Mulloway on the march
  |  First Published: July 2015

Mulloway have been the hot topic lately, and for good reason too. Plenty of schoolies and larger metre-plus models have been active in the lower reaches up to Spencer. Soft plastics and vibes are producing the best results, but live baits of pike, tailor, yellowtail and squid have been pulling the better fish to 30kg on the major points and reef edges around Broken Bay.

One notable capture was a 113cm mulloway tagged and released by client Stuart on a 2500 size reel loaded with 5lb braid and a 10lb leader. Hopping a 5” stickbait down a rocky point, the bite was distinctive, and the first run nail-biting, with bucking head shakes and quick bursts of speed. Once under control, the battle was to try and lift the fish from the depths against the light drag setting and the onset of the run-in tide.

Most would try to tighten the drag or palm the spool, generally with a negative result. Stu calmly played the fish for an hour and 15 minutes on the light tackle, covering more than a kilometre and a half in the process. We used the electric motor continuously through the battle to change the angle of pull against the tide and fish, when the fight went into a slug match. With no-one winning, we would reposition the boat to try and disorientate it and to hopefully subdue it quicker.

Soft plastics are still my go-to lures for catching the Hawkesbury’s mulloway. That’s not to say the current selection of soft vibes don’t pull some nice fish, but it’s the ability to change the tail profile, length and colour when necessary, as well as altering the weight of the jighead to suit each location that I really like.

Snag resistance is the other major factor considering you should be working your lures around structure. A single upward-facing hook verses 2 sets of trebles under a lure that sinks like a stone will become unproductive when you are constantly snagged and having to retrieve it or bust it off and retie.

Besides the mulloway there have been plenty of quality flathead to 70cm as bycatch. You will find them on most rock walls, especially the current-licked points around Broken Bay and Cowan. The most effective technique is hopping a ¼-3/8oz weighted plastic across the bottom. Colour is not as important as making sure you are getting the lure to where the fish are holding, which is on the bottom. Tidal water fish are pretty opportunistic when a feed comes past their noses; they aren’t too fussy as long as they don’t have to put too much energy into chasing it down to eat it.

The colder the water temps get, the slower you should work your plastics and vibes. Adding a longer pause in between hops, smaller subtle twitches, and the addition of scent will benefit you when the bites aren’t coming as often as they should.

Some stud bream have been hanging deep on the rock walls and reefs, and are being caught by most methods. Berley is a key factor for bait fishing at this time of year, and a simple bread mixture used around the exposed washy points in Broken Bay will get reels screaming and the heart pumping. The odd drummer can turn up just inside the heads too, so be on guard for a smoking.

Luring bream in the falling water temps remains the same, with deep water fishing the go. Small blades and curl tail grubs or minnows on 1/8-¼oz jigheads cast parallel to the rock walls and worked back to the boat at the 6-8m mark has proven itself year after year. It takes a bit of patience, but it can turn up some great winter fishing. Time the approach to coincide with the high tide change, as it will fire the fish up with a slight increase in water temp for an hour or so.

Silver trevally and Australian salmon have been showing in catches throughout Cowan and Broken Bay over the last month. Keep your eyes out for working birds or spontaneous bustups when moving around. The trevally love to hang under the salmon schools to pick up the scraps, so it can pay to let your lure sink to the bottom on occasion when working surface feeding fish.

Anglers have been having a ball on the hairtail, with double figure sessions pretty common this season. Pilchards on ganged hooks and a glow stick suspended at different depths under the boat or cast from the bank beneath a medium to large float are proven techniques. Most of the bites have been just after sundown, so there’s no need to really stay past midnight in the single digit temperatures.

All-in-all, the Hawkesbury has really bounced back from the fresh in late autumn, and should continue to produce some nice fish over the winter months. Pick your days and fish gentlemen’s hours and you’ll be surprised with what you can still catch at the coldest time of year.

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