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The Hawkesbury hits its straps
  |  First Published: January 2015



It’s been a great start to the year, with plenty of fish biting along the Hawkesbury, from the fresh to the salt.

Bass have been going nuts in the small creeks and headwaters of the bigger rivers that flow into the Hawkesbury/Nepean system. Christmas beetle and cicada imitations have been the best surface lures, followed by shallow crankbaits and jig spinner/soft plastic grub combos for that slightly deeper presentation when the sun is high.

With bass being so territorial, it is essential that the first couple of casts to likely structure or a new pool be accurate, so as not to spoil the spot by recovering a wayward lure. If you do happen to overshoot the mark, try not to react by pulling the lure back into the structure as a reflex. If it’s hanging loosely, you are more likely to be able to wiggle the rod tip and shake the lure free — and hopefully into a prime spot with a bass waiting underneath!

With plenty of rain in the upper catchment over recent times, the brackish water has remained around Wisemans Ferry. Flathead, bream and the occasional legal mulloway (70cm) are still bitting well on the neap tides. Boat traffic and bigger tides equal dirty water at this time of year, so picking times and tides to fish are important to a successful day on the water.

Dad’s Corner, Del Rio, Webbs Creek, Laughton Dale and Slippery Rock have all produced good fish over the last month. This should continue until autumn when the water temperatures drop and the fish start to stack up. The sandbars are where most of the action takes place, early and late in the day. Live prawns and herring are the best baits, but a whole or strip squid bait will still interest a mulloway or big bream even this far upstream.

Some better mulloway to 30kg have been caught around Broken Bay over the summer period, with these fish preferring dead squid baits to live ones, plus yakkas and pike. Having a range of fresh dead and live baits gathered in time for the tide changes is the key to securing your trophy Mulloway at this time of year. It’s not just the Mulloway’s habits you need to have an understanding of though; it’s about the bait, other species, and their movements as well. Once a thorough understanding of how everything in an estuary interrelates, your mulloway success rate will increase tenfold.

Blue swimmer crabs are going great guns, with reports of large crabs and an abundance of them. Some guys were doing 2 sets and getting their bag limit! On and off the water in 2 hours — perfect! Mud crabs came on strong just before Christmas, but have thinned a bit, although a little rain should kick them into gear again. Bar Point to Wisemans are where the consistent reports keep coming from.

Bream and whiting on surface lures have been awesome this season, and it’s a great alternative when the conditions are too windy to fish in exposed, deeper locations. Clear stickbaits and poppers worked vigorously for the whiting and more stop-start for the bream are the go.

Kingfish have been biting well on the headlands, with live yakkas the number 1 bait on my boat. Downrigged or drifted deep, kings just smash them. Live slimies are also great baits, but tend to be a bit hit and miss at our bait grounds around West Head. It pays to be alert at the bait grounds and be mindful of any change in the baits’ behaviour, as the predators you were heading off to chase can turn up right there. There has been many times where I have not left the bait grounds for the whole session, as the fish come in for the preoccupied baitfish gorging in your berley trail. A livie suspended under a bobby cork or balloon, plus another mid water on a running sinker rig, will get you in the game.

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When you crack the pattern, catching bream on surface lures is visually exciting and very rewarding.

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Dusky flathead have been biting well from Wisemans Ferry to Spencer, on soft plastics and live prawns.

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Small poppers with clear finishes seem to get more bites from the Hawkesbury whiting. Add a smear of scent to get them really fired up.

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Mulloway will be coming back on the bite this month. Fresh dead or live bait is a must to secure quality legal fish like this.

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