When I overhear the word ‘mulloway’, my ears automatically prick. I robotically nod my head and pretend to be still listening to the jibber that my mate is spinning me while really I’m absorbing every word from the chatter behind me concerning these wonderful fish. It’s a curse.
Four hours south of Sydney and two hours east of Canberra are the fish-rich waters of Batemans Bay. The Bay has many fishing opportunities but the Clyde River is fast becoming a mulloway mecca.
Thanks to the removal of commercial fishing effort, this rejuvenated fishery improves each season and attracting increasing numbers of anglers in search of mulloway.
Most mulloway captures are between the Princes Highway bridge at Batemans Bay and the Kings Highway bridge at Nelligen, roughly 5km upriver. Both bridges are themselves major mulloway magnets.
Despite the regularity of mulloway captures these days, a lot of anglers still struggle to lock horns with one.
Remember one thing: they’re just fish! Fish swim and eat and make little fish. Find out where and when they feed and present them something they’re interested in.
Darkness can aid mulloway captures but tidal movement is probably more important.
But I have a soft spot for night fishing; it relaxes the mind.
I choose to fish around the Princes Highway bridge for a few reasons: the bridge lights aid my vision; the bridge hosts a healthy population of live bait and its pylons create perfect current breaks for feeding mulloway.
I prefer the first of the run-in tide. I simply stick a 6/0 hook through the nose of a live bait, making sure the barb is well exposed. I weight live (and dead) baits so they hover roughly 60cm off the bottom and fish with the reel in gear, with the rod planted in a rod holder.
I allow the fish to hook themselves rather than free-spooling and then striking. When a mulloway has a bait in its mouth, it also has a hook in its mouth so it doesn’t pay to let a fish run off with the bait and allow it a chance to reject your hook.
Live bait can be successful in daylight hours, too. Anchoring and drifting both produce fish.
Soft plastics are most successful around the tide change, too. Steve Starling and I hosted a mulloway-on-plastics segment on Volume 19 of The Fishing DVD and over two days shooting on the Clyde from daylight until dark we caught five fish, all hooked within an hour of a tide change.
Mulloway, like any other fish, don’t feed all day. Every animal has a time to feed and a time to rest.
You’re looking for current breaks, which come in the form of structure visible above the surface or below.
A defined ripple on the surface could mean something below is altering the tidal flow. It could be a weed bank, reef, sand spit or drop-off.
Mulloway hold in areas where minimal effort is required to swim and feed. They station at the head of the current break, (up-current of a bridge pylon) where the biggest and fittest fish ambush their prey as it comes past.
An accurate cast should be rewarded immediately if the fish are there. If your efforts are fruitless, try the next fishy location.
Bites can be subtle and hard to detect, so keep tight to your plastic and strike hard and fast on any change in your line’s behaviour, either touch-wise or visually.
Some anglers fish light tackle, some fish heavy, it doesn’t seem to matter as long as your presentation hits the mark.
Mulloway aren’t as smart as we give them credit for. They don’t care what’s on the menu, as long as it lands in front of them at the right time.
The stomach contents of one fish kept for the table revealed two small leatherjackets, five cut fish pieces that were obviously used for berley, one 25cm snapper, three school prawns and a sand crab.
Mulloway patrol all likely hunting grounds and I have heard of fish being caught on every bend of the Clyde River from the mouth to well past Nelligen so if you’re fishing the prime months of October to April they will be somewhere.
Working around baitfish activity is probably the most successful way to pin a mulloway. Any surface movement, whether it’s prawns flicking, tailor smashing a bait school, seabirds working an area vigilantly – learn to read the signs. Think like a fish and fish the way you think!
Trolling lures for Mulloway is extremely under-rated. The trick is to troll with the main tidal flow.
Water depth isn’t as critical as lure selection. Barramundi-style lures that run down to 6m will put you in the ballpark. Lures grubbing into the river bed and stirring up the sand and silt will attract the attention of fish in the area.
Trolling is a great way to cover a lot of water and to get that reaction strike from a curious fish.
Swim your lure roughly 40m behind the boat at idle speed and hold the rod at 45° to your trailing lure. This allows the rod to load quickly, aiding a solid hook-set.
Set your drag on the softer side to avoid pulling the treble hooks. Replacing the trebles with one single hook is also an option.
Ensure your spool is full because line can diminish quickly when a large mulloway hits and screams off in the opposite direction to which the boat is travelling.
The biggest thing to remember when trolling is to respect other anglers.
Don’t troll through an angler’s berley trail and definitely do not cut between an angler’s boat and the area they are working.
Don’t put mulloway in the too-hard basket; they are no different from any fish that eats a bait or lure.
BATEMANS BAY ESSENTIALS
Harry’s Bait ’n’ Tackle 17 Clyde St, Batemans Bay ph 02 4474 4393
Clyde River Houseboats 02 4472 6369
Big 4 Holiday Park Nelligen ph 1300 784 446
Reef Seafood Restaurant and Motor Inn 02 4472 600 (adjacent to the Bay Bridge)