Green weed, cabbage weed, sometimes yabbies or worms.
Luderick’s feeding habits differ greatly from other species. They are a small mouthed, weed-eating fish caught under a float on a small hook, after a very wary bite. They are also one of the greatest light gear fighters for their size, and require skill to catch.
Float fishing is the main technique used and it is preferable to have the line between the rod tip and the float, out of, or on top of the water, therefore heavy lines are out. Lines with a diameter of between .30mm and .25mm are best.
To enable you to regularly change the depth of your rig, your float is left running on the line as this allows you to quickly adjust your depth and help locate the fish.
A float stop is used above the float to set the depth you’re fishing at. This free running float rig is compact and can be cast easily. When the rig hits the water, the weight of the sinker and bait will pull the line through the float until the stop is reached, then the weight of the sinker stands the float upright.
The size of the float depends on the turbulence of water, but in calm conditions a fine pencil type float is best. Use a small No. 10 swivel below the float to eliminate line twist. Then a trace of .25 diameter line (clear if possible) attached to a small No. 8 to No. 10 hook. Use just enough lead to make the trace hang straight down, and the float sitting with only 25mm of its tip above the water. Clamp size 00 split shot leads to the trace until the float rests at the desired depth. If you prefer a float fixed to the line at a given depth, the swivel should be placed on the line above the float.
The float must be finely balanced so it goes down with the slightest bite, not have to be pulled down by the fish. The bottom split shot is usually kept at least 22cm above the hook, unless you need to sink the bait quickly to dodge unwanted Butterfish, Tarwhine, etc.
The best bait for the estuary is Alva Weed, sometimes called Moss or Green Weed, which is plaited a few times around the hook shank leaving a trail of 15mm below the hook. As this weed swells in water it pays not to use too much. The Ulva Weed (sea cabbage) is also good bait in the estuary, particularly if the smaller new growth leaves are used. Sometimes luderick will take yabbies, prawns and worms, but this is not their regular diet. They are primarily herbivorous fish and their natural food is weed.
To keep fish on the bite where you’re fishing, it’s a good idea to use a berley mix made from 1/2 a loaf of soaked bread, two handfuls of bran and some finely chopped moss. Mix this with sand and mud then throw small squeezed lumps into the water slightly up-tide. Concentrate your berley on the area you’re fishing, indiscriminate use can move the fish out of reach.
The techniques used for luderick are determined by the depth of water you’re fishing. Initially start by trying just above the bottom. You will know when your bait touches bottom because the float will lie sideways. If you get no result, alter your float stop and start trying with bait just clearing the bottom. Continue trying different depths raising your bait up a foot and so each time. At times they will be feeding a metre or more above the bottom.
The ‘strike’, if it could be called that, is made with the rod laid slightly sideways against the way the float and fish are travelling. Always allow your float to go well down before attempting to hook the fish. Take your time, let the fish bounce around for while, keeping the fish’s weight on your rod tip. It will tire but until it does, you will experience the thrill of a hard fighting luderick that does not always exist in other types of fishing. To protect your light line, lift the fish from the water with a landing net.
Luderick spots in estuaries are fairly constant and can often be learned just by asking. The areas to explore include deep water banks around sunken timber, rocky reefs, bridge and jetty pylons, or similar obstructions underwater. Along rock walls, particularly where deep water holes or changing wall formation have caused the tide to eddy or swirl can be productive at all stages of a tide.
Luderick dislike clear sunlit water. Best results are usually on a cloudy day with the water slightly discoloured. The last two hours of the run out tide and the first hour of the run in tide, particularly if it occurs around dawn or dusk, are the best conditions.