A fresh attitude for Forster estuary anglers
  |  First Published: March 2016

The consistent rain over the last couple of months has provided some relief from the usual overgrowth of weed in the freshwater. A bit of flow means the weed doesn’t float on the surface and this makes fishing easier.

‘Pocket fishing’ bass in the heavier weeded areas just means you need to drop plastics in and around the holes on rocks where the weed is vacant. Night fishing, too, can turn better results as the fish will hunt over the weed rather than be hidden among it.

One point of controversy regarding bass fishing is the seemingly endless vilification of anglers who choose to fish in the upper freshwater during winter and catch bass. It appears that some anglers take the ‘closed season’ literally and engage spiteful attacks on anyone posting pictures on social media of bass caught during the winter months. The fact is that any bass caught in the freshwater during this period are unlikely to spawn in the short term and certainly not in the reaches they are caught. So we need to keep perspective real and just understand that not all bass travel to spawn each year. Enough said.

Talking of spawning fish and migration, it won’t be too long before the bream will be filtering out of the upper estuary to gather around the leases on the lower lake. From here they will make the run along the breakwalls and along the coast. Until then, they can be found in all the tributaries that feed the Wallis Lake system and the go-to lures are surface presentations. With regard to cicadas, where you find the noise you’ll find the fish and the Tiemco Soft Shell is the gun lure. The same is true for bass. Around the timber snags, white and pale grub-tailed plastics are good as they imitate the shipworm or cobra grubs that live in the timber.

The oyster racks are full of big bream at the moment as are the weed flats. The growth of small prawns across the weed flats draw the bream to the area and with the sun warming, the water the fish are very active. Early morning surface sessions are very productive and the deeper channels and edges are good during the day. Along with the bream there have been heaps of big whiting and the odd pan-sized flathead caught on the flats, and don’t forget to set a crab pot or a couple of hoop nets for the blue swimmers that you’ll see wandering the bottom.

March would probably be the pick of the months for trophy flathead for me. You’ll find a few big girls from November, but this time of year is where they are all hanging around the bridge end of the lake. Tuncurry channel seems to be a popular spot for the big fish, as is Breckenridge Channel, especially around the bend near Red Spot boat house. I reckon the best chance of a big girl is to use poddy mullet and a circle hook, and if you want to see how big some of the bream are around the leases, drop a poddy in tight to the leases.

It’s a good month to stock up on bait too, as garfish and mullet are at their most active and can be a great deal of fun. Using two no. 10 hooks baited with bread and suspended under a will round up the mullet and gar. Throwing them straight into an ice slurry will help preserve colour and firm flesh and when you get home you need only to cryovac them in to bait portions and freeze.

Having a freezer full of fresh bait makes the trips offshore much easier, especially if you are chasing trag around the full moon period. A hook baited with a gar fillet and a strip of squid is ideal for bouncing the bottom for flathead, snapper, trag, and pearl perch.

Also, by now, the spotted mackerel and a few Spanish should have pushed down the coast but this will depend on the warmer currents being pushed onshore. There has already been a heap of marlin caught leading up to March and this isn’t likely to end anytime soon, so when the nor’easters allow you to get out, take advantage.

There have been a few pigs poking their heads up around the rock along with rat kings, chopper tailor and smallish snapper.

Bream and blackfish are a bit thin around the washes but over the next few months their numbers will increase and I’m predicting that this year the bream and blackfish run will be epic, given the poor showing over the last couple of years.

March, April and May are my favourite months of the year with the seasonal transition of species and comfortable weather, so make the most of it!

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