An article by Ken Wong
Flanked by Pittwater Road to the east and Wakehurst Parkway to the west, Narrabeen Lakes is Sydney's northern beaches largest estuary system. It is located just behind the world famous surfing beach, North Narrabeen and here the heart of the lake, the entrance, pumps life daily into this compact system with each tide change. Narrabeen Lakes is a system that not only receives it's daily flush from the ocean, but is also is fed by four creeks. The lakes offers the novice and more experienced angler a variety of fishing opportunities and challenges.
Of the four estuary systems on the northern beaches, Narrabeen Lakes, Dee Why Lagoon, Curl Curl Lagoon, and Manly Lagoon, Narrabeen has the largest catchment area, which is 55 km2, and a waterway area of 2.2 km2. The lake has a spring tidal range of about 0.03 m compared to 1.32 m at the entrance. Estuary vegetation is sea grass and the meadows cover about 0.468 km sq of the lake and there is no commercial fishing activities allowed on the lake. Warringah Council has formed an Estuary Management Committee (EMC), which has completed assembling data and in 2000 commenced a study of the lake. The latest report on the Council Website is that an Estuary Management Study has been undertaken, but no results have been made public as of the time of this writing.
All types of angling can be practiced at Narrabeen Lakes. There are plenty of places for the shore-based angler to wade the shallows of the lake. These days I tend to get around on the lake in my tinny and having a depth sounder is handy for finding deeper holes, channels and weedbeds. The lake is not very deep overall, ranging from 0.5 meters to 5.5 meters. If you are intending to bring your tinny and you have a deep hull, make sure you hit it around high tide, as there are places you cannot get to without hitting the shallow sand banks. I have not seen many boats larger than four metres in the lake, so this may be some indication that larger vessels tend to find the lake a little restrictive and prefer to go to the larger waters of Pittwater or Sydney Harbour. I think any boat around three to four meters is ideal for the lake, any boat longer will need to take extra precaution and stick to the deeper parts of the lake. Canoes and kayaks are also ideal for the lake and these vessels can also access the upper reaches of the four creeks where not even the smallest tinny can venture.
Basically, like any estuary system, Narrabeen Lakes can be fished all year round, but seasonal variations for species and techniques need to be made. Typically, winter is more challenging than the warmer months and a lot of the fish seem to shut down then, but for the keen angler, there are still fish to be caught there. If you have fished ocean fed estuary systems before, you can use all the methods that you have used there, and you should be able to catch some fish at the lake. For the beginner though, I will outline some methods that have proved productive during the years I have been fishing the Lake.
- There is a sand ramp at Wakehurst Parkway at Middle Creek, you can launch you boat at the reserve there.
- Jamieson Park has a good concrete ramp and a sand ramp.
- Wakehurst Parkway at Bilarong Reserve has a dirt/sand ramp.
- Besides Lakeside Caravan Park there is a concrete ramp.
Jamieson Park Boat Ramp
Poddy mullet can be caught all over the lake. Bait traps placed around the shallows next to weed beds with bread will generally catch a few. Poddy mullet is probably the gun bait when drifting or throwing out baits for the sizable lizards that live in the lake, my PB lizard here is 70 cms, but there are plenty of plate size lizards, the larger lizards are the breeders and should be returned. I have seen guys pumping some of the flats, presumably for Yabbies, but I am not sure if they have been that productive.
Green weed for blackfish will also catch you some bream. The main green weed available is the cabbage type weed that can be found on most of the ocean rock platforms in the area.
If you prefer to buy some bait, the shops mentioned above should be able to help with everything you need.
For blackfish, the standard blackfish rig is recommended. 2 - 3 meters of 2 kg leader or straight through 2 kg line attached with a float using a swivel or float adjustable stopper, a standard blackfish float or pen type are the best. My kids have caught nice blackfish just using a wine cork as a float with a bit of bread. Adjust the float distance from the hook with the stopper or split shot sinker, start at around 1 - 2 meters. Use around 4 - 5 light split shot sinkers so you just have the float about 1 cm above the water and carefully watch for the "downs" which are the blackfish eating the bait. Blackfish are very subtle, and what may look like just the float bobbing up and down could very well be a "down".
Pilchards, whitebait, prawns, and just about anything else will help you catch fish here and light rigs will help you feel the fish when they take your bait. Bread is also a very good bait as well as burley, and will catch you blackfish, bream, mullet and Trevally.
The soft plastics are definitely the most productive lures all over the lake. The life like appearance and feel of the SPs are very versatile and can be trolled or cast. My favorite SPs are Squidgy fish in various sizes and in Gary Glitter (I just caught my first Jew in the lake on this one) or Gold for the lizards, and the Berkeley grubs or minnows for the bream. Chrome wobblers or similar type lures with plenty of action will get you amongst the tailor.
Hard bodied lures are not to be forgotten though and a variety of these should always be in the tackle box. The bibbed jigging action gives the HBs a distinct and life like shutter whereas SPs mainly rely on the action of the tail or the drop and rise of the rod to get the fish interested.
With lures, try changing colour, size and lures when things are not happening.
This would have to be my favorite form of fishing by far. Its something about the cast, the retrieve and hook up that only a flyrod brings that gives it a different buzz to bait fishing and spinning. A light rod is all that is needed in the lake, anything from a five weight to a seven weight will be enough. A floating line will generally be enough for fishing here, as the lake does not get very deep, just adjust your leader length if you need to get deeper. But, if you do get serious, have a floater and intermediate set up on separate rods.
For bream and mullet, the gun fly would have to be the simple bread fly. These are generally tied in either white deer hair or fibre. Have a few sinkers and floaters tied, use a floating line, burley up with bread and get ready for action. My favorite spot for this type of fishing is the channel at the caravan park and I have found that best time of day to fish the lake is right on dusk, with the tide almost on high tide and the wind is usually dead calm or very light at this time of day. At times, I have caught 20 plus fish here in just two hours with friends as the bream, mullet and blackfish come in for an evening snack. You can use this method for most spots mentioned here where bream and mullet are found. Clousers and shrimp patterns are reliable patterns to get you started and will catch flathead, tailor and bream.
The channel in front of the caravan park is a great spot for those fly fishers out there as you can practice your stream craft techniques with the line floating in the current and watching your fly drifting. A dropper fly will also give you an extra chance to catch more fish.
Fishing the Flats
There are some great flats around the Lake. The three most productive flats being; Pipeclay Point, Deep Creek entrance and around South Creek. There are also the flats around the caravan park and some of the foreshore areas, but for pure flats fishing where there is more than a football field of area ranging from 10 cms to a meter deep, then the three mentioned above would be my favorite spots. Pipeclay Point can be accessed from Jamieson Park and it is about a ten minute walk south to the point. Here you can fish the flats and wade out to the edge of the flats and fish the drop offs for flathead or bream. You can also sight fish when the conditions are right, or throw out some bread and burley up some mullet. The Deep Creek entrance is ideal as it has small channels leading into Deep Creek and at the falling tide you can sight small schools of bream scurrying around the flats. Cast towards the small channels or sight fish for bream for some exciting summer fun. South Creek has many weed beds and reeds that can be cast to for bream and flathead. The bottom is muddier here, so nice and easy does it when wading around. I was at this spot once last summer just before
a big storm and there were bream everywhere sipping the small insects that were landing on the water surface, pity I did not have my fly rod and some dry flies then.
There are four creeks that feed into the lake. Starting from the north end of the lake and heading south we have Mullet Creek, Deep Creek, Middle Creek and South Creek. All these creeks produce fish, and there are reports that bass and estuary perch can be caught there as well. Although I have tried on numerous occasions to catch bass and EPS in Deep Creek and Middle Creek, I unfortunately have to report that I have not succeeded yet, but reliable sources verify that both are there.
Lots of sizable bream and mullet reside here and there is the occasional flathead. Fishing Deep Creek or Middle Creek by small boat, canoe or kayak will give you more options to fish as land based angling is possible, but is more or less restricted to the reserve area due to the banks being heavily overgrown with reeds, trees and other vegetation. The entrance to both creeks are very shallow, but it is possible to enter Middle Creek at high tide in a small tinny if you choose the right channel, but it is virtually impossible to get a standard v-hull vessel into Deep Creek from the main part of the lake. Even at high tide I have had to either drag my flat bottom punt across the entrance flats or pole across using one of my oars. For canoe and kayak anglers, you can launch from the reserve. Once in the creeks, it is a great outing as a few hundred meters in and it seems that you are in some northern coast creek hundreds of kilometers away from the city, but it is only the occasional sound of cars passing over the bridge on the nearby road that brings you back to reality. Good spots to try here for flathead and bream are the entrances, bridge pillons, and numerous snags. Mullet reside here as well but are difficult to catch. As mentioned above, there are reports that bass and estuary perch can be caught here.
Mullet Creek is very shallow and is probably the least productive of the four creeks. It can be fished from the land or by canoe or kayak. Bream, mullet and flathead can be caught here.
Time and Tides
The best tides for fishing the lake depends on where you are going to fish. I have found the most productive tides have been the last hour of high tide to the second hour of the falling tide best for the channel at the caravan park. At this time, an eddy forms in the channel and you can throw out your burley with the current and watch it come back then go out to the Lake. If you are fly-fishing, this is the best time to fish this spot as you can fire off four to six casts following the burley as the fish take the bread from the surface. If the mullet or bream miss your fly on the surface there is a good chance you may hook onto a blackfish taking the burley that the surface fish are missing. My son has caught some very nice bream over thirty cms here casting a light rig with a float and bread and drifting it with the current.
In other places, the usual basics apply when fishing according to the tides. For the flats, the second half other falling tide is best as bait fish are drawn to the drop offs with the falling tide and the larger predators such as flathead wait for them.
Some very good fishing can be had at low tide by targeting the deeper areas of the lake. The weed beds are always an option during any tide, but best at early morning or late afternoon.
For estuary perch around the Woolworths bridge, the best times seem to be during the early morning or late afternoon and night.
Year Round Fishing
The table below is a guide to the different species of fish that can be caught in Narrabeen Lakes. Fishing is dependent on the seasons and the lake can be very challenging during the cooler months of Winter, but very good during Spring, Summer and Autumn. Not all the fish found in the lake can be included here due to space. For example, there are also flounder about the channel area and reports of school jewfish, which I now can verify are there!
The table below outlines the spots I frequent and the fish caught there. I have fished most of the Lake and have had some magic sessions there, and some sessions with nil returns, but each trip to the lake offers a new lesson. As for tackle, I would recommend that you go as light as possible, a two to three kg leader is about right for general fishing, whether it be bait or lure fishing. Light sinkers and probably a size 2 - 10 hook for the bait anglers. Again, rig up for your targeted species, there is always a good chance you will also catch some other species as well.
Narrabeen Lakes Guide
See the map on the top of the page for position of numbered locations below. A guide to the areas where to fish and the species (one symbol fair, two good, three very good)
|1. Lakeside Caravan park|
|2. Mullet Creek|
|3. Pittwater Road Weedbeds|
|4. Woolworths Bridge|
|5. The Alley|
|6. Robertson Road|
|7. Deep Hole|
|8. Wakehurst Parkway Billarong Reserve|
|9. Deep Creek|
|10. Middle Creek|
|11. Golf Course|
|12. South Creek|
|13. Pipeclay Point|
|14. Jamieson Park|
|15. Wheeler Park|
There are plenty of bream in the lake and they are great fun on light tackle or the fly rod. Larger fish up to 40 cms plus have been caught here.
A nice bream from Narrabeen lakes
Soft plastics will get you amongst the lizards
Typical reeds that line the banks of the lake. At high tide, these make good feeding grounds for most types of fish found in the lake.