Only the keen anglers are out this month although those who are keen to let their beloved bass spawn in peace can still enjoy some other places and other species in the Hawkesbury.
Places where bass spawn are determined by such factors as salinity and water temperature. The general area of the Hawkesbury is considered to be between Sackville and Wisemans Ferry.
So for those who struggle with the idea of targeting spawning bass but who still want to catch some, the Colo River is a known Winter producer. You can fish above Ebeneezer without struggling with your conscience. While the bass there might not be as co-operative as in the past few months, they’re still going feed and can still be caught.
Not every mature bass will make the effort to spawn and you’ll still find these out of the spawning area. The higher temperature of 16.5° is within the active range of bass.
Soft plastics, slow-rising floating and suspending lures and sinking flies should be the better options. Working your offerings slowly will be the key.
With soft plastics, use as light a jighead as you can get away with or, preferably, an unweighted plastic. Where there are weed beds you’ll often find the water a little warmer and a slight rise in temperature can make all the difference to finding bass.
Common mistakes people make with plastics include not rigging them properly on the hook, working them too fast, using too heavy a leader to allow them to move freely, and choosing jigheads that are too heavy.
EPs are great targets in areas such as the Colo and throughout the Hawkesbury. They generally hold in deeper water than bass but can be caught where you are hunting bass.
If you are looking for EPs, try soft plastics on heavier jig heads worked along the bottom. Minnow or prawn profiles are best. I prefer Berkley 2” and 3” Bass Minnows and 3” Sliders in natural colours.
I’ve also had success dropshotting for EPs using soft plastics. Once you’ve located fish on the sounder, a Berkley 2” or 3” minnow on a dropshot rig is perfect. Use a palomar knot to secure the hook with the point upwards and tie a dropshot sinker about 40cm down the tag end of the line.
When you feel the fish tap on the line, drop the rod tip slightly and allow the fish to take the plastic before setting the hook.
For fly anglers, a fast-sinking line is important in order to get your fly down to where the fish are. Bass Vampires are a favourite of many anglers targeting EPs but soft plastic prawns like the Rio prawns also account for fish.
Flatties are still in good numbers in the Hawkesbury and fresh bait is the preferred option for them. Live prawns and flesh baits in a good berley trail will attract flathead. Get the berley to the bottom where the fish are, and use a little berley often, rather than a lot in one hit.
I recently paid for a half-day charter with NSWFM writer and guide Stuart Hindson on Wagonga Inlet at Narooma, where he showed us how he targets big flatties. He makes long casts with large 120mm Squidgy Wrigglers and allows the plastic to sink to the bottom.
To make sure the plastic is on the bottom, it’s important to look at your line about one-third to half-way down from your rod tip to the line entering the water. Watching this area, you will see a sudden dip in the line as the plastic reaches the bottom.
After two violent rips to attract the attention of nearby flathead, Stuart allows the plastic to fall to the bottom again and works it back to the boat. I’m keen to try this in the Hawkesbury for our flatties.
We used plastics in natural colours in the ultra-clear waters of Wagonga and while the same would be used in clear waters locally, if the water is murky try Coral (pink), Drop Bear (white) or Silver Fox (silver) which all stand out in discoloured water. Give this technique of Stuart’s a try and see what happens. If not, simply bouncing soft plastics along the bottom eventually sees a flattie landed.
While the larger flathead are great to show to the family and friends, let the larger fish of 60 cm bigger go because these are the females which will continue to breed if you release them carefully.
Bream are about in reasonable numbers and size and I’ve managed to get some bream while chasing estuary perch.
Soft plastics like Berkley 3” Minnows in watermelon or pumpkinseed do well on bream, especially for guys working under boats near Wisemans Ferry. Landing lightly weighted plastics close to boats and allowing the current to take them down works really well and is growing in popularity locally. Bream bites on soft plastics are really light and those new to breaming with plastics will miss a lot before they learn to recognise what is happening.
Other locations that should attract bream will be around rock walls, pylons and at creek junctions, especially after a period of rain. There's also the strong possibility that while you might be dropshotting for EPs you'll end up with bream.
There are often big bream caught at this time of the year, so leader choice can be critical. it’s hard to find something that is fine enough to encourage strikes yet strong enough to turn a rampaging fish.
Jewfish like to wait in ambush after heavy rains in gutters and depressions in the bottom which allow them to sit out of the current. Fresh strip baits and live baits of tailor and mullet are the best options and fish from a few kilos to around 25kg are a possibility in the river this month.
Blackfish have a regular and serious band of followers along the coast and anglers at Wisemans Ferry have been surprised to find blackfish 50km upstream from the entrance of Broken Bay.
Blackfish are attracted to the weed growth along the rock walls in the area. With a regular berley trail of weed on a falling tide, good bags of fish to 50cm can be taken.
Whatever species you plan to catch, always endeavour to be specific about what you want to catch and use the correct gear to catch that species. Sometimes when I ask an angler what they are hoping to catch, it saddens me to hear them say something like “Whatever will take the hook!”
While it’s great to take the kids out fishing, it will make their experience more memorable if you actually show them how to target a species and end up catching some. The ‘whatever will take the hook’ attitude often ends up a frustrating waste of time and brings little joy to those fishing.
Rod Cumming was targeting bass when he caught this 30cm estuary perch on a 1/ ounce Whiz Banger. It was a welcome catch on a day when the fish switch had been turned off.
This plucky bream was caught using a drop shot rig with a Berkley 2"