pilchard on ganged hooks & run a ball sinker right on to his nose & then slide a rubber squid down the trace so the ball sinker & the pillies head are covered by it. Just slow troll that like a lure with the reel in gear & it works a treat. That's about all from me except tuning minnow lures so get out there & have a go. trolling is a lot of fun.
To have success with minnow lures they must swim correctly. Most quality lures will swim correctly straight out of the box but a couple strikes or a change of hooks or rings can alter the action a lot. Test your lure beside & check it is swimming upright & has no tendency to veer off to one side. If it swims to one side it needs adjusting. It is simple to do & all you need is a small pair of pliers. Just use your pliers & get hold of the towing point or eye on the lure. If the lure wants to run to the right bend the eye SLIGHTLY to the right & test it again. Continue until you get it right but only make a small adjustment each time. Just remember to make it run straight you need to bend the eye toward the direction it wants to go. With some minnows you can actually alter the speed of the swimming action as well by bending the eye slightly upward to slow it down or downwards to speed it up. This is worth fiddling with but the movement must be a straight up & down movement or you will cause it to swim to one side again. Have a fiddle with minnow lures & try different actions it does make a difference.