If the bass season typically covers all the months that have the letter R in them, we’re a quarter the way through the year’s fishing already! And if the success of some anglers in the past month or so is an indication of how good things will be until April, there are going to be some very happy anglers about.
With daylight saving upon us, that extra hour will be welcomed by every angler but despised by those with young children.
‘Southern pygmy barra’, alias Estuary perch, have been favourite targets over the past few months with increased effort put into locating and catching them. I’ve found good concentrations of EPs which have been fun on soft plastics such as Berkley 3” Gulp Grubs, Berkley Minnows and 3” Sliders.
There’s also been the occasional unknown species that has simply been impossible to stop with a light leader meant for bass and EPs – a strong, powerful surge from the fish, a futile attempt to keep up with it using the electric motor and then the inevitable bust-off. I suspect it was a jewfish working the same drop-offs.
Big bass have been caught fairly frequently, raising expectations of a great season ahead. Fish moving back upstream are eager to put on condition for the big swim and slurping down large mouthfuls of prawns, small baitfish and crabs in the brackish water.
With warmer weather more frequent, insects are everywhere, making surface lures and flies perfect for morning and evening sessions. While bass can be caught all day off the surface in shady areas, it’s the early and late parts of the day that are perfect for surface action. There’s nothing like a good surface strike of a bass to get the heart pounding and the adrenaline flowing.
Learn how to get the best from the surface offerings and expect some exciting fishing. After you have cast your surface lure to a likely bass haunt, let it lure sit for a while before starting your retrieve. The length of time anglers leave the lure varies considerably, usually until the ripples cease or by counting to 10 before cranking. When the action is fierce you won’t get to wait that long.
Start with the slowest speed the lure will work and experiment from there. Start-stop and intermediate retrieves work well but try to make the lure behave like the creature it is supposed to represent. For example, with something supposed to represent flying insects such as cicadas, I often try to replicate that short buzzing on the surface that sends out a brief ring of ripples before the insect rests and then starts buzzing again. This makes the lure or fly look real and keeps them in zone for longer to tempt the fish into striking.
Dark pockets with lots of overhanging foliage are excellent for surface lures, as are rocky overhangs and jetties. Precise casting is a must, especially when the fish are a little moody. If they don’t feel like chasing lures or flies you’ll need to put it on their noses to get them interested.
While hard lures will always have their place, soft plastics seem to be more popular at the moment. Plastics feel soft and lifelike to fish and appeal to a range of species in fresh and saltwater spectrum. In the Hawkesbury, mulloway, tailor, estuary perch, bass and bream will all take a liking to plastics and as techniques are perfected, lifting catch rates snowball the popularity of plastics.
Bream are about this month in good numbers, many taking offerings meant for bass. Lower Portland has its fair share of bream but around Wisemans Ferry, Webbs Creek and the Macdonald River have been more consistent.
If you really want to get onto some bream, get some live Hawkesbury prawns from the trawlers around Wisemans Ferry to Lower Portland. Local bream anglers swear by these morsels.
A lot of bass anglers start out walking the banks, then move to kayaks and canoes and possibly into a boat. It wasn’t until I joined a fishing club that I bought a kayak and revisited waters I hadn’t fished for a long time.
Why did I give up on fishing remote water like this? While owning a boat might be the pinnacle for many, a canoe or kayak can produce some of the most exciting fishing possible. Some anglers have taken kayak fishing to the extreme by taking on tuna and other speedsters in the salt, and you can only try an understand how exciting that would be.
If you have a young family or your commitments mean that owning a boat is a distant dream, think about a paddle craft. With a paddle in your hand, you’ll get into some water in spectacular scenery, often all to yourself and with fish that seem to fight so much harder.
I’ve never spoken to anglers who have deliberately targeted Hawkesbury River sharks but looking at the photo wall at the Walkers Beach Caravan and Ski Park, it would be a lot of fun connecting with some noahs. The sharks featured on the photo wall were up to 2m and had bellies that obviously were well filled by a lot of unfortunate prey. I couldn’t help but think of any hapless dogs that were cooling off in the river having a violent and bloody end.
Bull sharks have been caught in the Hawkesbury for many years and I heard my first stories when I was a kid. Long-time Hawkesbury residents spoke of locals shooting sharks cruising on the surface at North Richmond bridge. I’ve heard of bull sharks being caught at Wilberforce, only the heads of sizeable bass making it back to the boat and ducks disappearing in mist of spray with a couple of feathers left floating on the surface.
Rod Cumming and I were returning to the ramp from a recent session when we found a guy fishing from the nearby bank on his own. Then his young son emerged from the nearby shrubs. He’d obviously got bored with fishing with his Dad and decided to do some bug catching or something. When Rod asked Dad what he was hoping to catch, he simply replied, “Anything that will take the hook.” No wonder the kid went off chasing insects!
To increase your chances of catching fish and create happy memories of fishing for your kids, decide what species you want to target and choose the techniques that will catch them.Reads: 1647