For most of my life, I have enjoyed living near the ocean fishing for many different species, but one fishing memory more than any else reminds me of home. Enjoying a warm windless Winters day looking into the crystal clear cold waters, and watching a wooden float bob around upon the surface. Feeling the rush of excitement as it dips below the surface followed by rolling tugs and short little runs from a feisty fat ‘bronzie’ luderick. This is a form of fishing that has been enjoyed by all manner of Aussie anglers for generations upon generations and it is dear to my heart as one that I learned from my father. All romanticism aside these fish are great little battlers on light line, abundant and easily accessible. Overall a sustainable bread and butterfish. Best of all they are a primary target outside of the more popular Summer fishing season. So if you don´t know how, let me give you the rundown on how to start chasing them at your local.
When and where
The colder months of the year see a large scale spawning migration of many fish species down river and towards the estuary, harbour and river mouths along the coast. One fish that partakes in this yearly pilgrimage is the Blackfish, they will congregate in huge schools circling and flashing their shiny underbellies towards the surface, chasing each other away from their newly marked territories. At times will gather into huge spawning aggregations of uncountable numbers quite a spectacular sight. Although Blackfish can easily be targeted year round, throughout the system right up the river and all the way to the Ocean rocks, it is during these Winter months that they will be a much easier target. Locating fish is a relatively simple task once you get into it, the clearer colder waters of Winter will allow you to locate fish by sight, most of the time. Try to find a location where you can spot numerous fish as you search the water, wharves and rock walls near to the lower part of a system, or adjacent to the ocean. Fish will tend to prefer to hang out where there is a readily available source of food, so weedy areas bordering boulders and sandy holes are top locations. Often your favourite squid spot will be quite a good blackfish home. Also, take note if there is any runoff nearby, Luderick seem to love locations where a fresh stream or stormwater outlet is flushing nutrients into the salt. Around wharf pylons and oyster racks are another of their favourite haunts, where there is abundant food growing on the wooden structure.
How to tie a black fish fly
How to Techniques
The most common technique to target luderick is the use of a pencil float, as the fish takes your bait this float will dip below the water indicating what we call a ¨down¨ this is the time to strike and set your hook. The rig consists of a 10lb leader, I use Unitika, of one to three meters or so running from your braid to a swivel. Before you tie the leader to your swivel slip on your pencil float, above your pencil float you can attach a float stopper at the desired height. For example, if you are fishing four meters of water you probably want to apply your float stopper two or three meters above the swivel. Below the swivel another 30cm of 6 or 8lb line to a Gamakatsu pan green size 6 or 8 hook. Halfway between the hook and swivel, you will need to add a split shot sinker, this will be something you will need to tinker with as you will need to adjust the amount of split shot to ensure that when weighing down your float it will have your pencil float top sitting with just a few inches above the water, this will ensure that when you have a ¨down¨ you can react and strike immediately.
Now if you don´t know already then it´s vital to understand that Luderick are primarily herbivorous fish. Our staple bait for them is a green algae, this is commonly either what we refer to as stringy weed or cabbage weed, both of which grow upon rocks within the intertidal zone where they are exposed to some dry air and sunlight yet are also in contact with ocean spray or tides. They will also need a fresh water source so generally good locations to find these weed baits are where there is freshwater running over rocks into the ocean. Preferably you want to make sure the weed is thick and lengthy as to make it easier to apply to your hook, then it is simply a matter of threading it over and around your hook, securing it with a half hitch can also help, this will take some practice but you will get the hang of it in no time.
Another fairly critical tool in the arsenal of the luderick fisher is berley in the form of a wet sand and weed blend. You can either cut up some of your baits or scratch the roots off the rocks, add it to wet sand of a preferably finer softer variety, and store it in a bucket or bag which you can carry to your fishing location. Making a ball with the weed and sand mixture and throwing it into the water that you are fishing. The sand will provide weight that will help the weed sink towards the bottom and become a berley trail for the luderick to gather around and fire up. This will significantly increase your chances of getting a good bite, and can often turn a fishless day into a down every cast.
If you are struggling to find quality weed for bait or just don´t have the time or patience, weed flies are your new best friend. Essentially, a lookalike synthetic green weed tied to a hook, you can tie this to the end of your rig and use it just like a bait, it can fish just as well as the real stuff. Fly fishing is a great way to get in on the action or even an entry point to give fly fishing a go. A 6 wt rod with floating line down to a 6 lb leader and 6 lb tippet, use an indicator in place of your float and a split shot above the knot between your tippet and leader to weigh the rig down. Tying these flies is also quite easy and cheaper in the long run, using a green weed dub and a sturdy Gamakatsu green pan fish hook.
Back to the spin fishermen, I find a light 7ft graphite rod matched with a spinning reel spooled with 10lb braid or mono is a perfect all rounder for luderick float fishing, the Atomic range of rods has a great selection to choose from, and the 7 foot Atomic Arrowz Estuary Spin rated to 6 to 12 lb is my go to. This rod being a great crossover as an all purpose estuary rod for flathead, bream and light pelagics, is a no brainer.
If you wish to keep some Luderick for the table, which I highly recommend, they are a great feed and a sustainable choice if looked after and correctly cleaned. Put them in a keeper net sitting in a rockpool or hanging in the water from the wharf to keep them alive while you continue to fish. Once the day is done spike and bleed your fish and let them sit cool in an esky or fridge, for atleast several hours until rigor mortise has properly set in. I find Luderick are best cleaned and cooked a full 12 to 24 hours after you have killed, bled and chilled them. When you are ready to clean them remove the fillets as you would a bream or snapper and be sure to cut out the rib and pin bones and all the black gut cavity. Skin them and you will be left with some beautiful fresh fillets that are perfect for a variety of cooking methods. Two tried and tested are panko crumbed and fry or steam with ginger shallots.