Check In At The Mahi Motel

April 14, 2018

Check In At The Mahi Motel

Every day on Facebook I get requests for intel on where the fish are biting. And every time, I respond. But thinking about the local waters I know well - off Sydney - there really aren’t that many spots. Why? Because Sydney is in a sandstone basin. Over countless millions of years that stone has eroded to sand and been carried down the rivers and out to sea. The sand has smothered almost every reef between the coastal cliffs, and the continental shelf. Excepting The Peak and Twelve Mile Reef there is no substantial hard structure between the Heads and Brown’s Mountain, 20 miles to the east. Basically it’s a desert. Check out this chart showing steady predictable depth progression, off Sydney’s South Head:

South Head

Now take a look at the chart east of Crowdy Head, formed from hard basalt. Shoals, reefs, free standing rocks, so much more structure:

Crowdy Head

Reefs hold bait and marine growth, providing both food and shelter to bottom dwelling predators like kingfish and snapper. We were at the Sydney artificial reef the day after it was installed and found kingfish were already on station. But what about topwater predators like marlin, wahoo and dolphin fish? These sought after species ride the East Australian current southwards, at this time of year. Catching them off Sydney is mostly a matter of luck - finding a bait ball, or a temperature break. Or a FAD. That is, a fish attracting device:


These have been installed at regular intervals along the NSW coast by Fisheries. And when the current is running they are hugely successful in aggregating fish, particularly mahi:

Here’s a nice one for Murray McGuire. Swansea FAD can be seen in the background:

But there’s three big downsides, with government FADs. Firstly, they fire up in summer and autumn, which is also the busiest time of the year for boating. Weekends get crazy. That's why fishing them midweek is a lot more pleasant and usually a lot more successful. Here’s Scott Parker:

Hi Andy, Hit FAD 18 on Monday and Adrian and I got PB’s with 1 meter Dollies! A tank of Yakka’s and ran out of livies, then all fish off the bite. The Ryobi 8000 worked a treat. Thanks again.

But if you can only go on weekends it can be a real downer to arrive at your destination only to find there are six boats ahead of you, and they’ve taken all the best fish already. Even worse, sometimes a boat is tied up to the FAD. Which according to Fisheries is the main reason so many have gone missing, this summer:

The last problem with fisheries FADs is that they are deployed too close to the coast, in too shallow water. This type of FAD attracts big numbers of mainly small dolphin fish. Which is why so many anglers install their own. Because mahi will hold station on anything that floats on top of the water, or just below. Check this video out, from when we found some deep water trap buoys holding solid fish:

I invite fishos who haven’t had the opportunity to imagine how good it is to go to your own private FAD. And find it surrounded by hundreds of quality fish that hit hard, fight hard, and taste delicious on the plate - which you have, all to yourself. Here’s a few we’ve found off Sydney over the past month. Note the Telstra blue and yellow rope on the first one:

This one has been dragged underwater by the current:

Let me say straight up front that, as far as I know, it’s not legal to deploy your own FAD. And I should mention that, if you do it anyway, they often don’t last long. Strong currents drag them away. Fisheries and Maritime remove them. Other anglers pinch them. And of course, cargo ships tangle them up. Sydney is a busy port, with a lot of shipping traffic.
Having said that, there are plenty out there. And our readers on Facebook are generous enough to share them with me, probably because they know I only fish midweek and can supply a report for their weekend fishing. With the easy pickings these FADs provide we’ve become obsessed with chasing dolphin fish this summer. Note that, because of heavy boat traffic, some owners have rigged them to be under the surface:

We have the perfect outfit for mahi chasing. Our 702 snapper combo consists of a moderately fast graphite rod matched to a Ryobi 4000 Fish King spinning reel. Yes it is the same Ryobi who have 100+ products, in Bunnings. They started out as a tackle company.

Here’s specifications:
Model: Ryobi 4000 spinning reel
Weight: 320 grams
Gear ratio: 5:1
Bearings: 7
Line capacity: 170 metres 15 kilo colour change braid (supplied pre spooled)
Leader: 4 metres 10 kilo fluorocarbon preinstalled with an FG knot
Drag: 6 kilos
Knob: polished aluminium power knob
Rod is our matching 7 foot 2 piece graphite. We have tested this combo using 40gram jigs and managed to cast a measured 65 metres, a fantastic distance. Casting distance is very important for both snapper and mahi:

Line is 170 metres of 15 kilo colour change braid joined to 4 metres of 10 kilo fluorocarbon using an FG knot. Of course this is only relevant to Sydney clients, but I’m going to sweeten up the deal - with waypoints for three private FADs. This means that, instead of arriving at a public FAD and groaning when you see there’s twenty boats in front of you, there’s every chance you will have the spot to yourself. You'll have the perfect combo - and the perfect spot - for targeting mahi. But wait! There’s more. :) We'll throw in a 40 gram jig too:

and a top water popper:

Here's the popper in action:

and some live bait hooks to get you started. You’ll have the perfect gear to catch dollies and the perfect spots to find dollies. But there’s one thing that really is the cherry on top. The weather. It’s going to be flat as a tack all next week, off central NSW:

How much? For rod, reel, CC braid, fluoro leader, jig, popper, hooks and delivery? And perhaps most important, two private FAD marks? Just $275, delivered to your door.
Don’t miss this opportunity. Or this awesome weather window! Send $275 to

Click here to see the 702 Snapper Combo

We’ll send your tackle and your waypoints and you’ll be ready to go for the weekend. Thanks for reading and good luck chasing mahi,
Andrew Hestelow
Managing Director
Tel. 0402075000
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