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The diehards take over
  |  First Published: May 2006



Local waters become a lot less popular this month with the cooler weather keeping away all but keen fishos.

With the footy and a hot pie being more enticing, it’s not surprising that the cooler conditions are attractive. The bass breeding should be in full swing with some of the larger specimens being caught as they migrate downstream.

Fish over 45cm have been carefully released to allow the migration to continue. This bass activity can continue until November, so consider any fish you catch to be important in the future of our fishery.

A number of factors influence when they actually spawn, such as climate, food availability and water salinity. To spawn bass prefer salinity of 30% to 50% of saltwater. When a kilo female bass spawns she produces around 500,000 eggs, of which about 3% will reach maturity in accordance with the general rule for wild creatures.

Some bass will not make the migration downstream, offering those anglers who choose not to target spawning fish the opportunity to continue catching them away from the traditional breeding grounds. In these areas anglers will often find bass less active than earlier in the year but while most anglers are putting their gear away, these fish are still a viable targets.

I’ve found suspending lures are a great way to get quiet fish cranky enough to strike. The suspending Rapala Husky Jerk HJ6 is a proven fish-taker but for a great Australian performer you can’t go past the Halco Sneaky Scorpion. These little guys work really well on bass that aren’t interested in other lures. When worked along the faces of weed beds and in pockets of weed, bass will often chase these down from quite a distance or dart out from the weed to smash what it thinks is an easy feed.

Another technique to try this month is to work a soft plastic very slowly over the bottom. I love my Slider 3” Bass Grubs worked slowly on fine line. My love for Nitro Whiz Bangers is well-documented but when rigged with a Slider 3” Grub they are perfect for targeting bass in deeper water. You can rig these with a standard jig head, Texas or Carolina rig. Use as light a weight as you can get away with and add your favourite scent for added attraction.

SMARTER, SLOWER

Estuary perch also love plastics and often give the lure a slight tap which is felt through braided line quite easily. I usually briefly pause the lure after I feel a tap, with the EP taking the plastic during the pause. I also add some scent to help stimulate any timid fish.

Remember that as the weather cools, bass and EPs won’t be as active as during the warmer months. You’ll need to show more patience and fish smarter and slower. While you might not rack up the tallies you did earlier in the year, any fish caught will still provide excitement. Anyone can catch bass when they’re on the bite but great anglers can catch them under all conditions.

Yarramundi has suffered from its usual Summer weed problem and the condition of the area has been a shock to those who visited. The weed will be less of a problem this month and it’ll be much more pleasant to fish.

May is really the last chance you have to land some of the dreaded carp before the cold water makes them harder to catch. Carp over 6kg are a possibility so if you’re looking to spice up a cool May day, visit Yarramundi Lagoon.

Another far less targeted species that deserves attention is trout. These fish are found in Warragamba Dam and although it is illegal to fish this dam, the odd escapee can be found below the dam wall in the Warragamba River. Trout can be caught year-round in the cool waters below the wall but become more adventurous and head out into the Nepean and Hawkesbury as these waters cool this month. While I would consider eating a trout from the Warragamba River, I wouldn’t eat one from below it. Trout have been caught around North Richmond, which would mean it was not going on my plate.

In more brackish reaches Hawkesbury prawns fished on a 1/0 hook with a small running ball sinker should produce decent catches of bream, flathead and juvenile mulloway. Good berley trails will draw the fish to your area and keep them there provided the trail is consistent. Larger flathead are also being taken on strip baits of mullet or tailor, with fish over 50cm caught at this time of the year.

CONTROVERSY CORNER

The bass migration means various internet chat rooms will be buzzing with frantic debate about the ethics of fishing for spawning fish. Sadly debate often degenerates into personal attacks rather than focusing on the issues.

While fishing for bass in their spawning areas is frowned on by many, there seem to be three main camps who don’t see eye to eye at this time of year. There are those definitely opposed to fishing during the spawning season, those who don’t have a problem with it and those who are yet to be convinced one way or the other. The first two camps often go hell for leather and the third group is often accused of being fence-sitters.

Spawning times vary from year to year and location to location. After having found fish full of roe in November, NSWFM writer Dean Hayes, one of Sydney’s best-known fishing guides, believes spawning can extend from late March to early November in local waters.

Whether bass anglers agree on the ethics or whether catching them harms spawning bass are only part of the issue. How can the spawning period be defined? Both sides are undeniably lovers of bass and it’s a shame the volumes of energy spent in heated debate isn’t pooled into constructive work to help bass.

While anglers trade blows in chat rooms about the rights and wrongs, there will be one group spending their energies on a far more damaging pursuit. Reports of netters filling eskies with large bass for the freezer are becoming more common with some of these individuals openly bragging knowing where and when to net. There’s some serious damage being done in our rivers.

Whatever your views, I hope you act in a constructive way to ensure our bass prosper. If that means we witness less heated debate and more attention given to people who can facilitate the success of future generations of bass, I will be very happy.

TIME TO EXPERIMENT

While the fishing might be too slow this month for some, it’s worthwhile trying new things, developing your skills and experimenting with your tackle.

When it gets quiet on the water I look to some lesser-tried techniques. It might be something I haven’t used much, having relied on more productive methods. You naturally use the techniques that work, which often means that other techniques need more practice to become successful. For me, one of these would be drop-shotting but it might even mean dedicating some time to working out some new plastic presentations or lure retrieves. These experiments have also meant that some fish just happen to interrupt my efforts, which is always reassuring.

When doing any of this, I find it useful to write down what I discover and enter it on the computer when I get home. It makes very interesting reading when you look back on it and becomes valuable lessons when the fishing is tough.

Getting kids excited about catching and releasing bass is only part of looking after our fishery. The author’s son, Nathan, looks forward to three things after he lands a bass: Measuring it, photographing it and letting it go again. While there’s nothing wrong with a feed a fish, teaching kids the importance of catch and release will help ensure they enjoy a future of fishing.

While estuary perch are often caught wider out in deeper water than bass, Rod Cumming caught this one less than a metre from the bank on a strange beetle lure.

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