Happiness on the Hawkesbury
  |  First Published: December 2014

I trust you all had a great Christmas and New Year, filled with plenty of fishy tales. We experienced some amazing fishing leading up to Christmas and this should continue, with some normality being restored to our waterways as the month closes out.

The flats have been firing for bream, flathead and whiting on small poppers and stickbaits cast well ahead of the drift, or by wading. Getting the optimal conditions is key to tempting these flats’ feeders, with overcast or windy days — or a combination of the two — producing better numbers and size.

There is an abundance of flats throughout the Hawkesbury system, with some of the better ones located in Cowan, Pittwater and Berowra. A quick look on Google Earth will reveal their locations and formations for future endeavours.

Another species that loves to smack surface lures is the Aussie bass. They are having a ball in the sweetwater streams and creeks, feasting on any hapless insect that enters their domain. Small poppers, fizzers and paddlers are dynamite when accurately cast to deep shady pockets beneath the overhanging canopy. The lures are often met as they contact the surface, so be on your guard and ready to engage the reel to set the hooks.

If they aren’t responding to surface presentations, a small jig spinner and soft plastic combination is deadly, relatively snag-resistant, plus cost effective. Floating crankbaits are still a versatile lure in the skinny stuff and give the angler two presentations. The first is directly after the lure has landed; you let it settle, then twitch it subtly to make small rings and imitate an insect. Secondly, failing to raise any interest, crank and twitch your lure down to its running depth for another chance to tempt a sulking structure-holding fish.

The main river still contains numbers of fish, but it seems the high water temperatures make them a little lethargic through the middle of the day. Focus your efforts at dawn, dusk and into the night for the better quality specimens and some exciting surface strikes.

Broken Bay will be coughing up some of its own surface action, with frigate mackerel, tailor, salmon, bonito and kingfish all viable options. Looking for diving birds is essential to locating surface feeders in open water. Approach them from up-wind or up-current and kill the engine to keep these often spooky fish on the bite while you drift into them, hopefully hooking a summer speedster or two before motoring around wide and repeating the process.

Kingfish have been biting well, with plenty of rats (sub 65cm) getting to the baits and lures, with their bigger brethren following their hooked mate up. If you’re prepared, you can capitalise by dropping a bait, lure or fly to the larger model and hopefully get a second hookup. There are some good fish amongst the rats, so running stout gear is essential around any structure. Live yakkas and squid seem to produce quite reliably for me, with leader sizes varying between 30-80lb given the location and size of the fish likely to be encountered.

Lion Island, West Head, Pittwater, Cowan and Barrenjoey all hold kingfish at times, with several location changes necessary to find the fish on the day. Having a soft plastic or popper rigged on a spin outfit ready for casting is a handy asset when surface fish are located during your travels.

Flathead are a great backup if the conditions near the coast are bleak. They are spread all the way to Windsor at present and occupying every creek and river along its course through to the upper tidal influence. Soft plastics, vibes and bibless minnows are flattie magnets and get you in the zone on the bottom. Hopping and slow rolling the lure off dropoffs and over sandbars is a fun and easy way to secure a tasty feed of fillets.

I hope this helps you get out there and enjoy the last of the holidays before the daily grind comes around all too soon.


Kingfish are lurking inshore, patrolling the bays and headlands and taking live baits and lures.


Mark Corbin nailed this cracker flathead as jewfish bycatch on a recent charter.


When fish of this calibre eat your little popper and leave a big hole in the surface, it’s exciting to say the least!

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