Located just 29 kilometres from Sydney’s CBD, Narrabeen Lake and surrounding waters offers urban and travelling anglers a wide variety of fishing options. With a large lagoon that is fed directly from the ocean plus miles of sandy beaches, there’s plenty of opportunities to wet a line and connect with a few fish such as bream, whiting, flathead, tailor, Australian salmon and mulloway.
The lagoon itself is relatively shallow near the mouth, with deeper basins, holes and gutters spread throughout upstream. With just a skinny channel feeding out into the northern corner of North Narrabeen beach tidal current is minimal, making it easy to fish with lightly weighted baits or small lures. The lagoon does become land-locked at times when the entrance silts over, but it is regularly opened up by the council or when larger tides and swells break back through the sand bank.
However even during periods of being land-locked, the lagoon still produces plenty of fishing action due to it holding good volumes of small baitfish and crustaceans for trapped fish to feed on.
The most common species encountered in the main lagoon are whiting, bream and flathead. Occasionally, large mulloway also make their way into these waters from the ocean to feed on the large schools of mullet and other baitfish that are present. Likewise on a higher tide, schools of tailor and salmon will race through the entrance to feed on the plentiful baitfish, before retreating to the ocean again before the tide drops.
Surf beaches and headlands
Moving to the nearby surf beach and headlands, the constantly shifting sand banks and gutters make it easy to find the kind of structures that hold fish, such as deeper gutters close to shore. These gutters hold smaller fish looking for respite from the waves and current, which in turn attracts bigger species like mulloway and schools of tailor or salmon to feed on the smaller fish. Throughout the cooler months mulloway are a regular catch for beach anglers, particularly fishing the full moon period at night or after heavy rain, when run-off from the lagoon floods out the entrance, carrying smaller baitfish such as mullet and garfish creating easy feeding options for these larger fish.
The rocky headlands of Narrabeen Head and Turimetta Head to the north both hold the same species as the surrounding stretches of beach. However both these headlands are shallow low rock shelfs, so care must be taken when fishing them. It’s advised to be well aware of the swell size before attempting to do so, and avoiding the area if the swell is over 1.0 – 1.2 metres, particularly during a rising tide or strong winds.
Species such as drummer can also be present around the rocks, with the chance of coming across the odd larger pelagic species on occasions as well.
Tips and tricks
Fishing in Narrabeen Lagoon
The area around the lagoon entrance is the only place where tidal flow can be an issue, with water moving faster through this narrow section during the mid stages of each tide. At these times, the best option is to target tailor and salmon with lures by walking the water’s edge and casting up-current, before working the lure back and repeating. Keep on the move, as the schools travel quickly through the area, and it’s best to fish the run up towards high tide, then the hour or so afterwards before the water drops too far. If this period lines up with sunrise or sunset the chances of finding these fish are increased. Similarly, fishing these tides at night is also a good option. Casting around the pylons of North Narrabeen Bridge is another good spot, with bream also liking this structure at slacker stages of the tide.
Ideal lures for chasing tailor or salmon near the entrance are small metal lures such as the TT Lures Hardcore Slugs. These can be cast a good distance, covering plenty of water. Wind quickly, and impart further action by sweeping the rod tip from side to side to erratically change the lure’s direction and speed. Another option is jerk shad style soft plastics like the 5” Scented Jerk ShadZ from ZMan. Mounted on a jighead for casting weight, these lures have a darting action that fast feeders like tailor can’t resist. For bait anglers, whole or half pilchards are ideal, or smaller whole white bait. Again, keep the bait moving and higher in the water column.
For smaller species like bream, try smaller 2” – 3” soft plastics like ZMan GrubZ or Slim SwimZ. Use the lightest jighead possible for a more natural presentation, and a dead slow retrieve near structure. Fresh baits of prawn pieces or squid strips work well, fished with the lightest sinker weight possible.
Moving further into the lagoon, the shallow flats in front of NRMA Sydney Lakeside Holiday Park are where you start to find better numbers of flathead, bream and whiting. Wading these flats as the tide drops and fishing with small baits of prawn pieces and beach or blood worms very lightly weighted is the best chance of catching some whiting or bream. These fish can also be targeted with small lures, with flathead also being caught on both baits and lures here. Target the sandy edges of weed patches, and again fish as light as possible for a natural presentation.
Upstream from the boat ramp, the water starts to morph into deeper sections interspersed with small sandy flats. The drop-offs and edges of these areas are the ideal place to target larger flathead and bream, with soft plastics lures being very effective. Moving up to a larger paddle tail lure like the ZMan 3” MinnowZ or 4” DieZel MinnowZ will still catch smaller fish but also appeal to any larger flathead in the system. These areas are also where a surprise mulloway can turn up, especially in the deeper sections. Fishing these areas with baits of prawns, yabbies or beach worms will also connect anglers with bream, whiting or flathead.
Foreshore areas around Lakeside park provide some access, however finding suitable land-based spots to fish from becomes more difficult as you head upstream toward the bridge at Pittwater Road. This is where a small watercraft like a kayak or SUP board opens up more possibilities for anglers. However around the bridge itself and further upstream are some good access points for land-based fishing, such as Wimbledon Park off Wimbledon Avenue, or around the boat ramp at Claude’s Carpark off Wakehurst Parkway. Further along this road, there is Middle Creek Reserve, which also features the small bridge over Middle Creek. For kayak anglers, the first few stretches of Middle Creek can hold good flathead and bream.
Fishing the beach and rocks
The beaches in the Narrabeen area are open to ocean swells, and therefore have constantly shifting sand banks and gutters. These areas provide ample opportunity to catch some bream, whiting, tailor and salmon. They are also prime for targeting mulloway, who patrol the gutters looking for schools of mullet as they hide from the swell and broken water.
Fishing baits of beach or blood worms will attract a wide variety of species. Try and find deeper gutters that are close to shore, but have a sand bank behind it where the waves crash and dissipate. Small baitfish often hide in here, and the wave action also stirs up worms and shell fish that are then deposited in the deeper water where hungry fish wait. Alternatively, baits of pilchard pieces, whitebait, prawn or squid strips will also be effective.
Often anglers will need heavier tackle, longer rods of 10-13’ and more sinker weight to fish these areas if the surf is up, but it’s still beneficial to fish as light as possible. Walking along the beach with the sweep or current also keeps your presentation in the strike zone longer.
Those that are targeting mulloway will have the best chance with large flesh baits such as mullet fillets, or whole small baitfish like small mullet, garfish or pilchards. Fishing on moonlit nights definitely increases the chances, as does fishing after heavy rains flush out the lagoon. This type of fishing usually requires heavier lines of 15lb – 30lb, and longer more powerful rods in the 12’ – 14’ range.
For lure anglers, casting metal slugs across these gutters and retrieving quickly is a great way to connect to some tailor or salmon. These fish hunt in packs, moving through the gutters to attack any stunned or spooked bait fish. Soft plastic lures are also effective in the surf on these species, with larger options such as ZMan 5” and 7” Scented Jerk ShadZ accounting for them.
Using smaller options like ZMan 3” MinnowZ or Slim SwimZ in these gutters can attract bream, and they are often larger than those found in the lagoon. Flathead will also patrol these gutters, with slow hops and pauses being most effective for them. Again, early morning or late afternoon is a prime time to fish.
The same baits and lures will catch fish from the rocky headlands, with cunjevoi and bread baits also attracting drummer. Again, extreme care must be taken when fishing these areas, and it’s not recommended for beginners or casual fishers. Experience, quality rock fishing footwear and PFD (personal flotation device) vests are highly recommended, as is fishing through daylight hours only.
What gear to use
A light – medium 7’ spin outfit is ideal for bait or lure fishing in the lagoon itself, and for fishing the closer gutters of the beach in calm conditions. For dedicated bait angling, a longer 8 – 10’ rod helps achieve greater casting distance with light weights. Line breaking strains between 6lb and 12lb will handle the majority of lagoon species. As always, a quality fluorocarbon leader slightly heavier than the main line is recommended for lures or bait.
For beach and rock fishing, rods with a length of 11’ – 14’ provide further casting distance, plus the ability keep the line above the shore break. Stepping up to 12lb – 25lb main line is recommended, partially when targeting tailor and salmon, with mulloway requiring even heavier lines of 15lb – 30lb.
Narrabeen lagoon and it’s surrounding beaches are a true urban fishing gem, with some high quality fish being available only a short distance from the hustle and bustle of Sydney. For anyone holidaying at NRMA Sydney Lakeside Holiday Park, it is definitely worth packing some basic fishing gear, with some top quality species being on offer. There are several tackle stores in the area who can provide quality bait, lures, gear, plus sound advice on what’s currently being caught in the area.