The sun is bursting with the day’s final rays, a whiff of salty sea breeze is cutting through the city buzz, and you’ve got a truckload of bait, tackle, lines and lures: it’s time to go fishing. But you needn't go on an epic excursion outside the city limits, as many of Sydney's glorious beaches and stunning hikes will lead you to superb fishing locales.
We’ve found seaside, lakeside and riverside spots where land-based anglers can wet a line, dive and forage for sea prizes, or mix it up and fish from a tinny. The best part? You (mostly) get to take them home and prepare a local fishy feast.
But on all occasions, remember you’ll need your fishing licence – it’s $35 for a year and $85 for three – as well as sunscreen, a first aid kit and mates to fish with. In your Aquaman activities, also keep in mind the ecosystem under and beside the water and only fish sustainably, while being mindful of your fellow fisherpeople and others swimming in or floating on nearby waters.
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Top fishing spots around Sydney
Best for: Diving for lobsters
What to bring: Goggles, a snorkel and a measurer, or a pot if you prefer to catch then collect.
Now, we’re not actually going to give away the precise location that’s heralded as the best spot for scoring Sydney rock lobsters. Why? Because the secrets of seeking out crustaceans in Sydney – and beyond – are highly guarded by a dedicated community of divers wanting to reduce over-fishing of these sought-after sea prizes. What can we tell you? If it’s salty rock shellfish you seek, steer towards headlands with rocky ledges and dive underneath for a lobster bounty. You’re other option is, of course, the trusty pot. For ocean rockwall crawlers, these dome-shaped baskets are a one-way ticket to the dinner table. The craggy inlets and coves where the Hawkesbury River meets the sea are a good place to start for either method.
A few rules: Like most forms of recreational fishing, there are strict regulations regarding season, catch size and number, and you’ll need your fishing licence moving forward. For these salty nippers, there’s a one-pot-per-person rule (ensure there’s an escape hole for little fellas), females carrying eggs are to be returned to the ocean’s depths, and you may only catch and keep two rockin’ lobsters in a 24-hour period. To take them home, they’ll need to be between 10.4cm and 18cm, measured from the tip of their head to the top of the tail.
Best for: Beach fishing
What to bring: Your rod and a tripod for handsfree pauses, plus bait and a bucket for your catch. And cozzies for a post-catch splash.
If your love for fishing matches you admiration for aviation, the calm waters of Brighton-Le-Sands Beach will be your dream fishing spot. Watch 747s depart from the airport across the rippling water while you whistle Paul Kelly songs and hold your line out for flathead, trevally and snapper. The best bites will happen in the early evening, with a healthy contingent of schools swimming near the mouth of the Cooks River on the northern end of the sand. You’ll want something close to a ten-foot rod for a proper casting reach here, and a cooler full of snacks for a beach picnic.
A few rules: All the standard bag and size limits apply, so you’ll want to bring your measurer and be mindful of fellow beachside fisherpeople. Also remember: this is a popular South Sydney swimming spot, especially if you’re setting up further south, so take care when people are walking or swimming nearby.
Best for: Spearfishing
What to bring: Quite a bit. You’ll need a pole spear or speargun, depending on your persuasion, plus a stringer or net bag to secure your catch, a float and line (if you like spear security in case she drops), plus a snorkel and flippers.
Spearfishers guard their favourite spots like the proud merpeople they secretly are, but they’ve benevolently shared this spot as a primo location for shore diving. Whether you’re a traditionalist with a human-powered pole spear or a mechanical speargun, you’ll have some luck snaring whitting, bream and flathead at the Boat Harbour beyond Greenhills Beach. You’ll be able to find a few schools in close, but will want to head out further to wrangle with some big boys. This is now a private spot, so you’ll need to fork out $30 for a daily pass or $160 for a six-month season of wading into the water via the 4WD entry at the Boat Harbour. If you want to save your dosh for fish dish sides, get around the financial burden by entering the reserve from another sandy or rocky spot, or head to Shelly Beach further south for a surprisingly well-populated reefy diving area.
A few rules: As always, you’ll want to hold and carry your fishing licence, and always keep other swimmers and divers in mind while spearfishing. You must stay at least 50 metres away from others when you’re on the spear-led hunt, and must not carry a loaded speargun while in crowded areas. For more details about when scuba gear and other specialised equipment can be used, plus species to avoid, check out the Recreational Spearfishing Guide.
Best for: Seaside foraging
What to bring: Keen eyes and a bucket.
In the urban metropolis of Sydney, it’s hard to imagine that the suited city dweller can get back to humanity’s hunter-gatherer roots. But luckily, we are girt by sea, and that salty soup is a top spot to source some oft-forgotten produce. The rocks around Clovelly Beach and Gordon’s Bay are a great place to start your seaside foraging career. If you know what to look out for between the two salty locations, you’ll find everything from tangy rock samphire to rockpool-fresh sea lettuce, blacklip abalone (edible sea snails) and a peppering of warrigal greens just up from the rocks. The best time to seek out these sea treats is often at low tide, as many grow or hide between the high and low tide marks.
A few rules: In this area which is part of an aquatic reserve, harvesting some creatures like sea urchins, cockles, crabs, mussels and a host of other protected species is prohibited. Seaside foragers should be aware of what shoreline plants are not for human consumption, but as far as good eating goes, you’ll want to wash and prepare your basket of seaside goodies, with some requiring blanching or pickling to reach peak deliciousness. And as always, consider sustainability in your practice – only take what you will consume and always leave enough for plants to regenerate.
Best for: Novice fisherpeople
What to bring: A rod, fly and lures, and a tinny if you want to get out on the lake.
This expansive body of water about a 15-minute drive from the centre of Manly is a great spot to learn the ropes (or reels, if you will) of fishing. The lake is regularly stocked with Australian bass, so you’re more than likely to bag a few beauties even if you’re not practiced at fly-fishing (which is the choice method for catching this species). Some other fishy friends hiding in the lake include silver perch, carp and redfin. You might be able to find the whole gang if you hit up section four near the wetlands or throw a line near the dam wall.
A few rules: Manly Dam is a hotspot for water sports like kayaking, swimming and water skiing, plus bushwalking and picnic fun on shore, so you’ll need to be mindful of keeping all hooks, lines and lures safely contained. The area also has strict opening hours (daily from 7am-5.30pm and until 8.30pm during daylight savings) so make sure you only fish within those hours.
Best for: Freshwater fishing just for fun
What to bring: Lures, hefty lines and something like a 12-foot rod: there are some beasties in these waters.
Head to this humble wharf (also known as Gladesville Wharf) when you want to fish for fun, not for dinner. The government urges Sydney anglers to catch and release whenever fishing in harbour waters west of the bridge, as elevated levels of dioxins have been found in the underwater populations of this area. But it’s still worth a trip to these waters, as there are some mega catches to face off against. Cast your line away from the bank with a strong grip and you'll reel in some mighty bream, plus yellowtail, leather jackets, flathead and the often elusive jewfish. The best time to play fish catch and kiss is in the evening, after 8pm, when the ferries become less regular and stop disturbing the water.
A few rules: Let these babies go after a quick measure and pic. Also be aware of floating fisherpeople alighting and returning to the wharf in their river vessels.