Catching cracker crocs
  |  First Published: May 2014

The month of May can turn on some fantastic fishing in the Hawkesbury. Big blue-nosed bream, XOS dusky flathead and monster mulloway are all viable targets. This is also the last month to target the bass and estuary perch (EPs) before the closed season takes effect on June 1.

The latter two species are now schooling up in the tidal water from Windsor to Wisemans ferry, and can provide hours of entertainment on light spinning tackle. This is the one time of year we commonly encounter trophy-sized bass and EPs (over the 50cm mark!), especially if there has been some rain leading into this month. It tends to bring the bigger fish out, as they seem to know there will be plenty of nutrient-rich water in which their offspring can grow and thrive.

I prefer to cast lures but trolling deep divers and bait fishing with prawns and worms are also effective methods. Casting small soft plastic grubs and minnows along the rock walls and weed beds allows you to cover ground to find the fish, then you can stay with them using an electric motor and repeat casts across the active schools of fish.

EPs and bass at this time of year can be turned on by the activity of their mates, and cricket score catches can be achieved on some days. Remember that the current bag limit is a combined total of bass and EPs, which allows you to keep only two fish with only one over 35cm. They’re definitely not the best species to target if you want a decent feed of fish, but if you’re just after some fun you’ll get that in spades.

Locating decent back eddies is the key to finding good concentrations of fish. I prefer the run-out tide but I have also had some great sessions on the run-in tide. I’ve found 2” and 3” curl tail grubs to be the most successful plastics, as they have an inbuilt action on the drop. However, small paddle tails like the 3” Slider Grubs and PowerBait Bass Minnows also account for fish. I always carry a range of jigheads from 1/12th to 1/4oz to suit the depth and tidal strength, but I nearly always opt for a 1/8th jighead as it casts well, gets down easily to around 6m and has a slow sink rate when matched to a curl tail grub.

The lower reaches from Laughtondale to Brooklyn are fishing well for the big blue-nose bream, with the rock walls and reefs producing the better fish. Pumpkin Point, The Vines and Bar Point are all well-known producers of these big bruisers when you fish the tide changes and add small amounts of berley regularly. Fresh and live baits are the best option, with the frozen Hawkesbury prawn a close second. Keep your leaders light and preferably use fluorocarbon in the 6-10lb range.

School jewfish and some monster mulloway will be busy feeding this month as the blackfish, mullet and bream all school up and prepare for their mad dash north along the coast to spawn. Live baits and large dead baits fished on the tide changes around Juno, Flint and Steel, Gunya, Bar Point, the rail bridge and Spencer will see a few lucky anglers land that fish of a lifetime.

Those who prefer to cast lures for the mulloway will do well with minnows and paddle tails in the 4-6” range. I like natural colours but I’ve seen plenty of fish caught on nuclear by-products too! The basic rule of thumb is this: if it’s dirty, fish a darker lure (like a black/gold), and when it’s clear translucent colours with purple hues seem to get a few runs.

Flathead have been quite abundant this season and I can only hope it’s a reflection of the well supported catch and release ethos of most anglers when they encounter a big breeding female. This month should turn up a few quality crocs too as they prepare for the chilly winter water temps, and with all the other fishy activity happening they won’t be too far away waiting for that next opportunity. I have found over the years the bigger 70cm+ duskies prefer larger than normal lures. It’s a bit of a trade-off as you won’t encounter much bycatch, but if you want that big croc I’d be throwing big paddle tail shads from 6” and upwards on the major drop-offs and reefs around Broken Bay.

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