April is one of my favourite times: The temperatures are pleasant but, more importantly, the fish seem to be more aggressive.
The oppressive days which made fishing physically draining in Summer give way to pleasant, comfortable conditions and the bonus is the fish have eyes bigger than their stomachs.
With the growing urge to migrate to spawn in the brackish water around Sackville to Wisemans Ferry, the bass in the headwaters need plenty of conditioning to make the distance. This means the sexually mature fish will be chasing down prey in an effort to bulk up. They’ll be gorging themselves, which makes this a great time to put lures, plastics and flies in front of them.
Poor knots, less than perfect leaders and poorly-maintained tackle can lead to lost fish as the bass become more aggressive than in the warmer months. Remember also that you’re more likely to encounter larger bass than you may have in the past few months.
If you’ve downsized your leaders recently, it might be a good idea to reconsider your choice.
Bass taken off the surface this month should be really exciting, especially from under the trees overhanging the water and from the weed beds. You can expect to take fish from the surface throughout the day but you’ll need to put lures where it is darker. Try under dense overhanging foliage, jetties, bridges and undercut rocks.
If there are dark clouds overhead, take advantage of the conditions. The morning surface bite can be extended with darker skies.
Favourite surface lures for me this month include Taylor Made Fizz Bangers and the Fat Bangers. Lucky Craft Lures also make Bevy Poppers, Bevy Pencils and Bevy Props which have proved to be sensational. I don’t know that you can get these in tackle shops, but they’re worth asking after.
For sub surface action, look for drop-offs, eddies and current lines and use the sounder to locate fish which will be found in deeper water than normally.
Betts Spins, Whiz Bangers and spinnerbaits of varying weights will all catch bass. Some anglers like the 1/16oz, others the 1/8oz and in faster flowing water, the 1/4oz. Whatever bass see in these wire-framed bladed lures is a mystery to many since the day they hit the market but bass love them, especially in April.
For diving lures, my current favourites are Taylor Made Nuggets, Zip Bait Rattlers and the Jackall Chubby. Since writing a review on the Zip Bait Rattlers a few months ago, I’ve been back to buy some more from Dave Butfield’s Tackle World store in St Mary’s. With the action of these lures, bass should go wild on these this month.
If the bass are in a bad mood, sluggish and not wanting to play ball, try suspending lures like the Halco Sneaky Scorpion, Rapala HJ 8 or Rapala HJ 6. When you crank these lures down to their operating depth, stop the retrieve where you believe a bass might be holding. If a fish is nearby, you’ll get its attention by parking the lure in its and maybe entice a strike.
There’s nothing like watching a big bass eyeball a suspending lure for what seems like an eternity and then striking. It’s visual, it gets the adrenaline flowing and it works incredibly well when the conditions call for a suspending lure.
While there are many so-called suspending lures available these days, many will rise very slowly. Some anglers like this but others like their lures to stop dead when the retrieve stops.
Some careful experimenting can turn slow floaters into true suspending lures, by using a fluorocarbon leader instead of mono and using a clip to attach the lure instead of a loop knot.
Lipless lures like those from Daiwa and Jackall are proven bass catchers but if parting with $25 for a lure gives you chest pain, why not try a Kokoda G-Vibe? I know they don’t hold up much in the glamour department compared with the others but they certainly catch fish and cause a lot less wallet pain if you happen to lose one.
Bream have been caught in larger numbers than expected recently, with Windsor to Wisemans turning up quite a few. Whether they’re on flies, plastics or crankbaits, there have been welcome catches of bream by anglers expecting to find bass on their hands.
There locals who target bream and nothing else, while others chasing bass and estuary perch encounter bream as well. A light rod about 1.8m to 2.2m long with a threadline reel with 2kg to 4kg line usually does the job. For those who like to chase bream with bait, chicken gut and steak are popular but most swear by the Hawkesbury prawn and will use nothing else.
Bream can be caught more consistently around Rosevale, the Macdonald River, Webbs Creek, Walkers Beach, Lower Half Moon and Lower Portland.
The mullet is the most overlooked fish in the river and if more people appreciated their fighting abilities, I’m sure we’d see more anglers targeting them.
A while back I was fishing at Dargle on the Hawkesbury when I glanced behind me and saw dozens of mullet not 3m from the boat. I looked at the sounder and there was a dense black line a metre below the surface.
What these fish lack in popularity they make up for in sheer fighting power and there’s probably not another species of equal size in local waters that would be in the same strength department as mullet.
They can be found pretty much in all free-flowing water in western Sydney but you need to be careful about how you approach the water if you’re going to target them. If you make quick and aggressive movements, all you are likely to see are big swirls as the mullet make for safer water.
Gentle, slow movements that are disguised by the background make a stealthy way to approach them from the bank. Berley them with some bread without giving your position away and prepare your fishing outfit.
A common mistake is to use too heavy a line. For smaller mullet some anglers go as light as 1kg mono but this won’t hold the bigger specimens. If you have mono line around 3kg and reasonable fishing skills you should be able to land some of the larger models.
Braided lines are very strong for their diameter and can be less visible. A 2kg to 4kg rod around 1.8m to 2.1m is best. Use a pencil float and, depending on the size of the mullet, a No 12 to No 6 hook.
Pinch down a pellet of moistened white bread onto the hook or for a longer lasting bait try a flour and water dough mixed with cotton wool to hold the goo on the hook better.
Mullet are an ideal fly target and really test your skills. Some of the better bread flies are perfectly cut pieces of square foam and while I’m sure they work, the most realistic bread fly that better resembles your berley trail of bread will be the bread fly made from a small hank of sheep's wool.
Land this type of fly into your bread berley trail and you’ll be uncertain which is the berley and which is the fly. Hopefully so will the fish.
Anywhere from Broken Bay to the Nepean is home to mullet but try Roseville below Lower Portland, Wisemans Ferry, the Macdonald River, Webbs Creek and Walkers Beach just upstream from Wisemans. Lower Half Moon below Lower Portland and nearby Dad’s Corner are also good spots. Ponderosa Corner, which is the next bend down from Dargle, has weed beds, rocky shores and sandy bottom that can be thick with mullet at times. Dargle can be fished from the bank or by drifting the shore.
Near Penrith, the weir downstream from the rail bridge also holds large mullet at times.
Some of these spots are more accessible by foot than others, but a check of a good map will help you get into some mullet action.
With the welcome rains of the past few months, a lot of the Salvinia weed that has choked areas has been washed away. Small remnants will no doubt remain but nowhere near the amount of the Summer months.
The good news is that with the cooler water of Autumn, weed growth will not be as prolific, which means you can fish areas that have been off limits for months due to weed.
A bass like this will hit a lure like a fish twice its size this month. Bass become much more aggressive as they feed up prior to the swim down to the breeding areas.
Suspending can improve your score on slow days: Halco Sneaky Scorpion, Rapala Husky Jerk 6 and
Husky Jerk 8.Reads: 1992