How to

A New Era Dawns


FOR the majority of angling, the transition between targeting different species is a simple and smooth process. It’s easy to think of snapper gear being a beefed-up bream outfit or tackle used for pulling lures for marlin as a mackerel set-up on steroids. While these comparisons ring true for most forms of fishing, there are a few exceptions. Luderick, often referred to as darkies or blackfish, are certainly a species that needs to be targeted in a unique fashion to have any success. I remember the first time I chased these popular inshore sportfish. The whole process frustrated the hell out of me – it was different to any techniques I’d used before. Everything just seemed so foreign. This included long floppy rods, centrepin reels, tiny hooks, stoppers for depth adjustment, sand for berley and, finally, weed for bait. Even when I had all the above, I still struggled while anglers around me were pulling in bucket loads. I was just about ready to pull the pin on luderick when a sympathetic old fella pulled me aside and explained what I was doing wrong.

Turned out it wasn’t a great deal, but when it comes to luderick fishing, little things make huge differences. After a few suggested changes I started catching them.

From this point my appreciation for these little critters grew and I began to discover just what a fantastic and highly addictive species luderick actually are. One of the biggest attractions for me, though, has always been the prolific numbers that can be caught from coastal rock platforms, breakwalls, rock bars and jetties. When they’re on, “fish a cast” sessions are not out of the ordinary – even if it’s the middle of the day.

Despite this, some anglers shy away from pursuing luderick, getting stuck in the frame of mind that it will take ages to learn how to do it when actually it’s a very simple process. In fact, by taking in what’s explained in this article and employing it when there are a few fish around, I could just about guarantee you’ll catch one on your first try and probably be hooked for life.

Finding & Timing
While you will catch luderick all year round, they are definitely at their best from the start of autumn through to early spring. When it comes to the rocks, the most productive areas to target are usually those found adjacent to an ocean luderick’s primary food source – sea lettuce. The best time to fish these parts is around high tide and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why. High water and calm days mean they can get right up into the shallows to graze on their pastures of lettuce. When the seas are too rough for them to do this, they simply hang back in the wash zone waiting for any pieces of lettuce and weed that gets smashed off the rocks by the swell. While you can catch a blackfish at any time of the day, dawn and dusk periods are always going to be the most consistently productive times.

Inside the estuaries it’s important to look for environments with plenty of structure and tidal movement. Good spots include rock bars, breakwalls, headlands, wharfs and jetties. In these areas luderick rely heavily on food being brought directly to them. When the tide starts to move, so too does everything light enough to be taken with it – including rich nutrients, marine plants, weeds and sea lettuce leaves. This is why fishing the slack water is pretty hard going but as soon as that tide begins to run you’ll find the fish will start to bite.

It’s also important to be aware of where the fish are feeding in the water column as it can vary greatly from day to day and at times from hour to hour. Sometimes, especially when there is a lot of bubble weed on the surface, the luderick can be so high their dorsal and caudal fins are poking out of the water. In these situations you should have your float stopper jammed on top of the float so the bait is as high as possible.

On the flipside, it’s not uncommon to spot the flashing flanks of luderick feeding down deep as they graze on algae covered rocks and sea grasses. When you see this you need to set your bait around 30cm from the bottom. Any higher and you won’t get a bite.

Baits & berley
Luderick are predominately herbivores which means you’re generally not going to find bait to target them in your local tackle store. Instead, you’ll need to collect it yourself. Generally, there are two types of baits used for luderick: green weed or sea lettuce, which is also referred to as cabbage. Both are fairly abundant and either can work better on a certain day so it pays to have a combination. You can find cabbage growing on mooring ropes and buoys as well as colonising sections of the high tide line around ocean rocks. There are quite a few different types from small leafy clusters to long thin ribbon-like strips and everything in between.

Green weed is found in even more types ranging from stuff that’s extremely tough and wiry to delicate fronds that require great care when putting on the hook. Some varieties of green weed will wash up at times in mammoth sized clumps along estuarine beaches while others will cover the ground of inter-tidal zones like a blanket. Some strains can also be found around drains and fresh water ponds and rock pools. It can show up in some really bizarre places so keep your eye out for it just about anywhere. I have one little honey hole which is just a half rotten, half sunken 6ft fibreglass dingy that is always loaded with the stuff.

Berley is a vital part of a luderick fisherman’s arsenal as it can often bring fish around as well as switching otherwise uninterested fish on to the bite. There’s nothing complicated about making yourself some berley, it’s just a matter of mixing small pieces of weed or cabbage into a bucket of wet sand. A good time saving trick is to rather than cut it up with scissors, leave your cabbage or weed out in the sun until it gets nice and crispy. After this it’s only a matter of rubbing it between your palms into your bucket of sand and mixing it through. Using a scoop to throw out your berley will also prevent you covering your reel in sand and salt.

Rigging up for blackfish is a fairly simple affair, however, if one small aspect of the system is not spot on then you may as well not even bother. To start with always use a line that floats. I prefer a 10lb braid for its lack of stretch and solid hook ups, however if you want to go mono use Line Systems Dango Wax or Sunline Float Line in 10-16lb. If you use a normal mono line it will sink, making it very difficult to set hooks.

The first thing that needs to go on your main line when rigging for blackfish is a float stopper. These simply slide up and down to adjust the depth where your bait will sit at. If you are going to use a shorter rod make sure you get some STM torpedo stoppers as they cast through small guides without any trouble. The next thing to go on your line is the float itself. The size of the float you use will be determined by your intended fishing area. From the ocean rocks you need to contend with white water, swells and undercurrents which is why larger floats with longer, easily visible stems work best. Inside estuaries you will usually only need to deal with strong tides at best so drop down to floats around 25 to 30cm in length. Having your floats weighted correctly so the stem sits just above the waterline is also critical. You want the luderick to feel no resistance. The easiest way to do this is by finding the correct size barrel sinker for the float you’re using and then finetune it with a small split shot or two. I rig my weights between two swivels about 25cm apart, one attached to the mainline and the other to a 60cm fluorocarbon leader. Generally 6-8lb leaders are ideal for luderick, however, if you’re lifting fish from rock ledges, you will need about 12lb.

For hooks, the two I can’t go past are the Black Magic G series and the Daiichi 2171 pattern in an 8-10 size.

Gearing up
The traditional luderick outfit is a centrepin reel with a slow-tapered 10 to 12ft rod. The idea is that the rod’s softness acts like a bungee, taking the shock out of a luderick’s lunging fighting style. Centrepins let the line roll smoothly off the reel with the drift of your float. This allows you to have tight line to the float and always be in a position to strike when it goes down. That said, in competent hands a spin reel can be used just as successfully and has the bonus of being lighter and easier to cast. It’s just a case of learning to feed the line out through your fingertips while the bail arm is open and being alert enough to whack it over in a flash to strike the fish.

As well as preferring spin reels over the traditional centrepins, I also like to break the mould of rods used and prefer significantly shorter and lighter sticks for my luderick fishing. In fact, the longest rod I use is a 9ft Samaki Zing that covers my ocean rock and breakwall work. For estuary stuff I use rods that wouldn’t be out of place throwing plastics for bream and they work a treat. These rods are teamed up with a 4000 and a 2500 size spin reel loaded with braid. The advantages with outfits like these are the lightness and the ability to hook a fish with a flick of your wrist the instant the float moves. The traditional gear isn’t exactly known as being highly responsive and so once you refine your techniques, you should find that the new age tackle allows you to hook a fish as soon as the float even moves. As a result, you should convert more “downs” to solid hook-ups.

Once you understand how, luderick aren’t that hard to catch. Also, they’re good fun, fight hard and tasty on the plate. All you need to do now is follow the basics and you will have success. Good luck!

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