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Braving the elements
  |  First Published: May 2014



By the time you read this the start of the cold season will well and truly be upon us. Wintertime in the New England can be bittersweet; the cool air comes down and turns early tranquil mornings into picturesque frost-lined banks, lined with willows that show a bare skeleton of their once striking green appearance.

Fishing during these months may find you one of a dedicated few willing to brave the elements in search of our beautiful Murray cod. It’s amazing how the peaceful surroundings and cool breeze chilling your skin is quickly turned around when the savage strike of a resident Murray cod gives you a massive rush of adrenalin. It’s a rewarding feeling to know that a plan that has comes together and the effort has paid dividends.

Rivers

When the beanies and jumpers come out it is not just a change of season for us – the fish behave differently as well. The once aggressive golden perch seem to slow down and become lethargic, only feeding when they need to. It can be best to target them with fresh baits such as worms or shrimp, and if you find them focus your fishing in the afternoons after the sun has added a little warmth to the water.

From all reports the local catfish population is booming which is a great sign for the future. Just remember that they cannot be kept from the rivers and must be released immediately.

The ever-reliable carp will have left their summer shallow water hangouts and moved into deeper pockets and schooled up. While it may take a while longer to find them they can often salvage a otherwise quiet trip.

Trout anglers will rejoice over the coming months with cooler temperatures hopefully bringing a triumphant return from the hard summer slog. Creeks like the Mulla Creek and the smaller rivers around the Nowendoc region will be well worth a try for average size fish, or you could head out towards the Walcha area in search of those 3-4lb giants that show up from time to time. Baits of worms, wood grubs and crickets are tried and true performers. Alternatively, if you can’t get onto fresh bait, the factory-made Berkley PowerBaits and similar products can be very handy substitutes, especially in the dams like Malpas, Dumaresq and Sheeba.

The holy grail for those anglers who are not hiding away during winter is the piscatorial bulldozer, the mighty Murray cod. Many anglers believe the first frost of winter brings on a much better class of fish in this region and I would have to agree.

While the cold water slows down the metabolic rate of our hardy native fish, you will generally find that your hook-up rate is much higher. The strikes are generally hard and calculated as the cod recklessly leave their home to secure a meal, not just a territorial thump of the tail or bump that will happen many times during a warm summer afternoon. Beef up your gear and throw around lures of 80mm and more to try find those larger fish. Lures that spring to mind are the Legohead lures made by Dean Cappello, a truly unique design with many quality fish falling to their tantalising action.

Just be prepared to rug up as the temperature can change very quickly around the dawn and dusk periods, and with long hours that may be needed to draw a strike you want to make sure you’re comfortable.

Dams

The last few months of fishing Lake Keepit have been spectacular on the golden perch with many people getting amongst the action on baits and lures of all shapes and sizes. However, May is generally a transition time in our local dams with many of the fish choosing to school up in the deep water around points and drop-offs. A good map of the dam is handy in finding likely looking points, and if you can combine these with a rocky bank or two then you should be able to strike gold. A good sounder can come in handy during these times, exposing underwater hills, valleys, drop-offs and submerged structure that might hold healthy populations of these deep dwelling adversaries. You will still pick up the odd fish trolling around the edges of these schools, but your best bet is to fish close to the bottom with metal vibes or soft plastics and work the area over thoroughly before moving on. The fish won’t feed all day, and sometimes it can be a fish a cast or a really shut down. Still, patience is a virtue and persistence pays off, so good luck out there and give it a go.

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