Chasing bronze and silver
  |  First Published: September 2016

The seasons are a changing. September signifies the start of spring, but more importantly for our freshwater anglers, it signifies the recommencing of the Aussie bass season.

More than a few upstream trips will be planned by our resident bass anglers over the coming month, but I’m willing to bet that the majority of bass caught this month will be in the upper estuaries. Throughout the winter, there have been significant numbers of by-catch bass by many mulloway and bream anglers around the brackish sections. I’m sure that will continue this month unless we see a good rain event, allowing all the bass to make their way quickly back to their upstream homes.

The potential for decent rain this month is not out of the question as we are leaning towards a La Nina system developing over the remainder of 2016. La Nina systems typically, but not always, result in higher than average rainfall on the east coast of Australia. After one of the driest 12 months in many years, it will certainly be a welcome change to have a wetter season this year.

Those by-catch bass in the upper estuary have been going on a wide variety of lures from small bream grubs and hardbodies, to larger swimbaits and paddle-tails aimed at mulloway. As the season heats up there should be more action on the surface, particularly as the fish get further up into the skinny stuff. Even now, there will still be plenty of fish upstream that either didn’t spawn this year or spawned early and are already back to their summer homes.

While the water is low and clear you may need to be stealthy and carry a little finesse in your game. Small bass grubs and hardbodies that you can get right in under the structure can lure out some wary fish. When there’s a bit of colour in the water, it’s the surface crawlers and larger profile hardbody lures that will get the attention of the bass, hungry after a long spawning run to the salt.

Unfortunately there aren’t really many other options for the freshwater angler this month as the trout season is still closed until next month and the western rivers are now out of action during the Murray cod closed season. Please also note that the entire Nymboida and Mann river systems, upstream of their junction, are completely closed to all fishing until November in order for the protected eastern freshwater cod to spawn in peace. If you were looking for a wild, big river bass adventure this month or next, it will need to be further down in the Clarence system.

Further east, in more saline waters, the fishing has been very consistent. River mulloway have been a very common catch for those targeting the upper limits of the estuaries. Structure in deep holes as well as the road and rail bridges have always been successful mulloway locations, but to get away from the crowded and highly trafficked areas try looking for more subtle attractions: small drain channels flowing into deeper water, gentle sloping sand banks into dead end backwaters and the junction of fresh and salty water. All of these types of locations allow predators access to baitfish that will be herded by the tide into their waiting mouths. These locations move and change and are less reliable than the big structures like bridges, but they offer excellent fishing when you can time it right.

Besides the smaller baitfish schools, it may be worth noting where the schools of larger fish are hanging. If you’re chasing proper size mulloway, then having your lures under and around schools of luderick and mullet can be a reasonable plan. Unless they’re packing weed and a float, most anglers don’t look twice at a school of luderick, but I’m sure that mulloway, jacks and trevally aren’t as dismissive. Any action will gain the attention of the predators, whether it’s shrimp being harassed by bream or luderick sunning themselves above a snag. I’ve often seen jumbo bream and mangrove jacks swimming right in the middle of a school of luderick, actively swimming as part of the school. They tend to be hyper competitive in this position, perhaps with the perceived rival mouths they’re surrounded by. A subtle lure swimming through or underneath that school is going to undo many a fish.

Around the headlands and beaches, it’s a similar technique that has been successful on the mulloway. Chase those schools of luderick, mullet, tailor and salmon and get a big hardbody or plastic in and around those schools looking for that stalking slab of silver underneath. Over the last month there have been mulloway by the dozen for those putting in the time and effort.

Further offshore and the snapper have really been turning it on. Slow jigs and plastics are still the most popular techniques, but the bait fishos are collecting a few too. They will likely start moving off the shallow gravel beds this month so you may find you have to find the reefs and slightly deeper drop offs but there will still be plenty on the near shore grounds.

Out around the islands the kingfish have kicked up a gear. There are still schools of small rats, but there are also big schools of 1m+ fish that are ideal for targeting with stickbaits or larger plastics. Landing your lure amongst a school but quickly retrieving it away before slowing into a normal twitchy retrieve should draw the school out so that hopefully the hook up is a little further away from the reef and allows you some breathing room in the fight. Even still, a big fish can obliterate you in seconds if it’s in the mood. There’s not too many more exciting forms of fishing than when you’re either going to catch a trophy fish or be blown away in an instant. No matter where you’re fishing this month, I hope you get to feel both the excitement of the latter and the exhilaration of the former.

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