This time of year has to be my favourite on the Hawkesbury, with big bluenose bream usually making an appearance in the lower reaches as the days get shorter and the water temps start to cool off.
Bream in general have been noticeably absent throughout summer though, and this is rumoured to be from the lack of oysters being farmed and grown naturally due to diseases killing off these fragile bivalves. It’s hard to put the bream’s absence down to one factor though, and the dry season we have experienced has seen a few decent specimens caught in the upper tidal reaches between lower Portland and Ebenezer on lures and live prawns.
A lot of the big 40cm+ bream we encounter are bycatch when targeting flathead and mulloway on lures and baits from Wisemans Ferry down to Broken Bay at this time of year. The best places to try for these stud bream are on the abundant natural rock walls and broken reef like Bar Point, Pumpkin Point and the mouth of Marramarra Creek in Berowra.
Soft plastics are my favourite for searching an area quickly, and over the years I’ve found that 2”, 3” and 4” minnows and grubs in natural colours fished on 2-7g jigheads have proven themselves. Tight casts to the back edge of isolated boulders or anything that breaks the current and forms eddies (such as bridge pylons and marker poles) are prime locations for bream to ambush from. If you are after that trophy fish I would suggest keeping your leader strength around 6- 8lb and regularly check for any nicks and abrasion from the rocks and barnacles. It’s these little bits of attention to detail that will help you land that big one when it finally bites.
Flathead have been consistent over the summer months with lure fishing being the most productive approach. Whether it be casting or trolling, you are covering water and presenting your offering to new fish constantly. Sitting at anchor can bring some reasonable catches with fresh bait and a steady berley trail but a slow drift with lightly weighted baits can be dynamite, especially on those days where the wind is against the tide and anchoring is near impossible.
As it gets later in the season I have found it pays to think outside the square a little. On a recent flathead foray the fish were not where I expected them to be, such as on the drop offs and creek mouths on the run out tide. We had cast soft plastics on a drift across a substantial drop-off for only the one keeper and continued along a nearby rock wall where a further 10 keeper flathead were boated in just a few hundred meters as the lures were hopped off the harder substrate and onto the sand at the base of the wall. Snags were commonplace but necessary as we had to get those lures onto the bottom where the flatties were waiting in ambush.
Kingfish, bonito, frigate mackerel and mac tuna have been terrorising baitfish around Cowan, Pittwater and Broken Bay of late. Small metal slices and clear soft plastic minnows wound as fast as possible will get you a bite when the frigates and macs are being fussy.
I like to troll live baits for the bigger kingfish and bonito but plenty of guys are doing well trolling a spread of small skirts and bibbed minnows around the headlands. Live yellowtail are my pick of the baits as you can secure a tankful in around an hour when they are cooperative. Nose hooked or bridled with a strong, small, non-offset hook and rubber band will have them behaving seductively on the downrigger or flat line.
Jewfish are back on the hit list and some respectable fish have fallen to live baits and lures recently. The fish are back in the estuary and looking to put on some condition before the chill of winter sets in.
Live baits are still easy to obtain and are a great proposition when the tide is running as you can still keep an offering in their face. However, you may find it more productive to drift and cast soft plastics when the tide slows down. Paddle-tail shads and stickbaits from 3-7” on 3-14g jigheads will cover the many scenarios the Hawkesbury has to offer. The key is to select the right plastic/jig combination for the area being fished. As a general rule, 1g of jig weight per 1m of water being fished should give you a steady sink rate without plummeting to the bottom.Reads: 644