February will see water temperatures in Copeton peak at around 30°C and fish activity will be at its best during early mornings and afternoons. Afternoon storms are very likely at this time of the year, and the build up to these storms results in a rush of fish activity. Be careful on the water as these storms can see the dam become very rough. If caught out on the water during one of these storms, the best course of action is to wait it out; it will usually be over in less than an hour.
The best thing about March is that you don’t have to battle the crowds that are part and parcel of fishing Copeton in the holiday period. We will get some of our hottest days of the year this month and if we are to receive really heavy or flooding rains then this is the time it will happen. Copeton is far enough North to catch the bottom of the monsoon systems of Northern Australia and if a big low-pressure system comes across the centre or down the Qld coast then flooding is also possible. At this time of year the release of water for irrigation will stop so we often see a rise in water levels at this time.
As per most inland waters, a rise in level and the inundation of fresh ground can trigger a spike in fish activity. Last time we saw this situation, the yellowbelly in Copeton were fixated on black crickets, and if you matched the hatch and cast around the edges, success was nearly guaranteed. The cod also took advantage and were caught close to the edges, hunting the smaller predators that preyed on insects, bugs and worms. This edge bite can be fished a number of ways, including a personal favourite of mine, casting spinnerbaits at timber and rock structure close to the bank. Shallow running lures, vibes and soft plastics will also do the job.
Remember if the dam experiences good inflows, the yellowbelly in particular will find their way to running water so target areas like Woonulla Bay where the Gwydir River runs into the dam, Copes Creek on the eastern side, and any of the smaller creeks that run into the back of the bays along the northern side of the dam as well. Sometimes the fish will sit right up under the running water, at other times they will head back into the bay or to the front points. Use your sounder to find the fish then work out the best way to target them. Lures and bait will both work. In these conditions it is possible to catch large numbers of fish, so be mindful of bag limits and how you handle fish that are to be released. Fish can be harder to release with water surface temperatures as high as 30°C. Deep water release devices make successful release much easier.
Now is a great time to work some of the local rivers and creeks, which are stocked regularly with cod and golden perch. All lure methods will work, but I can’t think of anything better than throwing surface lures at all the fishy looking snags and cover on a balmy summer evening. In the rivers and creeks, surface lures around 80-120mm will see cod from little tackers of 50cm through to solid fish of 80cm+ smashing lures off the surface. The locally made Water Stalkers and Mantis lures are popular, as are Jackal Pompadours and Mikey’s. Because the possibility of hooking some very solid fish is high, we generally fish 20-30lb braid over a fast action casting rod around 1.8-2m long, on your choice of spin or baitcaster. Use 15-20kg leader, mono or fluorocarbon, attached with an FG knot to your main line then a lefty’s loop knot to your chosen lure to complete the setup.
Two local fishing competitions to note are the Kingfisher Invitational and The Great Inland Fishing Festival. Held the 27-28 February, all proceeds from the Kingfisher Invitational go into fingerlings to restock local waterways. The Great Inland Fishing Festival, which has been held at Copeton on the first weekend in December for many years is being moved to the October long weekend in 2016. This is to take advantage of the school holidays, and the fact that there is no closed season for Murray cod at Copeton. This is a family orientated competition and is completely catch and release. The Festival is open to both lure and baitfishing. Contact Copeton Waters Holiday Park for more details or to make bookings for either of these comps.
• Copeton Dam is one of the best lakes in NSW to catch a trophy Murray cod. Dave runs the Copeton Waters Holiday Park and is a great source of up to date, local information on what’s biting. Contact the park on (02) 6723 6269 for information and accommodation bookings.Reads: 1015