Woah Nelly – That’s a big Yelly!
  |  First Published: December 2015

December is here, and before we know it Santa will be sliding down chimneys hopefully to deliver all sorts of fancy new tackle! While it’s great to dream about the Christmas holidays, it’s the fishing that you should be thinking about at this time of year. With long summer days, and all sorts of fishing opportunities, every day on the water is like Christmas!

Let’s talk yellowbelly, as now is the prime time to get out and chase some Copeton gold. They are an all-day proposition if you are really keen. Alternatively, you could fish the morning, have lunch and a rest, then head out again for an afternoon session.

There are a number of techniques to target the yellowbelly at Copeton. Trolling deep diving hardbodies in and around structure has been very popular for as long as I can remember, and was how I caught my first yellowbelly in Copeton. In the late 70’s there weren’t a lot of lures to choose from, and my first yella was caught on a medium green rubber Floppy. Nowadays most of the best trolling lures are Australian made, and they don’t get much better than the Predatek 65 and 80mm Boomerangs which were first carved from red cedar by Rob Smith, Frank Gaukroger, and Kevin Clarke in the early 80’s to catch yellowbelly & cod in Copeton. There are now hundreds of lures to choose from, with a few local favourites – Kingfisher Tempests, Hard-At-Its, Radar Lures, and Mudeyes.

Cast to the edges and structure, with spinnerbaits and hardbodies. Depending on the conditions at the time and the rise and fall of water levels, this form of fishing can see you working newly covered ground by rising water to deep structure in 30-60ft of water. A compact spinnerbait like the new Bassman Yellaman is about the most versatile lure you can tie on for casting to any form of edge or structure, and it has the ability to work well at all water depths. Cast it to a shallow edge and start your retrieve as soon as the lure hits the water, or cast to a vertical edge, let it helicopter down into the depths then slow roll back. Another technique is to cast at structure and work the lure back with a stop and start or lift and fall retrieve. Any medium to deep diving hardbody from the above group can also be used in this scenario.

Schooled fish sitting on the flats in 15-50ft of water will respond to lipless crankbaits and blades. Mazy Vibs, Jackalls, Ecogear ZX and VX, TT Lures and many more will do the job. Any reasonable sounder will show yellowbelly schooled out in the open so you know the fish are there. The trick with this style of fishing is to work the lures very slowly – twitch and pause, twitch and pause. The twitch may be only moving the lure a few inches and the pause could be up to 10-15 seconds, it just depends on the day. At other times a slow roll will be the presentation the fish want to see. You need to mix it up until you find what is working on the day.

Work a number of trees to find fish if you don’t have the luxury of one of the fancy new sounders with bottom scan and side scan. The technique is much like bait fishing and really just entails working grub style soft plastics vertically through the timber. Aim for a slow fall technique on a jighead about ¼oz then slow roll back up – be ready for the bite as you don’t have room to play around, you are fishing right in the timber and freedom won’t be far away. Stop ’em or pop ’em!

The release style of yellowbelly is important. As the water warms, yellas can become hard to release in good condition especially if they are coming out of deeper water. They can suffer barotraumas and effects of transition from water that may be 16-18°C to surface water temperature of 26-30°C, which makes them very lethargic when released.

The best solution for this problem is a deep release device. This generally involves a weight and some means of attaching it to the fish. Attach this to a line and you can send the fish back down into deep cool water, to recompresses them – we’ve found the response is almost instant. The attached photo shows the clip goes on the bottom jaw, the fish is slowly lowered back to the bottom, and often you will feel them start to kick and pull off the clip on the way down. If not, just give a quick pull on the cord to release the fish when they’re back on the bottom. It works really well.

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