The happy Hawkesbury food chain
  |  First Published: May 2017

You couldn’t pick a better time to be on the water than right now on the Hawkesbury. With the recent fresh in late March and April the fishing has really hotted up, and I could only assume this to be the case in many of the East Coast’s estuaries.

Much needed run-off and nutrients that get washed into the creeks, streams and rivers boost life from the small organisms and macroinvertebrates all the way to the top of the food chain – the predators we anglers like to target for recreation and food. Lots of fodder means lots of fat healthy fish that will likely have a great spawn run this season to capitalise on the fruitful conditions.

The bream fishing has been outstanding on lures and baits. Most fish are now concentrated towards the mouth of the river, holding on the rock walls, cockle beds and reefs. Deeper lure presentations like soft plastics and blades are very effective when the bream start to school, but don’t rule out deep diving crankbaits cast parallel to the rock walls and cranked down to their working depth of 2-3.5m.

Minnows, grubs and creature baits are all successful soft plastic patterns. They are best fished on 1/12-1/6oz jigheads and cast tight to structure and let sink until reaching the bottom. A few small flicks to entice any onlookers should see you getting connected in no time.

Flathead can be found in similar areas. They will have also been forced downstream by the dirty fresh influx. They are best found sitting at the bottom of the rock walls where the hard structure meets the sand/mud and on the plentiful drop-offs that can be found in the back of the bays in Cowan Creek and Pittwater. Jigheads of 1/6-3/8oz with grubs, minnows and paddle-tail soft plastics seem to work really well for the best bite each time. The addition of scent to your plastics can be advantageous when the bites aren’t coming consistently.

Estuary perch and bass are in their closed (no take) season this month, but a few keen anglers will be getting their fix of pre-spawn schooling fish. They can be found in cricket scores at this time of year and offer really good sportfishing on light tackle and fly. Small soft plastic grubs and minnows or blades up to 60mm that have a tight shimmy are very effective.

Kingfish, salmon and tailor will be making a last-ditch effort to feed up before the water temperatures really fall. Live yakkas and garfish (if you can get your hands on some) are gun baits at this time of year. Down rigged or flat lined around the headlands, wrecks and major points in Pittwater, these will put you in the action. Try to keep your trace material under 60lb and preferably use fluorocarbon to increase your bites.

As always, keep your eyes peeled for any flocks of gulls and terns diving on the surface, which is a great way of tracking down active feeding fish. Small metal slices around 10-15g, soft plastic minnows and surface poppers are assets in these scenarios. Rotate through each one until you work out the one that is working best on that particular school.

Winding as fast as you can is a great strategy when the fish are very active. Sometimes a slower approach can pay dividends though. Try sinking your lure through the school to see if you can pick off a bigger fish or a different species that is shadowing the school looking for easy pickings.

Mulloway will be in their element after the recent rain. Live baiting and lure casting will both yield quality fish this month. Time spent catching quality live baits of tailor, pike, squid and yakkas will put you in the action when rigged well and fished in key locations like Juno Point, Flint and Steel, Eleanors Bluff, the road and rail bridges plus any other major deep points or smaller reef systems you may have found or sounded up.

Lure casting will come into its own as the month progresses. It allows anglers to cover a large amount of water in a short period of time to find active concentrations of fish and capitalise on their short feeding windows around the slack of the tide. Soft vibes in lighter weights of around 14g and jighead rigged soft plastics are the best lures for working the bottom structure and locating mulloway.
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