Spring into some estuary perch
  |  First Published: September 2016

As spring emerges and the chill is a distance past, anglers optimistically look forward to the challenges and triumphs to come. A new outfit, refined rig or prospective new spot to fish are all motivators for keen anglers, as the days get longer and warmer.

Bass enthusiasts will be delighted with the rain in early June that spurred on the spawn run. This good dump helps the mature fish find their way out of swamps, lagoons and creeks that feed back to the main river, and downstream to the salt. Many have made an early trip back to the upper tidal reaches, in preparation to head up through the rapids and shallow rifles back to skinny water, where they will reside for the duration of summer.

Most of these fish will hold deeper in the water column, which can frustrate anglers trying their hand at surface fishing or shallow divers. Try soft plastics, jig spinners, bibless minnows, blades and spinnerbaits for a deeper presentation. The weed growth should have died back a bit over winter, so there’s more opportunities for fishing this style until fish rise with the warming water. They’ll hold on structure, become territorial and aggressive, later this month and into October.

Estuary perch will be back on the agenda and this month will see sensational fishing. Large schools of fish hold on major structures like reefs, rock walls and weed beds. Locating structure that creates large back eddies is key in finding active concentrations of perch. A few retrieves, regular contact with the bottom using a 3” soft plastic grub or minnow, rigged on a reasonably light jighead of 1/8-1/4oz, will alert you to their presence. They have a quick suck-spit bite that will fine tune your soft plastic skills, especially when you find a patch that keeps biting. Get heaps of practice detecting bites and setting the hook with split second timing.

Bream will push back upstream as far as lower Portland, mixed in with the EPs. They feed on the abundant small baitfish, and increasing numbers of school prawns that filter into our estuaries and grow in the high nutrients delivered from floods.

Bait fish with lightly weighted baits in a berley trail, over broken ground like sand bars, cockle beds and worm beds. You can find these with a sounder, and they can be red hot at this time of year. Alternatively, set up along a rock wall, either land-based or from a boat. This can be very productive around the tide changes. Fresh or frozen Hawkesbury prawns are usually stocked in local stores and servos. They make great bait for bream, flathead, EPs and even school mulloway when fished on light line with minimal weight.

Flathead will show from Brooklyn up to Wisemans Ferry, as they become more active in the warmer temperatures. The end of the month will be more reliable. It always takes time to see an increase in temperatures. Drifting or anchoring with baits, hopping a soft plastic or vibe and trolling deep diving hardbody lures, are all effective ways to catch a feed of flatties throughout the Hawkesbury.

Drop-offs, sand bars, deeper channel edges and major bends with eddies will all hold concentrations of flathead and other species. Move around a few different locations each trip to find the better patches of fish, as they move and feed in different locations each day. Shadowing all this activity in the river will be the elusive mulloway, seizing any opportunity to snaffle baitfish and prawns that stray from safety.

Live baits, dead baits and lures are all successful at this time. Source baits and use them freshly dead, or better – alive. Prime times of the tide are key for catching larger specimens of mulloway around Sydney. Schoolies will head up the tributaries, actively seeking food for their ever-increasing appetites. Water clarity, food availability and warm water will all play a part in where the fish turn up each session. Keep an open mind and a mobile approach. You should cross paths soon enough.


Flathead will react to most techniques and will become more active as the month rolls on. This fish fell to a well presented ZMan 2.5” Slim SwimZ hopped down a mid river drop off.


Mulloway challenge all your skills and are high on most Hawkesbury anglers’ hit list. September is a great month to encounter the fish of your dreams.


Estuary perch are great sport on light spin tackle, and will respond to a variety of lures and retrieves. Most anglers choose to catch, photograph and release EPs, as did the author on this occasion.


Flicking lures to structure, or drifting lightly weighted baits down a berley trail, are great methods to find the stud bream that Hawkesbury is famous for.

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