Black yabbies unlock native bite
  |  First Published: April 2016

As predicted, Water NSW finally turned off the tap to the irrigators out west, and now the water level has stabilised at just under 17%. Unfortunately the rain has stayed away but the fish are definitely on the bite.

Both Murray cod and yellowbelly have been on the chew over the last couple of weeks, and the bottom end of the Dam is the best fishing spot at the moment. Barefoot Alley, as well as Kirks and Stockyard creeks have been consistent areas that produce numbers of fish. At this time of year, trolling and baitfishing produce results. Yabbies are still the number one bait at the moment, and the bigger baits tend to attract the bigger fish. Copeton’s yabbies are interestingly jet black, even the little ones. This is why black is a popular lure colour in Copeton, with the black Gulp minnow grub a go-to soft bait for yellowbelly. Most lure producers have a black option in their line-up.

If you intend to collect bait in Copeton Dam, remember that NSW Fisheries rules state that opera house traps cannot be used in waterways east of the Newell Highway. The square shrimp traps can be used, and will catch yabbies as well as shrimp.

Cod have been caught on surface lures, and fish have fallen for large paddlers and Mudeye snakes fished from late afternoon to early morning. This activity happens mainly around the new moon, although at the moment we have a waning moon and the fish are going off. So just goes to show that you should get out and fish whenever you can, as there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to fishing.

Large deep divers trolled at a slow walking pace caught a lot of cod and yellowbelly. Lures that have performed effectively include No. 1 Stumpjumpers, AC Invaders in 120mm/150mm and Mudeye 130mm Mohawks. These lures have a running depth of between 5-10m and a wide swaying action. Copeton currently has strong weed beds around most of the shallower edges, and the outside edges of these weed beds are definitely worth trolling or casting along.

Points are another favoured ambush area for Copeton’s cod and yellas – a rocky point on a major bay will nearly always hold fish. These points can be trolled but can be more thoroughly worked by sitting off the point and casting. This is a situation where spinnerbaits shine, as they can be cast in towards the shore and worked out and down the slope by pausing the retrieve and allowing the lure to sink for a few seconds then restarting the retrieve. It is surprising how often you will be hit on the drop – particularly by Murray cod.

Another way to approach fishing points is to position the boat right in close and cast out into deep water, then work your lures back up the slope towards you. This is probably a more natural presentation as well, as it resembles prey attempting to get back to safety in shallow water. If you intend to use spinnerbaits, allow the lure to sink on a slack line, do not engage the reel, and do not take your eye off the line as strikes on a spinnerbait moving towards the bottom can happen anytime after the lure lands. With deep diving hardbodies, crank them down to start, then use a slow retrieve with plenty of pauses to entice native fish.

• 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.
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