IF YOU’RE going to fish Keepit Dam while it’s down as low as it is, I’ve only one thing to say – be bloody careful. Several boats have come undone on recently exposed, unmarked rock bars 150 metres off the bank.
The thing that cheeses me off is that the powers that be know where all these hazards are at differing levels, yet when they decide to let the damn water out, tourists who have no idea of these life-threatening hazards are at great risk.
We clipped one on the way home the other day and it was only luck that no major damage was done. As I write this, the cotton brigade are getting their water quota and apparently the dam is dropping from 16% straight down to 6% in the middle of the biggest drought in memory – all for the cotton. This is where I’m supposed to shut my mouth about cotton and not dwell on this environmentally devastating crop...
Recently I’ve been doing a bit more fishing at Keepit and its been pretty darned good – lure-crunching cod up to a metre long and goldens up to 60cm have been reasonably regular and there have been many other strikes, mixed in with some line-stripping bust-ups. The fish are nailing different colours on different days but, as a general rule, the best spinnerbait colours have been purple and brown, pumpkinseed with lime tips, red and black with silver scale and a gold fleck trailer. Weights have been from 3/8oz to 1oz head size, tandem or double Colorado blades, all with Slider grubs as trailers on the stinger hooks. It’s probably no surprise that most of the fish have been hooked on the stinger and many more unrewarded strikes would be the case if they weren’t used.
This is mainly because of the ‘reaction strike’ more so than an aggressive or hunger-fuelled attack. As a fish sits in its comfy position, generally under shade, anything that flutters or waddles by its nose at close quarters ignites an uncontrollable snatch-or-grab reaction that is more reflex than anything else. That’s where accurate and well thought-out casts with diving lures and spinnerbaits will bring the goods.
Because many fish at present are sitting mid-water, suspended under horizontal branches, another great option is to use shallow- to medium-diving lures with slow float rates, cast well past (about eight to 10 metres) the structure and retrieved rod tip down for quicker dive angle.
The trick is to retrieve the lure until the structure is felt and then slowly work it up and over or around, but not moving it away from the branch too quickly or having too much slack in the line. Tight in to the cover is where the fish is, after all, and you want the lure to be ‘edible’ for as long as possible.
Robin Barlow and I went for a quick run out to Keepit the other day and, as we were leaving, ran into Dooie and Mick, two local anglers with proven track records. They were looking at 50 goldens for a brief afternoon session – of course, these guys release all their fish. They decided to troll with smaller deep divers and if you want numbers of fish, this would be the best option.
We chose to cast tight into structure with spinnerbaits with the hope of hitting a decent cod. We landed one about 7kg and a few goldens but was blown away twice by big fish that were home and hosed before I had any hope to stop them. Any Cod that pulls 10 meters of 20lb Bionic Braid in its first run and stops only because he got home is a good fish.
I lost another good ’un due to clip failure and from now on I’ll be using nothing but the Halco Cross Locks for serious fish – they’re about the best I’ve seen. We put one of the small models in a torsion testing machine not long ago and it let go at 79.3kg – that’ll do me.
It’s common to get huge numbers of goldens using these techniques and flattened barbs are extremely important on treble-armed lures and stinger hooks. Removing hooks from a flapping fish is potentially risky for the angler and barbless hooks aid in a quick, clean release for the fish’s benefit.
Two of the best lures for this technique are the gold Tilsan Bass and the 50mm Halco Poltergeist in the new holographic green and gold. Subtle rod work, once the desired depth is reached, is again important.
I pulled an old Daiwa 2lb to 6lb Firewolf out of the cupboard the other day after it was put into semi-retirement for a couple of years. Mates Wilko and Lowy nicknamed it ‘the noodle’ as it’s pretty flimsy-looking when loaded on a decent yella, but holy dooly, is it fun when you have to fight one out of the sticks.
After landing several cod from 6kg to 8kg on the Noodle, I’m starting to enjoy the more tactical fight needed to land them and the unpredictable outcome once the hooks have gone home on a decent fish. I’ve also been busted up a couple of times but with barbless hooks, they spit the lure straight away and the fish has no dangling reminder of his encounter.
It’s not at all a spinnerbait rod due to the soft blank, so small hard-bodied lures are best and hook sets need to be firm, not the simple wrist flick we’re all used to with braided lines and high modulus rods. If you have one of these rods, hang onto it, they’re hardy, easy-casting fun rods that can be pushed to the limit, mainly because of the glass content in the blank.
I’m running a Chronarch 100 reel with only half a spool 10lb Platypus Super Braid and a 20 lb leader for extra insurance around snags. The half-filled spool is to reduce the weight of the loaded spool for easy casting with lighter lures and also to slow down the retrieve. The blank number for that rod is IM-5101-2FTG.
The rivers are still producing natives, but nowhere near the numbers you’ll find in the impoundments. I’ve had a few mates down lately and just mucking around in the river has been fun with light baitcasting gear. NSWFM advertising man Todd Morrow came down the other day and landed several fish, but the one he was after. A Murray cod spat the hooks beside the canoe before he could get his bloody thumb in its gob. At around 6kg, it would have been his biggest.
It was good to see him be able to make up his own mind about how hard they fight, as many people say they have the power of a bucket. On appropriate gear they aren’t bad and generally that statement is made by people who have caught smaller specimens. You do get the odd one that comes straight up, but that’s generally on the troll. Hooking big cod on the cast is a totally different ball game as they generally get their head turned as they hit.
So no one should have too many problems hitting a few fish over the next couple of months if you fish hard and smart. Even though it’s still legal at present to kill two cod a day, many are opting to keep a couple of yellas for a feed, and release the cod – smart thinking.
But please, if you decide to fish Keepit, don’t do as the name suggests if you already have a feed. In the past month I’ve seen the Fisheries officer more than in the previous three years, so hopefully he’ll be able to bring undone some of the bastards who’ve been seen with excessive cod and bags of 30 or more goldens.Reads: 704