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Piscatorial Adversaries, The Inside Line

The PAA’s Guide to the Pittwater Hydro-Arena

Pittwater is the spiritual home of the Hydro Derby, it’s abundance of species, quiet waters and numerous bottle shops make it a social athlete’s paradise. Some of the common piscatorial adversaries you can expect to do battle with during a Hydro Derby are Bream, Flathead, Whiting, Tailor, Salmon, Kingfish & Squid. Some not so common fish that are caught from time to time in the Hydro Derby Arena include Spotted Mackerel, John Dory, Flounder, Jewfish, Whiting & Cobia.

In the interest of a level Hydro-Arena the PAA has plagerised this guide to your field of battle for all competitors review…

Yellowfin Bream


There are many areas to hunt for bream inside of Pittwater depending on how & when you like to fish for them. If you are in to lure fishing for bream with either hard or soft bodied lures there is no shortage of structure about to cast at. There are marinas & jetties right up the eastern side & all hold some fish. If you prefer to fish with bait for bream the area the PAA would highly recommend are the flats behind Palm Beach on a rising tide, though during the day the small fish in this area make it difficult to keep bait on for very long. There is no “secret” spot here & anywhere from the western point at Barrenjoey through to the red navigation marker out from Palm Beach wharf will be OK. The bottom is all the same with scattered areas of ribbon weed. Start fishing the first of the run up tide with berley & floating baits & you are well on the way to a feed. This is the No.1 bream spot & the PAA have had a lot of great beers here. During the day the PAA has caught good bream at West Head on the bait grounds with berley & lightly weighted baits. Fishing for bream in any of the bays around Pittwater will produce but remember to fish with either no lead at all or the absolute minimum of weight needed. Many prefer to use flesh baits like mackerel or tuna when bream fishing. For those who prefer them Nippers (Yabbies) can be pumped along the shoreline at Church Point & on the flats in some of the bays around Pittwater. IGFA World Record Catch: 6.01kg and Australian Record: 4.45kg

Sand Flat Head


There are again many places to catch flathead in Pittwater. My favourite area for lure casting is again the Palm beach flats on a run out tide. Casting lures along the edges of the weed beds will produce flathead during the summer months & some of these fish will be up in the 3 kilo category. If lure fishing is not your thing there are some good drifts in the area also. On a rising tide try drifting from Barrenjoey across to West Head & this drift will produce a few flounder as well as flathead. Another good drift on a rising or run out tide is along the edge of the Palm beach flats. Drifting across the entrance of Careel Bay will turn up a fish or 2 & try a drift along past Portuguese Beach in the deeper water here if the other areas don’t fire. Try using small live poddy mullet as bait or if you use flesh baits check them regularly as pickers can be a problem. IGFA World Record Catch: 6.33kg

Australian Salmon


Salmon are excellent sport on light tackle & are available inside Pittwater from around September through to the end of January. They can be found around the entrance to Pittwater generally on a rising tide & will be found as far up as Portuguese Beach. On light spinning or fly tackle they are great sport putting up a stubborn fight with a few jumps thrown in. These days targeting salmon has become popular so for the inexperienced look for groups of boats that gather round surface feeding schools. Australian Record Catch: 9.4kg

Yellowtail Kingfish


Kingfish are a great sports fish on light tackle & schools of them feeding on the surface are often encountered in the same areas as Salmon. My best area to find Kingfish is the shoreline on the western side of Pittwater from Coasters Retreat around to Towlers bay. Fishing with small live baits & soft rubber lures also works in Pittwater amongst the moorings. Australian Record: 47.25kg

Spend a few minutes their fins with the great footage below…



Pittwater holds good numbers of squid especially during the summer months. The main type are the calamari squid which are generally larger than the more common arrow squid. Squid are No.1 bait for jewfish & kingfish & are also great eating when fresh. My preferred spots are over the weed on the Palm beach flats on a rising tide. Over at West Head squid can be found over the bait reef & along the shoreline near the kelp. There are also a few squid in the mooring areas in at Mackerel Beach & Coasters Retreat. Remember squid move around so if you haven’t caught any in the first 15 minutes move around until you find them


Tailor & Bonito

Common during the summer months & schools will often be found along the western shoreline in the same areas mentioned above. They prefer coastal waters attracted mainly to inshore and offshore reefs, inshore islands, rocky headlands, rocky inshore waters, ocean rocks and wharves often forming into large schools. IGFA Bonito Record: 9.4kg

Flounder - Ugly


These can be taken while drifting for flathead in particular. Most of the weed beds hold Gar fish of both types River & Sea gars. Some good bags of sea gar can be taken during the summer months fishing at the very northern end of the Palm Beach flats just inside Barrenjoey.



Can be taken on the bait grounds at West head as well as in the deeper water out of Portuguese Beach.

Leather Jacket

Leather Jacket

Can be found around the moorings in the Basin & they are also taken at the bait grounds at West Head. A small live bait suspended at mid water under a float works well particularly if you trim the baits tail fins very short so it kicks hard sending out a lot of vibration. This makes it easy for the Leather Jacket to find & easier for it to catch. There is little or no sport in catching Leather Jackets as you cannot actually wear them.

Blue Swimmer Crab

Blue Swimmer Crabs

Not to be confused with underpants crabs these are also available in most areas of Pittwater especially in the bays such as the Basin & along the flats at Palm Beach.



Can be taken in many different locations but Careel Bay generally produces the larger fish but any of the sand flats are worth trying either by drifting or casting very lightly weighted nippers or worms. Live nippers or worms are the key to getting a good bag of whiting & while frozen worms & prawns will produce whiting it is far better to either catch or buy live bait. Well caught in the 2011 Edition with an Australian Record: 2.3kg to shoot for.


Live bait grounds

Available in the area are at West Head where about 30 meters offshore from the old pillbox there is a reef which holds good numbers of yellowtail & squid. Slimey Mackerel are available here during the summer months but the numbers vary year to year. Further up Pittwater around the moorings in Mackerel Beach & Coasters Retreat both hold numbers of yellowtail & squid & at times Slimey Mackerel as well. Any of the beaches are worth a try for poddy mullet for flathead bait.




  1. Pingback: Navigating HDIV – Your Guide to the 2013 Hydro-Arena « The Hydro-Derby - January 10, 2013

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