Hawkesbury keeping it fresh
  |  First Published: March 2016

After a very wet start to the year the river should begin to turn back to a shade of green instead of the brown murky water we have been dealt of late. Despite the water colour, the fish have been biting well wherever cleaner tannin coloured water is found. Berowra and Cowan were the most reliable places to find a few fish by casting and retrieving soft plastic grubs and minnows along the many rock walls. Mixed bags of bream, flathead, tailor, soapy mulloway and the odd whiting have been common in the weeks after the fresh.

The main river should fish well, with such an influx of nutrients in the system. Prawns thrive after big rains and the fish will be looking to fill their bellies full of these tasty crustaceans as well as smaller baitfish like whitebait, poddy mullet, herring, tailor and silver biddies that the fresh displaced.

Look for cleaner sections of river when you use lures, as the fish will be able to find your offering more easily. Try from Spencer back to Broken Bay on a run-out tide; you may be able to push upstream of Spencer on a run-up tide. Baitfishing will still be good in the deeper sections of discoloured water, but freshwater eels may be an issue above Wisemans ferry.

School mulloway will start to filter back upstream with the bream and flathead, and should be red hot as you locate the schools. These fish love nothing more than a bit of fresh, as it brings great food supply and a bit of cover to hunt in. Live baiting and lurefishing around the tide changes is the key to success, as well as finding clarity and salinity. Now is the prime time of year for fishing, as the daylight hours draw shorter each day and the fish become aware that leaner times are on the way and that they should make the most of their current situation.

Pittwater cleared well after the fresh but the fishing was pretty average most days. However, a great number of kingfish and other pelagics like frigate mackerel and mac tuna are on their way and will be scooting around busting bait up on the surface. Throw in the odd bonito, tailor and salmon and you can have a ball for hours on light spin tackle. Soft plastic minnows in 2-3” versions and small metal slugs from 3-7g will assist you to hook-up and not get refused after multiple accurate casts with bigger offerings.

The kingfish will be tempted with live squid and fresh cut strips either drifted through a school with minimal to no weight or slow trolled using a downrigger. Live yakkas will take the odd fish at this time of year and they can be caught from West Head at first light. Keep a close eye on the behaviour of the baitfish when catching them as the predators you’re about to go looking for can turn up at the bait grounds and make for a very cheap trip out!

Bass and estuary perch are common in the upper tidal water from Sackville to Dads Corner feeding on the great run of prawns and small galaxia. Surface lures have worked well early, but switching to shallow divers or lightly weighted soft plastics as the sun gets up or the boat traffic increases is a smart move. Accurate casts are a must in the tidal water as the fish hold in bankside eddies created by snags, weed beds and rocks.

Some fantastic bass fishing has been had in the small creeks after the well-timed fresh, which allowed the fish to finish their migration right to the head waters of the small feeder creeks that litter the length of the Hawkesbury. Terrestrial insects like cicadas and beetles make up a large part of the bass diet, along with macro invertebrates not dissimilar to what a trout would feed on. Retrieve your shallow crankbait or jig spinner through the pool to trigger a feeding response or a territorial response. The latter occurs when your small lure is recognised as competition for the same tiny food source and needs to be displaced from the pool.

Catch and release is imperative in these small ecosystems. The old saying ‘ leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but pictures’ rings true for anyone who ventures into these pristine feeder creeks.

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