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The Old Zoo Wharf


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17 hours ago, Yowie said:

Another place I just thought of, was fishing off Captain Cook Bridge over the Georges River (banned now)

Before I had my driver's licence, I would ride my pushbike from Miranda to the north-east side of the bridge ( I worked out where the pylons were underneath so I was not fishing in the middle of the channel) during winter time when the tailor were on the bite.

Drop a handline down until the bait hit the water then hang on. Feel a bite then haul the tailor up onto the bridge, a long way by handline. A couple of times the tailor fell off just as I was about to lift them over the railing, a long way to fall and probably a headache to go with it when hitting the water below.

One morning the handline had a big bite, but it was a bloody boat and the handline took off over the railing and GONE.

The tailor would only bite in the very early morning, then once a bit of light showed in the sky, they were gone. A ride home and off the bed for a while. Parents thought I was mad, but I had a bucket of fish for the effort. :yahoo:

Hi Yowie the guys that used to work in the tackle shop part of Barrie's Sports and Hobbies (closed more than 20yrs now) used to fish off there as well and winched the fish up using big Alvey's and surf rods. They caught some amazing fish off there on Pilies.

I think they fished the SE side at night during the week where the first pylons are.

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Wonderful story Waza and also some great replies from other Fishraiders - enjoy checking into the site to see what new threads have been started.  My first fishing trips were to Manly wharf which was probably a reasonable spot if you knew what you were doing - which my mates and I didn't.  We got plenty of yellowtail on the standard #14 long shanked hooks and occasionally saw a big John Dory cruising by among the pylons.  Anything over a pound of two looked enormous in those days.  This must have been 1973 or 1974.  It was before the boardwalk / swimming enclosure across to the aquarium was damaged in heavy seas.  I also remember that slimy mackerel would appear for about 15 minutes in the afternoon.  The wharf was pretty high off the water so if a floating bait was thrown out you got a great view of the fish taking the bait right on the surface.

A few years later I had a mate who lived at Killarney Heights and we fished off the wharf near the old Dance hall on Killarney Point.  It seemed totally bizarre for a old building with no access except by water to still exist so close to suburbia.  I was a bit more knowledgeable by then and we caught some nice leatherjackets using oysters and floats made out of a wine cork and a golf tee.  Occasionally some old timer - person over 30 - would drop by and try to give us a bit of advice based on past success nearby.  I can vividly recall being disgusted when it transpired that some fabulous story dated from the late 60's!!  Ten years ago seemed like ancient history to a 17 year old.  Now, of course, it is comparatively recent.

I share the regret Waza and others have expressed that young kids these days don't get the same opportunities to get out of home and explore Sydney's waterways and bushland.  I moved away from Sydney in the mid 80's and never returned to live.  It does seem so crowded now.  Went to Curl Curl beach on a weekday morning a few years back and there were hundreds of people on the beach - used to be nothing there and the place was mostly deserted unless it was stinking hot and Dee Why was too crowded.

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4 hours ago, wazatherfisherman said:

Hi Yowie the guys that used to work in the tackle shop part of Barrie's Sports and Hobbies (closed more than 20yrs now) used to fish off there as well and winched the fish up using big Alvey's and surf rods. They caught some amazing fish off there on Pilies.

I think they fished the SE side at night during the week where the first pylons are.

More people seem to fish the southern side these days, though I have not fished that area.

Riding along at night with a long beach rod would not have been advisable in those days, spending a bit of time on a footpath to avoid the cars. Might have speared a pedestrian.ūü§£

A handline was good enough for me, and I would not fish off there on a windy night in winter with a handline. Salted tailor strips were the go for me, no sinker, I just let the bait hit the water below and wait for a bite. 

The 2nd pylon from the north side was the one for me.

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speaking about smoked taylor 

On 8/5/2021 at 11:33 AM, wazatherfisherman said:

Hi Yowie those were the days, catching tons of fish and trading them was the norm. I was lucky enough to have a butcher living just down the street and he had a big smoker and loved smoked Tailor. A "standing order" for two dozen each time we chased them- he gave us some really great meat as a thank you. The bread van, milko (my boss), grocer and even the 'egg man' all delivered to our street and were happy to swap- you'd get in strife these days.- wish I'd had a chocolate cake swapper!

about the  smoked tailor ,  the stuff was better in my opinion  then any cold smoked salmon   or any other  smoked fish you can get these days ,   we used to buy ours from the fish shop , not sure if it was cold smoked or hot smoked  , we always lightly fried them in a bit of oil  both sides  ,  great on its own  with some thick sliced square  loaf  and a  DA,  

as for the (ZOO) , i have nothing but great memories and some amazing catches  , i learned from an early age that you could  dig for blood worm's  in the cooks ,   and that's how i got my bait  if i wanted to go for bream , trevally  and specially  the whiting that i always considered the best fish  there was  seeing how  it was the fish  that  the (rich) ordered in restaurants  them days ,.... it was a different world  back then  with hardly any fisheries  inspectors , (never in all my years  did i see one)   no real restrictions  rules and regulations ,   sure there were those that  kept anything that moved  on a hook but  most of us  did not try to catch  all we could carry , but  were happy to be out there  at a time  when we did not have a worry in the world  and middle age was too far away to think about, 

     

 

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On 8/3/2021 at 9:09 PM, wazatherfisherman said:

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

 

about the minced  meat we used for yakkas , just about every butcher used the same  hamburger mince  (cereal/ binder )  it had a very strong and aromatic smell  to it,  you could smell it about 2 metres away if someone was using fresh mince ,   i remember sausages  tasted and smelled of it  in family BBQS, another thing that you will not find  butchers using these days ,  

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59 minutes ago, leonardgid said:

about the  smoked tailor ,  the stuff was better in my opinion  then any cold smoked salmon   or any other  smoked fish you can get these days ,   we used to buy ours from the fish shop , not sure if it was cold smoked or hot smoked  ,

 

I smoked my own tailor fillets in a shoe box sized smoker. Hot smoked with a metho burner underneath some fancy wood sawdust, then eaten hot. They tasted rather nice for a change from normal cooking, BBQ, pan fry.

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10 minutes ago, Yowie said:

I smoked my own tailor fillets in a shoe box sized smoker. Hot smoked with a metho burner underneath some fancy wood sawdust, then eaten hot. They tasted rather nice for a change from normal cooking, BBQ, pan fry.

i  grew up on  harbor fish , love eating all  of them  and have a number of different recipes depending on the fish, but that smoked tailor was something special , i wish some old timer could tell me the exact method they used to smoke them  , im sure it would have been  long and at a low heat  because the fish was hard and dry like  . it did not  break up the way  hot smoked fish does .

 

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3 hours ago, Dee Why Jim said:

Wonderful story Waza and also some great replies from other Fishraiders - enjoy checking into the site to see what new threads have been started.  My first fishing trips were to Manly wharf which was probably a reasonable spot if you knew what you were doing - which my mates and I didn't.  We got plenty of yellowtail on the standard #14 long shanked hooks and occasionally saw a big John Dory cruising by among the pylons.  Anything over a pound of two looked enormous in those days.  This must have been 1973 or 1974.  It was before the boardwalk / swimming enclosure across to the aquarium was damaged in heavy seas.  I also remember that slimy mackerel would appear for about 15 minutes in the afternoon.  The wharf was pretty high off the water so if a floating bait was thrown out you got a great view of the fish taking the bait right on the surface.

A few years later I had a mate who lived at Killarney Heights and we fished off the wharf near the old Dance hall on Killarney Point.  It seemed totally bizarre for a old building with no access except by water to still exist so close to suburbia.  I was a bit more knowledgeable by then and we caught some nice leatherjackets using oysters and floats made out of a wine cork and a golf tee.  Occasionally some old timer - person over 30 - would drop by and try to give us a bit of advice based on past success nearby.  I can vividly recall being disgusted when it transpired that some fabulous story dated from the late 60's!!  Ten years ago seemed like ancient history to a 17 year old.  Now, of course, it is comparatively recent.

I share the regret Waza and others have expressed that young kids these days don't get the same opportunities to get out of home and explore Sydney's waterways and bushland.  I moved away from Sydney in the mid 80's and never returned to live.  It does seem so crowded now.  Went to Curl Curl beach on a weekday morning a few years back and there were hundreds of people on the beach - used to be nothing there and the place was mostly deserted unless it was stinking hot and Dee Why was too crowded.

Hi Jim trust you're well. Manly was another great wharf, especially for Dory and Luderick when the old Shark Pool was there next to the wharf, saw some beauties caught there.

I remember running down onto the outside pontoon about the middle of the boardwalk to see someone landing a fish (I wasn't fishing) and waking up flat on my back. Apparently as soon as my shoes hit the pontoon's slippery surface, they went straight from under me and I cracked the back of my head on the hard pontoon and knocked myself out. Woke up with a crowd of people standing around staring and a lump on the back of my head.

It's a real shame the new zoo wharf is off limits, the fishing was extra good while both the old and new wharves were there. The floating part of the old wharf was eventually towed to Walsh Bay and sat there up in the corner for ages. We went and fished for Luderick off it, casting back towards the wall- that spot was called "The Chains" as there were chains attached to the wall, another great Luderick spot. Always wondered what they did with the old pontoon.

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My old man regularly fished the zoo with Abby, now he was good but I reckon Russian Joe was better. The luderick fishers used to meet at Quay amd converse then disperse on the various ferry routes depending on spot of choice or just stay and fish the Quay. Dad fished with them all in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Rocky Nelson, Des, The Chinaman who was our neighbour in later years randomly, Bill the Hungarian. They all had a nick name. 

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11 minutes ago, luderick -angler said:

My old man regularly fished the zoo with Abby, now he was good but I reckon Russian Joe was better. The luderick fishers used to meet at Quay amd converse then disperse on the various ferry routes depending on spot of choice or just stay and fish the Quay. Dad fished with them all in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Rocky Nelson, Des, The Chinaman who was our neighbour in later years randomly, Bill the Hungarian. They all had a nick name. 

Hi Royce I used to watch them fish at the Quay, Chains, Bennelong (we used to call it the "shark-boat wharf") etc, long before I got into fishing for them myself. It was Abby himself that called himself "king of the harbour" I'm almost 60 now.

Regards Waza

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1 hour ago, wazatherfisherman said:

Hi Royce I used to watch them fish at the Quay, Chains, Bennelong (we used to call it the "shark-boat wharf") etc, long before I got into fishing for them myself. It was Abby himself that called himself "king of the harbour" I'm almost 60 now.

Regards Waza

Dad would have been 76 this year. He used to haunt all those places. One long gone been Erskine St ferry wharf opposite the Northern Rivers Hotel. That wharf you refer to as the shark boat wharf was known as the Tuna Boats. I got my first fish at the chains in 1981 a luderick of 2 1/4 pound on a 6ft spin rod. Cause that’s all I could handle as a knee high grass hopper. Dad told me the story of why fishing got banned at the Zoo. Resulted in the local crown seargent attending. I was just lucky enough to be versed in the lore of Sydney Harbour luderick fishing and met some of the great anglers in their twilight years. 

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