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wazatherfisherman

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  1. Hi Mike thanks! Having fished from most of the harbour's 'good' wharves over the years, the only one that compared was the old Neilsen Park wharf. The zoo wharf was a fish attracting magnet, with all the bait, deep enough water and a great protected (except in southerlies!) location. Other fish of note caught there were good sized Groper and some of the biggest Trevally caught around Sydney. In Autumn, Frigates would also zoom by and in the good years for Slimy Mackerel, they would be there in plagues. Plenty of Garfish in early winter also. No doubt there would still be plenty of good fish cruising around it. I hope one day they allow fishing there again, it was such a good spot for younger fishers to get a chance of some quality fish
  2. When I was in my early teens, growing up in Sydney's Inner West gave my mates and I plenty of fishing options. A single bus ride would get us to the water at Drummoyne or Fivedock and two buses would get you to Abbotsford. All three locations sit next to the water on the Parramatta River and were easy access with quite a few fishing destinations within easy reach of young fishermen. Bream were readily available, in fact if you had live worms, you never missed out on a good bag. Whiting, Flathead, Luderick and Mullet were also there to be caught and were all caught on the worms, which we used to collect by turning over rocks on the lower tides. Green Nippers or "Pistol Prawns" were also found while scratching for worms and they are a fantastic bait, better than Pink Nippers I reckon, rarely hear of anyone using them these days. Both @Green Hornet and @Burleyguts shared great techniques they used to use for catching the nippers and no doubt there's still plenty around these days. Pollution wasn't really a thing that we were aware of in those days either, occasionally the mud would release an oily film and smell pretty bad, but any mangroves seem to smell bad on the lower tides- it's a natural occurrence. The exception was the Leatherjackets, caught from about Gladesville Bridge upwards, always looked dull and lacked the colours of their same species that were caught further down the Harbour, so they weren't targeted by us up the river. Fishing the river and it's bays was a pretty simple affair. A large sinker, bead, swivel and long trace was the rig for fishing either the strong tidally affected spots or the stiller waters of the bays, a size 2 hook would catch you all the above mentioned species and were ideal for the soft river worms that all the fish love so much. Unfortunately for us, "Defacing the Foreshores" rules were adopted by several riverside councils and they outlawed the turning over of rocks and digging of worms, so the traditional (and free!) river bait was no longer an option. Of course you could buy worms from the bait shop, but there were a few problems with that. Firstly, the bait shop was the other side of the fishing spots and really necessitated a separate trip by a different bus. Secondly, you then had to base your trip around the bait shop hours and different bus and thirdly and most importantly when you're a kid- live worms were 40c each, which was too expensive when you only got $2 a week pocket money. So, sadly, the river became less of an option and we had to look further afield. The lower harbour had plenty of options, Balmain, Pyrmont, Walsh Bay, under the Harbour Bridge, Bennelong, Lady Macquarrie's Chair, the Opera House (yep, we fished there plenty of times, casting out to the channel right opposite Kirribilli house) Farm Cove (nobody stopped you fishing there either and the "1st gate" was the Harbour's best Leatherjacket spot) and Elizabeth Bay could all be reached by train then walking and it was only 10c for a return ticket to the city. If you were 'cashed-up' and could outlay the 25c for a "child excursion" ticket- which gave unlimited train, bus and ferry travel each day- plenty more locations opened up. All the lower harbour ferry wharves were great spots, as was the Bradleys Head to Clifton Gardens stretch of Sydney Harbour National Park, but the standout location was the old Taronga Park Wharf, located in Athol Bay. The first ferry to the zoo from Circular Quay was 6.10am every morning, except Sunday (9am) and it got you there early enough for the 'morning' species like Tailor, as the sun had to rise over the top of the long peninsula that is Bradleys Head. Due to there being a souvenir shop on the wharf, it was locked each night at 7.45pm after the last ferry for the night left at 7.15pm and not reopened until 6am, thus preventing overnight stays; much as we pleaded, the old security guard who locked the wharf each night could never be swayed to let us stay and plenty of times we had to make the long walk to Clifton Gardens to continue our night's fishing trip. Walking up the traffic-less, dark and quiet road, past the zoo's lower side always gave that sense of excitement and a little nervousness. As we slowly trudged up the big hill, talk always went to the "what if's" - like "what would you do if a lion suddenly jumped the fence?" or "would you climb a tree or jump over the edge?" "what about a bear?"- that sort of banter and all the noises made by the unseen animals in the darkness on the other side of the zoo's fence, kept us on our toes for the whole half hour walk, until 'civilization' past the top of the zoo was reached. It took plenty of trips to finally realise, that the old security guard was never going to let us stay on the wharf overnight, and the hope that he'd be off and his replacement on the nights we'd planned, might be more sympathetic faded also. So only day trips became the norm, as walking all the way up to Military Road for the only alternative way home was just too far- even for young legs. I can only remember walking it once and that was because one of the guys got spiked by a Catfish and was in agony, so we did the huge walk to the only available bus back to the city, then train back home. It was a great place to go for a fish, with the ferry only coming in to interrupt fishing every half an hour and then usually only on the western side of the wharf. The offloaded passengers filed off pretty quickly towards the waiting buses and the returning passengers boarded quickly also, leaving all quiet again after just a few minutes. Plenty of different species were on offer from the old zoo wharf and it was always one of the Harbour's greatest fishing spots. There were four different spots to fish for Luderick, plenty of pylons to attract Leatherjackets and allow John Dory to "sneak attack" their prey, a predominantly sand bottom on the eastern side held Flathead and Tailor, Squid galore on the western side, Bream and Trevally lurked under the floating section of the wharf and there were abundant Yellowtail schools, which in turn attracted whatever visiting pelagic species were cruising the lower harbour. Hairtail also turned up at times, but with a limited window of opportunity after dark before the wharf being locked, you'd only ever get one or two before having to go. The greatest part about going to "The Wharf" as we all called it- was you only needed a ball of mince to go fishing for the day and back in the 70's, 20c worth of mince had you set for the day. Hamburger mince has always been the "supreme" Yellowtail bait for wharf fishing, not the superfine variety, plain old coarse type, as long as it wasn't all fatty, it was the best and a big blob could also get you a Bream. The mince was converted into Yellowtail, which were fished for 'straight down', due to the abundance of chopper Tailor in those days. If you cast your Yellowtail line outwards from the wharf, more often than not a pesky chopper would snavel it and often bite you off. The Yellowtail were then used either live, filleted or cut into cutlets, depending on the species you were after. Burley wasn't necessary as the mince particles became their own attractant. So for as little as 40 cents, you could go fishing for the day and expect to catch a couple of decent fish. Bottom set live Yellowtail would always produce a couple of good fish for we "jetty jockey's", mostly decent sized Flathead and a better class of Tailor to the surface marauding ones, who menaced the Yellowtail schools at will. In winter, John Dory were always lurking around and once we worked out how to catch them, they became the ultimate prize. Occasional visits by Bonito, the rare (in those days) Salmon and larger Kingfish, kept hopes high of something big. Fillets of Yellowtail also produced some great fish. If you fished an unweighted fillet, Tailor of varying size were the usual culprits to attack, but if your bait made the bottom, then Flathead, Bream and some really big Silver Trevally were landed. Cutlet baits produced mainly Bream and Trevally. Another great part of fishing the wharf was the camaraderie between all the regular fishers. Plenty of times someone would turn up without any bait or run out of hooks etc and everyone would give 'donations' to get them back in the game. Someone would call "donations needed" and whatever was needed was usually produced. The most common need were Yellowtail hooks, as they formed the basis of most people's trips, so plenty of good old size 14 longshanks were carried by all the wharf gang. Didn't matter what nationality or heritage anyone had, we were all fishermen and thus brothers, going fishing to the wharf each week was always a great social day out. Amongst the regulars, there were some real characters; Drew who rarely seemed to put his line in the water, he'd rather walk around talking to everyone instead. Spiro would come down after going to church and pull a handline from one suit pocket and a plastic bag for his fish from his other pocket- never a less likely attired fisherman would you see. Another guy, who was Japanese and could only manage a few words of English at best, was known by all as "Happy Jap" as he was always laughing as he fished for Yellowtail, of which he caught plenty on his very clever and unusual rig- it was a paternoster rig, but instead of a sinker on the bottom, he had one of those tea-leaf infusion balls, which he'd squeeze open and fill with a home-made burley concoction, that sat below his 3 hooks. He often got 3 at a time, long before the advent of bait jigs. Another character was Abby, known by the Luderick community as "the king of Sydney Harbour", he was a fixture on the narrow, freezing southern back-side of the wharf throughout winter and the best Luderick fisherman I've ever met. I spent plenty of time watching him and asking him questions about Luderick, he always answered with great explanations as to the why's and why not's of the art and instrumental in me becoming more interested in fishing for them myself. He caught that many fish that he brought a "net man" - Irish George, who made the burley, netted Abby's fish and made their "Irish coffee", which I suspected was more Whisky than coffee. Practical jokes were often played and one that comes to mind was played out plenty of times with the unsuspecting zoo visitors. After watching the movie "Jaws" one of the guys started bringing a bit of rope with a piece of chain and huge 10 inch shark hook attached. A massive bait of anything from a chicken to a whole fish was put on and the whole lot suspended under a small buoy. The line would be pulled in each time a ferry arrived and we'd all try to look stone faced and just nod to each other. Might sound corny but we got tons of bites from tourists and it was all part of the fun. Over the years, there were plenty of others who came and fished the wharf and it was always a place you could go and see a friendly face and find someone to fish alongside, never any dramas at the wharf. Such a shame that due to the actions of a few messy/lazy fishers that the spot was eventually deemed off limits to fishers, as I understand it, both the constant mess left behind including fishing line that caused more than one bad tripping-over injury to the public were to blame. It was such a great and safe place for young fishers and a spot that produced heaps of great fish
  3. Hi Sardine the best Bream handlines used to be the old cork cylinders because you could put a bit of water in a bait bucket and just leave them in there, when you got a bite (if you weren't hanging onto it that is) the cork could turn with relatively little pressure and more importantly next to no noise if it flew out of the bucket. I'm still kicking myself for using the last lot of those corks to make big bobby corks and probably only have one left in storage. There must be stacks of them tucked away in sheds and old tackle creels as they were the go-to handline before the plastic 'hand-casters' came on the market. Also the other real good part of the gut is the 'onion' which is the fleshy white part (looks like an onion heart) which stays on really well and the fish love it. Good luck! Handline fishing is a dying art these days, but VERY effective- just ask Yowie!
  4. Hi Sardine if you want to give handline fishing a go, the best lines to look for are the 'dullest' ones, which translates to not as highly polished and shiny. Reason for this is they are easier to hang onto when your hands get slimy (especially when using gut) and they won't cut into your fingers like the super slick variety of high-polished lines. In the past it was very hard to go past Weiss Perlon (like nylon) as Weiss made a "2nd grade" which was basically the same line as "1st grade" but hadn't been polished (which produces both a slicker surface and complete uniformity of diameter) very much. It was really dull and almost rough to feel, but fantastic to hang onto. Also when you consider breaking strain, the thin mono's, although attracting more bites are more destructive to your hands and will easily cut into finger joints, so if lighter line is necessary for the bite, then add a swivel and lighter trace. Today's mono's that are more suitable would be some of the cheaper brands, including some of the real cheap mono available from big chains. Just look for 'dullness', a bit of stretch is OK also. Of the better brands, Tortue, Schneider and the old Fisherman brand are all good. Last few times I fished for Flathead outside I used an old 35lb "2nd grade" handline and absolutely loved it for feel. If you use Luderick gut for bait, when their intestines are chock-a-block full of weed/cabbage is when it makes the best bait- my rock fishing 'mentor' Wally used to consistently catch some genuinely massive Snapper using it fishing a 45lb handline and it was his preferred bait for them.
  5. Hi psycho sardine- sadly I never personally landed one at Yamba, had a couple on but didn't have the right gear bar a 50lb handline and only got a really big black stingray in on that. We did have another trip planned but it never ended up happening due to the river flooding Did see 2 beauties caught at the 'T Piece' by locals, but we were only watching as we didn't take the gear for doing that sort of fishing. On the right nights, during the Mullet run, stacks of big ones get caught there on the south wall and I have friends that occasionally go to Iluka on the other side of the river and they get some beauties off the wall, especially when the water is filthy from a big rain event. Bill Brown the next caravan neighbour got one before we arrived and he lost another one while purposely chasing them. He was a top fisherman and said the bait to use is obviously whatever is migrating at the time, in his case a Luderick 'front half' of a good sized fish. They fish the baits in really close to the wall and under a cork on the slack tide (which is never very long on the big river)- when the Mullet are running you just keep your bait on the outside of the Mullet mass about 6ft deep. I can only pass this info on as it was told to me by the 'right' fisho's- so sadly no Mulloway story of my own from Yamba
  6. Thanks Rebel glad you liked it!
  7. Hi Pete a lot of guys that were fishing Yamba were from inland country towns and the fish they caught on those annual trips lasted them for ages. We had no real idea of conservation of fish stocks, no bag limits and definitely no possession limits in those days. I know all the fish we caught were eaten pretty quickly by family, friends and relatives. The numbers of fish I witnessed at Yamba was just mind-blowing for someone who lives in Sydney and we weren't even there during 'Bream time' of May. What was more concerning was the next year I was there and the beach haulers were getting them before they even got into the river, although it's always been a 'pet hate' of mine there was nothing wrong with them doing that, other than the piles of fish just left on the sand after every available box had been filled and the fishermen had left, which was really sad to see.
  8. After a few successful Luderick sessions fishing Yamba's famous middle wall, we decided to give the Bream fishing a go. Based on the amount of guys hanging around the cleaning tables scrounging anyone's unwanted Luderick gut, there must have been some Bream around, but different to the Luderick mob, they seemed to be a secretive lot these Bream fishers, as not once in quite a few days had we seen anyone cleaning any Bream at all. Still, the 'word' getting around the caravan park was that 'they' were getting some good ones of a night. From reading an article on how the wall was commonly fished for Bream, we knew that the most favoured method was to fish the usual 'ball on the hook' rig and cast forward of your boat as you drifted the wall. This rig is very familiar to anyone who fishes the Sydney rock scene, as it's used almost exclusively to catch all manner of species, so we were well versed with the feel of a lightly weighted bait moving in the flow. Bait for the Bream should have been the obvious choice of Luderick gut, however we'd given all ours away each day and didn't have a bit to try without going for another Luderick session. We did have a Striped Tuna, a Bonito and a few Pilchards that we'd brought frozen, to which we added some local prawns and a few live worms from the tackle shop. Burley wasn't really a thing of consideration, due to the constantly moving boat and never being in the same spot for more than a few seconds each drift down the 2km long wall. As 'they' had been getting the Bream of a night, we had a lazy day and prepared everything we thought we'd need for a night session. When fishing in a small 'sit-down' sized boat, both the gear you decide on and placement of said gear is really important, as you just don't have much room and only necessary items are included on board. First items put in were of course our two 7ft spin rods with Shakespeare 2410 spin reels loaded with six and a half pound Tortue mono, these outfits were our go-to set ups for Bream fishing around Sydney from a boat. Next in were a 10lb and a 15lb handline each, small tackle box, torches, a lifejacket each to sit on, the bait and a large fish box for the catch. We had an early dinner and headed off about an hour before it got dark, making our way out to the northern side of the wall via one of the two purpose-made breaks in the old stone wall. The wall itself is pretty narrow and only just above the waterline during the highest of tides. You can get out of the boat and fish from the wall itself if you like, but it's far more comfortable to stay in the boat, as much of the wall is made up of smaller stones up top and footing isn't that good- especially after dark, besides, keeping moving was the technique with the lightly weighted bait. As we approached the lower section of the wall towards the ocean end, there were two other boats both employing the same cast forward of the boat technique as we were going to try, but the water flow during the last part of the outgoing tide was making them really fly along and it became obvious to us, without even putting a bait in, that it wasn't the place to be on this tide. The boat furthest down started up and cruised over close to us, offering the advice that it was "too quick, you're better off going up closer to the island- where the wall joins the land"- good and friendly advice, so back up the wall before darkness descended. After travelling back up the wall until we got to the second break, which isn't too far down from the uninhabited Freeburn Island and the end of the southern side of the wall, we decided to go back on the inside to get out of the strong tidal flow. In my previous post I said that the majority of Luderick stay on the northern side of the wall, in the main part of the river, however, their access to the spawning destination of Wooloweyah Lagoon is via the Oyster Channel- which is like a large creek-is only possible if the fish come through the break and travel across, bringing them close to where the wall meets the island. We hoped the Bream would also follow this type of upriver route and there'd at least be some up in the out-of-current corner of island and wall. The old fishing article which inspired the trip in the first place, had a couple of hand drawn, simple maps, like the ones you see in some boating/fishing magazines. These were the type of maps that used a circled symbol to illustrate where species were likely to be found and our map had both a circled "BL" and "BR" indicating both Blackfish (as they were called before Luderick) and Bream found in the very corner we were heading to. We found out later that the spot is known locally as "learners corner" and is where many novice Luderick fishers go to try their luck in the less flowing waters of the corner. On our map there was also a marking denoting 'old coal wharf', but all that was left of it that we could see were a few pylons and a couple of large beams on water level; still it looked a likely spot for Bream and time was against us scouting around anywhere else, so we anchored up, using an anchor each end. As we were now out of the main tidal flow, we started fishing with the rigs we already had on our rods- small ball sinker about the size of a pea running freely between swivel and 1/0 suicide hook, on about a 45cm leader. In the days before new leader materials were invented, it was common practice to just use your main line as leader also, especially when fishing lighter lines, so our 'leader' was initially just a piece of our 6lb line. In the event of a snag or break-off, generally you only lose your hook (and sinker of course) and at worst add 45cm of line and very occasionally your swivel. Baits on and cast parallel to the wall, we waited for the first bites. There's a decent sized eddy up in the corner of the wall and there were heaps of good sized Mullet milling around on the surface, swirling tails and some noisy splashes as every now and then they were spooked by something big. Straight away we suspected a big Mulloway- the whole area is famous for both the number and size of it's Mulloway population- but when you're sitting in a small boat, only really able to stand safely to stretch your legs, the last thing you do is stand up to have a look. A few splashes in quick succession and then the unmistakable "chomp" noise of whatever the large unseen fish was, as it launched into the tightly packed Mullet school and probably grabbed a victim. I say probably because after that "chomp" everything went quiet and the Mullet although still milling around, certainly stopped their flighty splashing, so predator fed and gone. We suspected that the big fish had spooked everything, but decided to wait until the tide started to flow back in before calling it a night, at this stage we hadn't lost a bait. As the tides were really big near the approaching full moon, it wasn't too long before there was water movement again, but still no bites, so we decided to use the old fisherman's trick of getting out our only food for the trip- a single sandwich each. Over the years it's never ceased to amaze me how often, when things have been really quiet, has the sandwich 'trick' worked and action has happened before you manage to finish whatever it is you've started eating. Don't know if it should be called "Murphy's Law" as that applies to things going wrong and action when fishing is pretty much the opposite. Whatever it is, I'm sure it happens to all fishers at some time or other and once again it happened- before the sandwich was even half eaten the bites came. We landed a few of nice fish in the pound and a quarter- pound and a half range, but were busted off plenty of times by good fish that we couldn't stop with the 6lb line, they just headed straight into the wall and cut us off on the oysters- I should have mentioned that the majority of the wall in encrusted with oysters and not a friendly environment for anyone thinking 'sports-fishing'. The next approach was to go to the handlines and we both opted for the 15lb as we needed to stop the fish making it back into the wall and freedom, besides, the other handlines were only 10lb- good for quieter fishing and fish biting timidly, but a bit thin for the heavy handed approach that presented itself. The heavy handlines did the trick and we started getting virtually every fish that ran off with the bait. I've actually always loved handline fishing, probably a legacy of childhood, fishing out of the family boat on Lake Illawarra. You can simply feed the line to the fish with them feeling next to nothing and Bream lend themselves perfectly to this style of fishing. A few of these Bream were getting close to the magic 3lb mark and they pull like mad on the handlines without a rod to cushion the fish's lunges. As the tide got stronger, so did the bite and we were putting plenty in the box- no bag limits in those days. Then suddenly the Mullet in the corner went showering everywhere, the big 'thing' was obviously back again. Bream bites stopped and only the sound of the spooked fish splashing nervously on the surface could be heard. As happened earlier the "chomp" sound again and all quiet. This time it seemed like everything had taken fright, not another bite for over half an hour, but as happened earlier, all of a sudden the Bream were back and we started getting them again. After not having fished with handlines for a long time, other than for John Dory in Sydney Harbour, both of us were getting our hands cut and roughed up, add to this we'd both been spiked plenty of times by fish fins and we came to the conclusion we'd need a day or two off fishing to give our hands a break, so we may as well catch plenty of fish this night and then have a couple of nights off, regardless of how good the fishing was. Towards the top of the tide, a cold breeze started blowing from the east, changing the position of the little boat considerably and we had to throw our handlines towards the beams of the old coal wharf, which was slightly shallower water. There were beams hidden under the water also and we got snagged on them a few times, it seemed the little ball sinkers were rolling into the timber and getting stuck, so we ended up changing to just a hook and a small piece of pinched-on sheet lead for weight. This rig worked out really well, if we did get a snag, we could just leave it there and a fish would come along and take it off the beam anyway. When the box was nearly full of fish, the big predator came back and spooked everything again, but this time revealing itself to us- it was a big dolphin and it seemed to be able to come and take a fish with ease, whenever it wanted to. The air being expelled from the dolphin's blow-hole actually frightened hell out of me when it surfaced really close to the back of the boat, as I had my back turned to it and the rest of the river was almost silent barring the Mullet some 15 yards away from us. Always a bit disconcerting when something big surfaces close to a small boat in the dark. We decided to stay until dawn, as cleaning a heap of fish in the darker area of the caravan park cleaning tables wasn't appealing. As it began to get light and we could see down into the water, the Bream were clearly visible milling around in their hundreds, a sight I'll never forget. Before we left, the dolphin came back yet again and we were able to see it in the early morning light, it was massive, still the biggest one either of us has ever seen up close, that of course signalled time to go and we made our way slowly back to the van park. On arrival back at the cleaning tables, the task of gutting and scaling a full box of Bream looked pretty tiresome indeed, however as luck would have it, a couple of the early morning walkers, who were non-fishing retirees offered to lend a hand for a couple of fish each- great! When the job was done, we gave the two helpers half a dozen each and they were more than happy and offered to help us clean any more we got during the rest of the week. After a few days off from fishing we took our new mate Paul T from the RSL out for a Bream session and it was pretty much a repeat of the first night, except we didn't go out quite as early, same spot, same huge school of Bream there on light in the morning and same two helpers to clean all the fish. While at the cleaning tables, we got chatting to plenty more fishers and were happy to tell anyone interested where to go and try for the Bream. Two blokes asked us why we hadn't had a go for the Flathead that were also around in numbers, but a bit further up the river near Maclean, however after revealing the size of our little boat, they said it was probably too far to go by water. They'd been getting big bags of good sized Flathead using Whitebait and "yo-yoing" and interestingly, the big schools of Flatties only moved around 100-200 yards each day. These guys were also retirees from Walgett and they said they did the same trip every year, but their focus was on the Flathead. So if estuary species like Luderick, Bream and Flathead are on your list of fish to chase, you would find it hard to beat a fishing holiday at Yamba and that's without mentioning the Mulloway there either!
  9. I love watching the Olympics, a time to see sports you've never seen and cheer for Aussies. We're always a chance of winning in whatever we're in I always think. Couldn't come at a better time for us in lock down either
  10. Hi Stu that's the greatest feedback I've had mate! We didn't have a car as kids (or a dad!) and Mum took us all over the place by train too. Never got to Yamba with Mum but as a keen fisher she'd of loved it, she's a bit frail now at 90 to go. Great thing to aim for to fulfil your Dad's wish of fishing the middle wall- you'll love it, it's a fish attracting 'magnet'
  11. Reading fishing magazines is something many of us do. From the articles within, often, there'll be one or two that really get our interest. Sometimes they have an influence on our fishing by seeding us with techniques and ideas that look so good we just have to try them. Articles on locations too, lay the same seeds, leaving spots that go onto our "bucket-list" of places to go to, of course with fishing these spots being the goal. After reading one such article in the old "Anglers Digest" magazine about fishing Yamba's famous Middle Wall, it was on my bucket list of places to go and fish. Might not seem like a typical bucket-list location, with no huge fish, speedsters or tropical water, however as a keen Luderick fisherman, it is one of the places you just have to get to over your Luderick fishing lifetime. Reason? Being NSW's largest and most powerful saltwater river, the Clarence (known as 'the big river' up north) sees huge migrations of spawning fish move through the lower part of the estuary during Autumn and Winter. The Bream run comes during May, followed by the Luderick in June and most years there are thousands of fish moving into the lower part of the river on their way to their spawning destination of Wooloweyah Lagoon. The fish congregate along the beaches and rocks just outside the river entrance and large schools are seen sitting close in to the shore, waiting for whatever their internal trigger is to get them on the move inside. Once inside the river mouth, the majority head for the middle wall, which is a narrow old stone wall that sits out in the middle of the river and is only just above the waterline when the tides are at their largest. The wall stretches out from the uninhabited Freeburn Island on it's upriver side to about 300 meters out off the back-inside of the river's southern break-wall, a distance of around 2km and is only accessible by boat. After schooling all along the middle wall, the fish then head through one of two purpose-made breaks in the wall (broken for boat traffic accessibility) and head via either Romiaka Channel or Oyster Channel up to the lagoon to do their thing and spawn. The interesting thing is that the fish only sit on the northern side of the wall in big numbers, until they get well along it, fishing for Luderick in particular would be pretty much a waste of time on the southern side lower section. So with this information in mind, Frank T and I borrowed a 12ft car topper aluminium boat with a 6hp Johnson outboard and the basic safety gear- you weren't required to carry that much in the early eighties if you were fishing inside- and planned a trip to coincide with the June spawning run of the Luderick. From what was in the article from the magazine, the best time was from new moon up until a day or two before the full moon, provided that the moon was full near the end of the month- a later moon would have meant going in July to be "certain" the fish would be running. In years of high rainfall/floods, this is a variable condition. OK, boat sorted and accommodation booked in at the Blue Dolphin Caravan Park, where we booked the last on-site van that was available- which was a bit of a shock, considering it wasn't school holidays and the middle of a cold winter. Fishing tackle was 2 x 12ft Luderick rods- the trusty Butterworth GP3145's and 2 x 'back-up' rods- Shakespeare 10ft Luderick specials, these were to be fitted with Avon Golden Eagle centrepins with Alvey side-cast Luderick reels as spares. A light spin rod each with small spin reels from Shakespeare- which were close to top of the range reels back in the late 70's early 80's (Blue Series 2410's)- a few hand-lines and a net with screw on head and interchangeable gaff head. We had plenty of Luderick and Bream gear and I took my entire float collection as we weren't sure exactly what floats we'd be using. Gear sorted and packed in 50 litre boxes. Bait was also an unknown factor for us, so we spent a couple of days sourcing weed from both the Parramatta River and off the ocean rocks and grabbed both ocean cabbage and also some big sheets of the soft river cabbage for variety. We'd read about the 'black magic' weed that was revered up the north coast, but as it's mainly found in either sugar cane drains or agricultural ponds locally, we thought we'd get some up there if our offerings failed to produce. We left Sydney on a Sunday night, drove most of the night and arrived at the van park early in the morning. The van we got was a 6 berth and came complete with annexe. After unpacking and taking the boat off the roof, we went for a wander around the park and down to the park's wharf and cleaning table area for a look. Great facilities, with a large stainless steel cleaning table complete with about 4 taps and a 'pontoon' barge to put all the waste on, we found out later that this pontoon was taken out and emptied a couple of times every day. As we were pretty tired from travel and were there for ten days, instead of going fishing we went up to have a look at the town, grab some groceries and also check out the coast and river mouth. Wow! From up high above the water, you could see dense schools of fish just milling around off the beach and they were all Luderick! A quick drop in at the tackle shop also revealed fresh 'black magic' weed for sale but no green weed anywhere locally- it had all been picked by fishers. We then went to the obvious other good source of info- the pub and got an early counter lunch, a beer and a chat with some friendly locals. The walls were all producing good numbers of fish, but the middle wall was always the standout, as long as there was water movement, the fish were biting, regardless of which tide it was. By the time we'd got back to the van mid afternoon, our next door neighbours were back from fishing and these two blokes were revered as "the best of the best" Luderick fishers. Bill Brown and his mate Bob (they were mistakenly known as the Brown brothers) hailed from Swansea and had fished the middle wall every year for the spawning run for as long as they could remember. They were top blokes and invited us over for a cuppa straight away and answered question after question from us as to what the go was. In our mid twenties, we were by far the youngest blokes there it seemed and quickly became known as "the young blokes". There were no bag limits in those days and they had caught their 'usual lot' of 2 keepnets full of fish, which they did most days. In fact it seemed everyone fishing the wall was getting plenty of fish and they told us the pulse spot was right at the ocean end to the wall. They told us to get up early for a good spot, but you could catch fish virtually anywhere along the northern side. Hopes were high and we rigged everything up before launching the boat and hiring a mooring berth from the park, which enabled us to be fully ready for the morning, including making 2 big buckets of burley. We then decided to go to the RSL for dinner and a few beers, but ended up winning a jackpot on the pokies and having more beers than we should have and overslept by a couple of hours, hitting the water at gentleman's hour of about 8am. From the park's mooring berths to the wall is only about a 15 minute run around the outside of Dart Island and excitement levels were high as we approached the wall break we were told to go through in the boat. Once through and on the northern side of the wall, we started the run up towards the ocean end where the Brown's had told us to head, but couldn't believe our eyes, regardless that the wall was about 2km long, after we'd travelled about a quarter of the way to the entrance, it was obvious that every position was occupied. There was a boat moored up, nose in to the wall, about every 20-30 meters, the entire length! I had no idea there were that many Luderick fishers in NSW and they must have all been here! Literally hundreds of small boats, many with someone hooked up to a fish, were stationed along the middle wall. We decided to go all the way to the end for a look, but there wasn't one spot we could sneak into. The Browns were in their usual spot, right at the end adjacent a small "island" that looked like the last bit of wall had collapsed, leaving it standing alone. There were 4 blokes out of their boat and fishing from this separated section and there were bulging keepnets everywhere. We waved to them and then went right back up river to where the line of boats finished and we anchored up. The tide was going out and the river fairly swift, so the anchoring technique was to drop your back anchor well back and out in the river and then shoot straight in to the wall and drop your front anchor virtually on the wall. The boat is moored cross current with the nose only out about 2-3 meters from the wall, which drops off quite sharply. We took a couple of goes to get the boat where we wanted it, before finally getting a line in the water. Fishing our nicest looking weed at a depth of about 10 feet, we each got a fish first drift, before the burley had much of a chance to do anything- there were heaps of fish and they were great sized, straight in from the ocean, big bronzed mouth fish, great fun on our 6lb lines. Netting them while sitting down in the small boat was more of a challenge though and it became pretty apparent that using our normal style of fixed float wasn't going to work very well. As we'd had a look at the Brown's floats on their still rigged rods, we'd taken a selection of similar ones out in the boat and left the rest back in the van, including all the running floats heavy enough for the conditions, so we had to make do that first day, but still got about 30 good fish before deciding we'd head in. We bled the fish and put them back in the keepnets to swim the blood out and then headed in. On arrival back at the mooring, we left the gear in the boat and just grabbed knives and scalers and a box to put the fish in, but had to line up to use the cleaning tables, as there were stacks of people with big catches of Luderick. We ended up having to wait about a half hour, just to get a spot to clean the fish and the 'fish pontoon' was piled high with frames. Interestingly, there wasn't one bit of Luderick gut there to be seen and the reason was soon revealed- there were a heap of blokes lurking around with containers and more than once we were asked did we want the gut from our fish. The gut is really highly prized as Bream bait and many of the non-Luderick fishers were there every day trying to scrounge whatever gut they could get. When we finally finished cleaning our fish, we took them to the park office as instructed and were allocated a spot in the freezer room to keep them. That room had boxes and containers everywhere, fish in whole or filleted form by the hundred, apparently we'd picked both a great year and prime time of the season to come. After showering and washing down the gear (they had told us not to leave anything valuable in the boat due to thieves sneaking over from the opposite side of the river at Iluka) we popped in to the Browns van next door. They gave us heaps for sleeping in and said if we wanted a great possie we'd have to be out there while it was dark and we decided that the next morning we'd be out there early. We had to put some float runners on some our normal fixed floats to make running floats out of them, then back to the club for another feed (no pokie jackpot this time) a few beers and a couple of games of snooker and then the 20 minute walk back to the van to prepare for the morning. Next morning we left as soon as it was light enough to see, but couldn't get in close to the front as there were already about 10 boats anchored up. This wasn't a big problem though as the fish were really thick down the ocean end and they were biting their heads off. They loved our Parramatta weed and we got about 40 fish and were back at the cleaning tables before lunch. Before leaving Sydney, one of our mates had told us he had a mate now living in Yamba and he'd love to get out to the middle wall for a fish, but hadn't got back to us with his details before we'd left. We again went to the RSL for lunch and were sitting in the Snooker room having a pre-lunch beer and there was a young bloke (younger than us) there having lunch with a girl. Frank and the girl both left the room at the same time and I started chatting with the young guy about the town, just usual banter and then thought I'd ask him if he knew the guy I was looking for. When I asked him if he knew Paul T he started laughing and said "yep, that's me" I nearly fell over, imagine the odds of that! He was actually working at the club and he and the young lady were both on lunch, and we made plans to take him fishing later in the week. Next morning another good bag of fish caught quickly saw us back in even earlier, which was great, as the cleaning table queue got ridiculous later in the day, it really did seem like every retired Luderick fisherman from anywhere all converged on Yamba at the end of June. The one thing that was in short supply was decent weed, as the local black magic wasn't working (usually it's the best they told us) and we saw frozen green weed being sold- which was a first for me. We had brought plenty of bait from Sydney though and could give a little to some of the older blokes who were searching for it. The Brown's didn't use weed, they used the soft sheet cabbage from Lake Macquarrie and had a few sacks of it submerged on their mooring. This cabbage intrigued us because it was so soft we wondered how it stayed on, but they showed us and it was great to learn a new technique that worked so well. The fish had just come in from outside and cabbage their 'everyday food' After the first 3 Luderick trips we'd caught our target of 100 fish and we still had nearly a week left, so we thought we might give the Bream a go instead, but that's another story in itself and we caught heaps more Bream than Luderick. Other than learning a lot of invaluable information and new techniques, much of the time that we weren't out fishing was spent either at the pub or club and it was a great trip. We did end up with about 120 Luderick to bring back, but as we stayed with friends at Crescent Head and then Stockton on the way back, we left a few dozen with them. We returned the next year and had a great time again, if you enjoy caravan-type holidays and Luderick and Bream fishing, give Yamba a go
  12. My number 1 will always be John Dory, in my opinion, fresh caught, they have no equal if crumbed mmm! 2 Mangrove Jack 3 Coral Trout 4 Flathead tie with KG Whiting 5 Any fish cooked on the BBQ- in random order Kingfish, Hairtail, Luderick, Pigs, Gars I also love fresh caught Tailor cooked after the sausages (in sausage fat!) try that if you get a chance!
  13. Hi Jim I also feel for the younger generation as there aren't many places to camp around Sydney any more, especially accessible by public transport. A "child excursion" ticket was all you needed to get anywhere and they were 30 cents return from memory. They used to close all the camp sites I mentioned on a rotating basis- usually for 2-3 years at a time for regeneration purposes, but only a couple of areas at a time, leaving plenty of options for bush camping. Other spots I fished were Marley ledges, Garie (too crowded), North and South Curracurang, The Gulf, Werrong and twice down the cliff at Eagle Rock- which was a well made fishing spot.
  14. Hi Pete the whole area is great country for Pigs, Blackies, Groper and Bream, with plenty of food for them. Cunje grows abundantly throughout the area and is accessible to the fish on higher tides and there's all manner of natural bait for the fish. I'm sure a lot of people survived down there due to the great fishing
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