I am a freelance writer and photographer from Sydney who has now had five books published on fishing. I also write for the Fishing Monthly Group and Australian Fishing Network.
I also like to travel and experience new things to do.
Published December 9th 2014
Sydney Harbour fishing has come on in leaps and bounds since the banning of all commercial fishing by the NSW Fisheries in 2006. This has meant that the fish population in the harbour has increased.
Now not everyone likes to go fishing, but to me it is part of my life and has been since I was three when my dad and grandma use to take me fishing. Yes, there were times when we didn't catch anything, but this shortfall was made up by going to places where you could either have a picnic or go for a walk.
Many anglers I talk to will always say: "You catch more fish out of a boat", and yes sometimes this is so true. But fishing is not always the best from a boat. I have a number of friends who get sea sick, or they don't have enough room to store a boat, can't afford one or who are just not into boating, but they love going for a fish.
What they prefer to do is hop on a bus or a train with their fishing rod and explore the harbour to find a land-based fishing spot where you can not only go fishing, but also take the family along for a picnic or go for a walk if the fish aren't biting. There are literally hundreds of places that you could go.
Trying to pick five of my best spots is extremely hard, as there are many. It will all depend on the time of day, the tide, wind conditions and the time of the week.
1.GROTTO POINT RESERVE – MIDDLE HARBOUR
Grotto Point Reserve is situated in the Sydney Harbour National Park and it has a number of superb swimming spots, bush walking tracks, picnic areas, as well as great fishing. Not only can you fish here, but you can also see everything from convict-built buildings and military fortifications to Aboriginal sites and a heritage-listed lighthouse. During the winter months you may even see whales on their annual migration north. The walk out to Grotto Point is in a magnificent area above the entrance to Middle Harbour and the walk provides plenty of views of Middle Head and Sydney Harbour.
These anglers are targeting luderick on the eastern side of the point. If you don't like fishing off the rocks you can always fish on the western side into the sheltered waters of Middle Harbour
To get there, you will need to travel south along Woodland Street at Balgowlah Heights, turn left into Alder Street and then left into Cutler Street. Park your car and then walk for about 30 to 40 minutes out to Grotto Point. You could bring the kids and family out here, as long as they don't mind a long walk out to the point. You will need to make a day of it. The best time to fish would be during the run-in tide as you can cast out onto a sandy bottom; there will be fewer snags.
The best times that I found to fish there is a couple of hours either side of the top of the tide, and if you can coincide this with the sunrise or sunset, even better. Bream, silver trevally, dusky flathead, tailor, Australian salmon and luderick can be caught here.
Light surf rods of around 3.6 metres in the 4 to 5kg class with either a 50 to 60 sized threadline reel or a 15cm Alvey reel spooled with 5 to 6 kilo line would be best when targeting bream, silver trevally and squid. The size ball sinkers I would suggest would be 000, 00, 0 and 1; the hook sizes for the bream and silver trevally would be number 1 to 1/0 Owner Circles.
2. BOTTLE AND GLASS ROCKS – VAUCLUSE
You'll find the idyllic Bottle and Glass Point in the Eastern Suburbs' renowned Nielsen Park. In this flat, grassy area you'll enjoy magnificent views over Vaucluse Bay. There are gorgeous surroundings for a picnic, but fantastic opportunities for fishing, snorkelling, diving and swimming as well. Unload your picnic hamper and watch the sailboats gently bobbing the bay. Listen to the languid sounds of birdsong and water lapping against the rocks, and feel the breeze rustling through the shady trees.
If you don't like fishing you could always try the cafe/restuarant at Nielsen Park
There are a few barbeques, a cafe, kiosk, restaurant and toilets in Nielsen Park, plus a picnic area and a meshed swimming enclosure. Parking here can be a problem on the weekends and holidays; you will need to arrive fairly earlier to get a spot. This is a very popular spot for picnickers, walkers and tourists. Great place to take the kids if they have had enough of fishing; they can always play in the park or go for a swim.
Once you are on New South Head Road, turn left into Vaucluse Road, which then in turn turns into Wentworth Road. Find a parking sport and walk through Nielsen Park to Vaucluse Point. From here it is just a short walk down to the rocks. Parking restrictions do apply.
Not a bad place to come and have a fish when the wind is coming in from the south or east, as it is fairly protected here. Care will need to be taken when walking along the rocks and you will need to wear some decent footwear.
A rod between 3-3.5 metres, 4-6kg, a sinker, swivel and a long leader would be ideal when fishing on the north east corner of this point. If you are going to fish on the north-western side I would suggest that you use a paternoster rig. Try berleying with chopped up pilchards. You will need to throw them out about 5 metres to get over the kelp found here.
You could try casting a few soft plastics along the beach found here, but don't use them in the enclosed swimming area. Off the rocks you could throw out a few Gulp Jerk baits on 1/2oz jig heads or 70 gram metal lures. Surface poppers are worth a shot for tailor, salmon and kingfish that patrol along this set of rocks.
3. BRADLEYS HEAD
Bradleys Head is a headland protruding from the north shore of Sydney Harbour, within the metropolitan area of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, named after William Bradley. The foremast of the cruiser HMAS Sydney, renowned for taking part in the Royal Australian Navy's first ship-against-ship engagement in World War I, is mounted on the headland as a memorial to that battle. In June 2000, the mast was rededicated as a monument to all Australian ships and sailors lost in conflict.
The headland was also used for shooting of scenes for Mission Impossible II. A polystyrene house seen in the film was built on location, and then removed after shooting was completed.
There is a lot to see at Bradley's Head if you are not into fishing
Bradleys Head Amphitheatre is an exceptionally popular lookout in Sydney Harbour National Park. Photographers flock to the site to capture its breathtaking views of the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Fort Denison. As well as offering first-class views, Bradleys Head Amphitheatre is a much-loved picnic area. You can also wander out to the old stone jetty for some fishing, or set off on one of Bradleys Head's beautiful bushwalks.
It doesn't seem to matter whether it is the run-in or run-out tide as long as it is near the top of the tide. It can get very snaggy here during the low tides. The main thing to remember here is that you are fishing into very deep water and anything can take your bait.
Use whole pilchards and garfish rigged on a set of ganged hooks for tailor, salmon, bonito and kingfish that patrol past here. You could also try using half pillies, strips of tuna, bonito and mullet for bream, flathead and paned sized snapper. Don't forget to take a few metal slicers and slugs for casting out off the rocks for tailor and salmon. Soft plastics rigged on ¼ to 3/8 oz jig heads can be worked through the sandy patches found here.
Opening hours are from 6am to 8pm each day. There are picnic tables, toilets, a lookout and car park that will not take vehicles longer that 5.3 metres. Great facilities in the reserve for the family and kids. Can be a bit of a nightmare for small kids when casting off the rocks here, as there are plenty of snags.
Once on Bradleys Head Road, head south and travel through the Sydney Harbour National Park. Find parking and it is just a short walk down to the shoreline at the base of Bradleys Head.
4. LYNE PARK ROSE BAY
To get to Lyne Park at Rose Bay you will need to get onto New South Head Road at Point Piper. Travel east and you will find Lyne Park on the left and the Royal Sydney Golf course on right. You can either park in the street or the car park. It is just a ten minute walk back to the breakwall at the end of Rose Bay. Parking restrictions do apply.
Anglers clean their catches at boat ramps and this inturn attracts fish
Some mornings when I arrive, there has been a mobile cafe van selling great coffees there. If not, there is a cafe across the road where you could get a coffee and cake. For the kids there is a medium-sized fenced and gated park with foam floor with a range of equipment that would suit older kids and toddlers. It's has a number of trees that produce plenty of shade, with toilets and barbeques nearby. The park has plenty of areas for the kids to run around, or they could go for a fish off the wharf or the sandstone breakwall, but you will need to take care of the many boats that use this wharf and ramp.
Lynne Park is really easy to find, as it is situated across from the Rose Bay ferry. It has everything you need in a park, with a stunning harbour view, pathways by the ocean, a place to kick around a ball, or to grab a cold drink. Dogs are welcome and kids will be entertained by the fun and amusement of the protected playground. If you are going to fish from the ferry wharf you will need to take care, as there are plenty of boats that come and go from here.
Directly beside the wharf is a three-lane boat ramp. My suggestion would be to walk around the foreshore to the west and you will find a man-made sandstone wall that is great to fish from.
Fishing from the shore here, you are in with a good chance of getting bream, dusky flathead, sand whiting, leatherjackets, yellowtail, silver trevally, paned size snapper, tailor, Australian salmon, squid, kingfish and flounder.
I have found the best months are as follows:
Bream: February to May
Dusky flathead: November to April
Sand whiting: October to April
Leatherjackets: Year round
Yellowtail: Year round
Paned sized snapper: Winter
Silver trevally: March to June
Flounder: November to April
Salmon: March to June
Tailor: March to August
Kingfish: November to May
Squid: Year round.
The man-made sandstone wall situated on the western side of the boat ramp is a great place to target squid at night. Try casting out those squid jigs out as far as you can and then let them sink to the bottom. Once it has hit the bottom, you can either try winding the jig in very slowly, just enough to keep it above the weed, or you can slowly lift your rod tip and allow it to slowly sink back down.
NOTE: It's illegal to fish on Ferry Wharves during the times ferries run - check your local wharf for times you are allowed to fish and check if there are any "No Fishing" signs in the area. The local Cops are pretty tough at some places and will happily issue on-the-spot fines if you are caught - it pays to check!
5. MRS MACQUARIES CHAIR
Mrs Macquarie's Chair, otherwise known as Lady Macquarie's Chair, provides one of the best vantage points in Sydney. The historic chair was carved out of a rock ledge for Governor Lachlan Macquarie's wife, Elizabeth, as she was known to visit the area and sit enjoying the panoramic views of the harbour. Mrs Macquarie's Point is the best-known picnic spot in Sydney, for very good reason. It has probably the best view in the city.
To get there by car, once you are on College Street you will need to turn right into the Art Gallery Road. Find parking and then walk for about ten minutes to the end of the point at Mrs Macquarie's Chair. Parking restrictions do apply.
There is so much to see and do at Mrs Macquarie's Chair
The point where Mrs Macquarie's Chair is situated is in the Royal Botanic Gardens. Here you will find seating, covered area for shade, toilets and a cafe. If the kids get bored with fishing you could always take them for a walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens and have a look at the huge eels and carp in the ponds.
If you are going to have a fish from here, you could try using a paternoster rig with two hooks. One hook would have a half pillie, while the other would have a strip of mullet. I have successfully used a number six ball sinker down onto a whole pilchard rigged onto a set of 5/0 ganged hooks for tailor, flathead and the odd mulloway.
You could also try using a large bobby cork and suspend your bait about three to four metres below it for tailor, salmon and kingfish. Due to the fact that tailor will come past here with the rising tide, I would suggest that you also take a few metal lures with you.
Well, there you have it. I have tried to narrow it down to my Five Best Land Based Fishing, Picnics and Walking spots in Sydney Harbour.
Maybe you could visit one of these spots and make discoveries of your own while land-based fishing.