The winds of change
  |  First Published: February 2014

So far this year the weather hasn’t as hot as last year, so the water temps have started to fall. However, this has actually improved the fishing, and also made it more comfortable.

The dams have been holding up well over summer and have fallen only slightly. If they get the usual late season rainfall this could bring them back up.

With the holiday season now over, the boat traffic has lessened. The ramps are a lot less congested, making launching easier, especially at the dams.

The Hunter River has been fishing really well for bass right up to Aberdeen, with most catches coming from the low light periods using surface lures and live bait, specially crickets and shrimp. The Paterson River has also been accounting for some good numbers of bass, with surface lures up the higher end and spinnerbaits and lures down around the lower tidal reaches.

There are heaps of surface lures to choose from but I have my favourites – the Megabass Siglett and Smith Bisen. The locally made Marz is also very good.

The lower section of the Hunter, from Morpeth to the Terrace, has some really good areas to target, including rock walls, steep banks and sandy flats which are very productive as they hold prawns which the bass feed on. Be prepared to tangle with the odd bream and flathead as well.

The Williams River has had a lot of skiers over the break and will take a while to settle down, but as the month progresses the bass will be back. This system holds a lot of bass – not monsters, but it’s still very enjoyable fishery with its bankside cover and serenity. Trolling along the edges with 40mm lures and 3/8oz spinnerbaits a very good option, as well as casting Betts Spins or Jackall TN50s into the cover.

Baitfishers can’t go past using live prawns, shrimp or crickets on any of these lower river systems.

Lostock Dam has been pretty popular over the holidays. There have been some nice bass caught there, mainly on lures. The fishing should also be on the improve here as the water temp drops a bit and the dam gets a bit of influx of freshwater from up the tops.

Lake St Clair is still holding plenty of water and the water temperature is just starting to drop a few degrees, which will make for better fishing. When it gets down around 24°C the bass definitely come onto a better bite.

This summer there haven’t been many good weed beds around the dam compared to a couple of years ago, and this also makes for some frustrating times trying to catch a few fish. Still, there have been some reasonable numbers of fish caught with the baitfishers getting some catties off the banks and goldens around the deep timber. The bass have been coming from the edges on surface lures very early and late, and have also hit trolled lures in the deeper water, around 5-8m.

The bass have been moving around the dam recently, which can be very frustrating. One day you can catch them along the edges on cranks and spinnerbaits, and next day you find they have moved to deeper water and will only take a slow rolled plastic or blade fished right on the bottom.

I think the fish behaviour depends on the wind at this dam, as it has very little protection from the southerly that is common this month. The fish are actively feeding on the firetail gudgeons now, and the wind not only blows the schools of bait around the dam but it can also turn the column over which can make them go very deep.

A very good sounder can help to find the baitfish, especially if it has a feature like Structure Scan, which can cover virtually 180° of the water under your boat and save you a lot of time. Another useful tool I use on my Lowrance is Insight Genisis Mapping as it can locate hidden gutters and different bottom compositions.

If I plan to do some surface fishing after dark I like to sound out the spots earlier in the day, finding fish holding out deep (6-10m), and then there is a fair chance they will move up onto the edges after the sun goes down.

Along with the various surface lures I like to use, I have found that jerkbaits are very handy to fish amongst the weed patches at St Clair. My two go-to ones are the Jackall Squirrel Soul Shad in ghost gill and HL gold/black.

The deeper banks and gullies up both the Fallbrook and Carrowbrook reaches, especially those that have had some wind on them, will fish well with both spinnerbaits and lipless cranks. This is also the case for Gindigah point and Reedy Cove if there has been a westerly blowing.

Around the Broadwater, Swanny Bay, Jeanie Miller Bay and Connell Inlet are good areas to troll. Work the deeper areas and fish the banks in low light periods.

During December the Singleton Fly Fishing Club with the assistance of the Fisheries dollar-for-dollar scheme did their annual stocking of bass fingerlings into the dam.

Lake Glenbawn has produced some reasonable catches of bass over past weeks along with the odd golden and silver that fell to a live cricket or grasshopper. During my past 20 years of fishing this dam I have found that January and February can be the toughest months to catch a fish.

The dam has dropped a bit recently, which makes the fishing a bit tough – and with very little weed around the banks it’s not easy to find the fish. I recommend doing a lot of talking and sounding, using every resource possible.

Things are the same here as at St Clair. You can find and catch fish in an area today and come back the next day and find that they have moved. It can be very hard to work out a pattern of fish behaviour.

The bass this month tend to come from the deeper areas, rather than around the banks. Usually the deeper bass come from areas in the 13-20m range and will take a slow rolled plastic on 1/4oz jighead, or a blade. These areas can be around sunken timber and close to steep rocky walls, such as Golden Point and Sunken Cabins at the bottom of the dam.

When jigging around this timber in that depth I like to use Downscan to actually see the fish in amongst the tree limbs. Before I start jigging I like to drop a lipless crankbait with no trebles as it appears to get the fish a bit active.

Further up the dam around the Boot and Castle Rock, blades and plastics are a good choice in the drop-offs to deeper water whilst around the Dogleg I recommend trying deep plastics, especially early in the morning.

Up the back of the dam other deep jigging areas are along the face of Big Mountain in 20m amongst the sunken trees, and then out in the open river channel in about 13-15m casting and slow-rolling plastics and blades around the Panhandle up to the Eagles Nest.

This is also a good area to troll very deep lures and heavily weighted lipless ranks and spinnerbaits. They will need to get down around 7m.

The baitfishing can also be pretty tough but if you have some live crickets, shrimp or yabbies and fish the timber you are in with a chance of a couple. Areas around Cemetery Point up along North Run are a good starting spot.

This is the last month of summer and so we will look forward to the cooler days and hopefully better fishing conditions in autumn.

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