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Spring into estuary action
  |  First Published: September 2011



I always breathe a great sigh of relief when Spring finally comes around. Those lengthening days and the first sign of the nor’-east winds are pure bliss.

After months of icy pre-dawn starts and endless southerly winds, I welcome the first signs of Spring with open arms.

Humans aren't the only creatures to enjoy the warming weather; quite a few river species are also shaking off the winter doldrums.

Up in the freshwater sections, bass are starting to look skyward, beginning to focus on critters above the waterline.

In the mid sections, bream are doing much the same, turning their attention a little more towards bankside tucker and enjoying the new spurt of prawn activity.

Closer to the river mouth, flathead are starting to kick into gear, relishing the push of warm ocean with each new tide.

Perhaps my two favourite Spring species are bass and flathead. Both seem to become active at almost the exact same time, firing up nicely under stable, warm weather as the high-pressure system push through.

Both species are equally aggressive and ideal Springtime lure targets.

BASS

Spring is arguably the best time of year to target bass. Last year we all got ripped off big-time with endless rain and subsequent floods but things are looking a tad better this season so we can get a shot at these great Aussie sports fish during this peak period of activity.

For bass, Spring is about ever warming water and increasing insect activity. During this time bass will often be quite aggressive.

After their much slower feeding cycles during the cooler months, in Spring they fire up nicely and become far more active.

Bass should be biting freely from the headwaters to the brackish zones.

FLATHEAD

Flathead start to fire up during Spring and will be out and about looking for a meal. But unlike the bass, flathead have the option of moving closer to the river mouth looking for warmer water on the run-in tides.

For bass, finding warm water is about moving up into the shallow zones during the warmest time of the day.

Flathead are lucky in that they can find warmer water and still be safely out of sight in the deeper zones.

Flathead love warmer water and many will edge their way closer to the river mouth. Others – especially the smaller fish – tend to sneak up onto the tidal flats looking for warmer water and an easy meal.

This search for food and warmth makes anglers’ lives a little easier because flathead are often very active during office hours, with peak activity often during the mid-afternoon.

As we edge closer to Summer they begin to fall back into a more familiar pattern of feeding up heavily at dawn and dusk and slowing down markedly during office hours.

BREAM

Spring is a real mixed season for bream. Traditionally they're more of a Winter species, preferring to reside close to the river mouth and slowly edging their way up-river as the weather begins to warm.

During the heat of Summer they are often well up-river, enjoying life in the small feeder creeks and bays.

So Spring is a real ‘off-season’ for bream and we often see them in patchy numbers spread throughout the entire river and lake systems.

It's basically not warm enough for the explosion of small baitfish and prawns that lure numbers of bream up-river, and it's not cold enough for them to school around the river mouth.

Bream spinning during Spring can be tough and you have to expect mixed results until things really start to warm up.

WHITING

Whiting, too, are a little between seasons. While not quite as displaced as the bream, whiting can be a little frustrating to find in good numbers during Spring.

It will still pay to stick with proven lure fishing methods, like working the newly covered flats with small surface lures, but you have to expect things to be a little hit and miss until the water warms markedly.

Once there's warm water covering the flats and all those tiny shrimp and small baitfish magically appear, that's when you can expect whiting to be nearly shouldering each other out of the way to belt your lure.

MULLOWAY

Mulloway are bit like the bream, with Winter being the peak season for big fish, and Summer peak for smaller models. Spring seems to be a time of transition, with decent numbers of fish around but sizes varying from tiny to huge.

It's easy to get caught out with tackle choice. Do you stick with the Winter heavier gear and throw larger lures for big fish, or downsize and target the ever-building numbers of smaller fish?

I remember one Spring facing this dilemma and opted for a 4kg baitcaster outfit. I reasoned that if I trolled deep-diving lures I could tempt the schoolies and still be in with a good shot for some flathead.

The schoolies and flathead just weren't around and a thumping great jewfish inhaled the lure. I spent 45 minutes going up and down the deep rock wall before finally subduing the 25kg jewie. Needless to say, I was buzzing and soon forgot about the soapy jew and flathead I was trying to catch.

Spring is certainly a good time of year to be on the water, but you have to expect mixed results.

Those fish that savour warm water will be starting to liven up and those that enjoy the cold stuff will be slowing down.

If you work on the theory that traditional warm-water species like bass, flathead and whiting will be actively looking for warm water and feeding best during the hottest part of the day, you should consistently find a few fish.

As each day slips by and we move closer to Summer, you'll find most estuary species will bite more freely. Spring is a transitional time so work around warmest days and look for the warmest water.

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