Hottest month on the water – take care
  |  First Published: February 2017

February is the last month of summer and it’s a hot time of the year to be fishing in the Hunter Valley. The surface water temperatures in the lakes will be at their peak, topping out at nearly 30°C in the middle of the afternoon.

Take care this month when you’re out on the water. Keep hydrated and wear plenty of sun protection. It’s also a good time of year to be cooling down in the water, rather than baking in the sun. The fishing won’t be very different from last month, unless we get a lot of rain so that water levels come up and the water cools.

Glenbawn and St Clair will still have a prominent deep bite during the daylight hours. The deep plastic will be your workhorse for putting numbers of fish in the boat. A 2-3” curl-tail grub or paddle-tail is ideal for this presentation. Match this plastic up with a 1/8-1/4oz jighead and you have an effective way to target fish in the deep. These jighead weights are ideal and won’t send your plastic plummeting to the bottom too quick so fish won’t eat it on the drop.

In a finesse situation like this where you slow roll the plastic right in front of the fish’s face, it’s the attention to detail that gets the bites. Rig the plastic perfectly straight. Trim tails to ensure they swim at the slow speeds and even match plastics up to jigheads.

My preferred head is the Bassman 1/4oz jighead. Glen and Sue Casey have produced an absolute fish catcher in this head. The shape and balance of the Bassman head is ideal and won’t spiral on the slow wind up. This creates a more natural retrieve.

A quality sounder is a must for deep fishing this time of year. You will need to make sure your sounder is set up correctly, so you can easily present your lure to the fish. Adjust the sensitivity level so you can easily see your lure moving up and down in the transducer beam. This allows you to drop your lure straight down onto fish and closely watch their reactions to the lure.

Sound around and look in 30-60ft of water. It shouldn’t take long to find some schooling or scattered fish. A vertical presentation is ideal for getting your lure right in front if the fish, because of how deep the fish are. Casting and sinking you lure down to fish will still work, but fishing vertical gives you a visual indication of the fish. You can then target individual fish and navigate your lure up and down around standing timber. The vertical presentation helps you to retrieve your plastic out of the fish’s comfort zone and entice bites.

Hot and glassed out sunny conditions seem to be the best for a subtle plastic presentation. If the wind picks up or you’re faced with an overcast day, try using a blade or tail-spinner. The fish like a more aggressive action when the water is stirred up. Hopping these lures through the schools or slowing back to the boat should see some bites.

Fish care is of high importance this month. These impoundment fish are non-breeding and every fingerling is hand-placed into the waterways. All fish caught from deep water will suffer some sort of barotrauma. The air in the fish’s swim bladder expands and causes them to struggle to swim back down to where they came from.

The longer they’re up in the hot weather, or on a hot deck, the more unnecessary distress on the fish. Unless you know how to needle a fish’s swim bladder correctly, I suggest a quick photo before sending them on their way. Using a release weight is another method that will assist getting back down.

Surface fishing at night is always an option to beat the heat in the summer months. With hot water temperatures and more daylight hours, the bite can take a long time to start. Up to an hour after the sun has gone down is a good starting point. If you are willing to stay out, the bite could last until sunrise. Proper precautions are always needed when fishing at night. With so many waterway injuries and deaths over the Christmas break, you can’t be too careful.

I would also like to congratulate local fishing club Hunter Native Fish. The group have been working hard on maintaining fish stocks in the Hunter Valley with the assistance of BCF Rutherford, Tackle Power Sandgate and Strike On Designs. The Club’s donations for raffles raised the funds for 2400 bass fingerlings put into Lostock Dam on 17 December, last year.

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