THIS is one of the better months weather-wise. The days become cooler as the sun loses a lot of its intensity and the early mornings and late afternoons become quite crisp.
The Hunter and Paterson rivers continue to get a flush from the recent rain, which pushes the bass up into the higher reaches. There have been good catches of fish up around Aberdeen and around Lostock. Fly and small (4cm) lures give good results, with one of the new Koolabung Cicadas in brown snaring some really good bass for us, along with some of the other smaller surface lures. While the bass have moved upstream, the mullet have been on the bite with good numbers being caught on dough.
The Williams will also fish well as the water skiers begin to disappear and fishing below the weir will become a lot easier. Small spinnerbaits, Beetle Spins and hard-bodied lures seem to work the best along the edge of the reeds.
I recently received some literature about the stocking of hatchery-bred bass fingerlings into rivers that already have natural wild fish and it became apparent how disastrous it could be in the future if some of the undesirable mutations that have shown up in stocked impoundments become established in the rivers. Examples include goldfish-like fins on fish in the Shoalhaven River and split bottom jaws in Glenbawn, St Clair and Brogo dams.
The other problem with these apparently illegal stockings by fishing clubs into the Williams and Myall river systems is that the data received by NSW Fisheries from the Bass Catch events on these systems becomes irrelevant. The clubs would be wiser if they used the funds to enhance fish habitat and improvements.
The Barrington Tops have been producing some small trout on bait and fly but since some of the better tracks have been closed off, there is certainly a lot of walking to be done to get to the more productive holes and streams.
Up the valley at Glenbawn and St Clair, it is good to see that since my last column Fisheries inspectors have been very active and have caught anglers with well over their catch limits, mainly of bass.
Both dams start to cool down this month with water temperatures dropping, allowing the fish to rise in the water column. If we get some more rain the dams should even start to rise.
Lake St Clair fishes really well this time of the year and we should see larger fish begin to appear – bass and goldens on lures and good catfish taking worms around the edges. You need to troll the deep banks and river sections up both the arms using lures that run down to around eight metres. Dark colours should be a starting point and, late in the day, move to the banks with shallower lures and spinnerbaits of around 1/2oz. Green shad is a good colour to start with.
The last hour of daylight will definitely be most productive around the banks. A live shrimp or yabby bobbed around the timber in both the reaches is also very productive.
Although this dam has been fishing very well of late, it seems to be succumbing to the immense pressure of a lot of fishing and the larger fish, especially the bass, have been very scarce. It will probably be several years before some of the more prevalent 35cm fish grow out to trophy size.
Lake Glenbawn is down around 60% and as it has been around five years since it has been this low. You will need a good memory to pinpoint some of the good sections to fish as a lot of the timber is now out of the water.
The first round of the ABT BASS series is on March 13 and14 and competitors will be after those 2kg brutes that they caught last year. The bass and goldens are more scattered, I think due to a combination of the Summer season being late to start and the dam being low with not as much food and cover for the schools of smelt. This could make for some very hard work and a lot of time on the water with plenty of sounding to locate the underwater structure, schools of bait and clouds of micro-organisms.
Bait-fishing is very productive, with the silver perch really going for worms and yabbies. Fish down around two metres in about 10 metres of water adjacent to large trees and right on the bottom for catties, bass and goldens. The yellow buoy bay area has been very productive.
For those targeting bass and goldens, begin by trolling or using heavy spinnerbaits along the deeper drop-offs where the depth varies from three metres down to around 10 metres. If you have a really good sounder, look for weed growth on the bottom adjacent to these drop-offs.
Any lure that can get down to around seven metres is required but I like one that has a tight action because it will get down that little bit deeper. The new Metallics from AC Lures in the minnow pattern have been getting some excellent bass in the very clear water.
The bass this month are usually in large schools but because of the lateness of the season they could be in much smaller numbers. So when you locate them, finesse fishing with plastics is the better option so they don’t become spooked.
I do not release caught fish back into the school but move away and come back to the spot (thanks to GPS). Trolling heavy spinnerbaits is also very productive to help locate the fish, with some of Greenfish 5/8oz and 3/4oz models with downsized blades giving good results. AusSpin has also been producing some Big Native spinnerbaits which I am sure will also work very well.
With the dam low at present, it is very wise not to travel around too fast. There are lots of big stumps just under the surface and some rocky outcrops in some most unusual spots.
Carl Jocumsen with the sort of bass that helps win tournaments. ABT competitors will find Glenbawn more challenging this year.
Lithgow-Oberon NSWFM writer Glen Stewart took this Glenbawn bass on an AC Minnow.
Josh Batterson with a pair of Glenbawn bass that ate spinnerbaits at dusk.Reads: 500