The fishing heats up as the temperature cools
  |  First Published: April 2017

This time of year the minds of freshwater anglers in Western Sydney turn to estuary bass and Blue Mountains trout. I’ll talk about trout next month because my mind right now is full of visions of big bronze battlers tearing back to their snaggy lairs with my favourite lure clenched firmly in their toothless jaws. They all seem set on stealing my new deep divers and spinnerbaits, leaving me shaking but ecstatic at having battled and lost to a big bass or EP stocking up for the breeding season in the salt.

Of course, Australian bass are primarily a freshwater fish and all summer we stalk them in the creeks and rivers of Western Sydney, and of course many other places along the East Coast. However, as autumn and winter go into full swing we fish for them in the tidal reaches of our rivers. It’s now that our hunting grounds shift to the brackish zone of the mighty Hawkesbury River to the northwest and far removed from the hustle and bustle of Sydney.

From 1 May to 30 August there is a closed season on the taking of Australian bass in NSW rivers, but most of us never keep bass anyway, no matter what the season. For the bass men and women of Western Sydney, to take a bass is taboo. They are way too much fun to catch just once.

My introduction to winter bass about 25 years ago was collecting broodstock for the bass hatchery at Mangrove Mountain, and I can tell you we caught thousands of spawning fish which went on to have millions of babies during that time. Handled carefully, catching and releasing them doesn’t appear to affect their breeding cycle.

There are also many bonuses to be had fishing these brackish areas of our rivers, as more often than not these bronze battlers are mixed in with schools of their close cousins the estuary perch, and many other of our favourite estuary species. Working in a tackle store up to seven days a week over the summer season leaves little time to get right into our favourite pastime, but as the weather cools our casting arms warm up.

For a good location, try the tidal water from Wisemans Ferry to Windsor. Look around midstream snags, drop-offs and other submerged structure or simply cast to bank side structure. From the first proper rains of autumn to the first flooding rain of spring is the best time for these fish.

Cast and troll lures and flies. Avoid bait, which they may swallow deep causing injury. Try a casting rod, spin or baitcast or fly rod up to 8wt, a handful of diving lures (deep divers are excellent), spinnerbaits, soft plastics and vibes. Handle those fish carefully and release them to ensure future stocks.

This month fishing options in the west are many and varied. Trout should be feeding up for the upcoming spawning season, so all the stocked lakes will be worth a throw. Redfin have bitten their heads off all summer and we expect more of the same right through the autumn. These fish are great fun, pretty easy to catch (a good family option) and awesome on the plate – it’s almost a shame they are a pest fish.

Try lake Oberon, Wallerawang and Wentworth Falls closer to home. Burrinjuck, Carcoar and Ben Chifley are all good places too. Redfin fall easy prey to small lures and plastics. I love ice jigs on them.

This season has been a beauty for Murray cod and should only improve as water temperatures cool. Lake Burrendong is worth a try, and even better up in the Macquarie Arm and Wyangala Dam, with the Lachlan River below the dam the best option. The secret to catching big (and small) cod is big, big, big lures and I’ll talk about these next month.

• Peter Jacovides has been the owner/operator of the Australian Bass Angler tackle store in Penrith for more than 20 years and is available to offer advice or have a chat most days. If you want to know about the latest tackle or technique, kayak fishing, or tournament bass boats, drop into the store at 105 Batt Street, Penrith or phone (02) 4721 0455.

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