Overfishing at its worst
  |  First Published: April 2003

The past Summer has been devastating for fish stocks around most of New South Wales.

Split Rock Dam was emptied from 97% down to just 11% in one continuous release early this year , leaving congested fish stocks at the mercy of the esky brigade. Every lure-fishing, sporting angler I have spoken to over lately has been disappointed in the dramatic decline in the numbers of fish over the last couple of months.

The impoundment fishes’ health and numbers weren’t affected by the drought. It was pure overfishing at its worst, particularly on Split Rock and Chaffey dams. Boats unable to get up on the plane due to the numbers of fish on board were commonplace for weeks on end. No fishery can sustain that kind of pressure, no matter what percentage the dams are at.

Many intelligent anglers boycotted fishing the Peel and Namoi rivers because of the depleted oxygen levels in the stagnant and smelly waters or they restricted their activities to the carp. Many anglers will be aware of the diminished dissolved oxygen in drought-hit rivers.

To hook, fight and land a fish in oxygen-depleted waters is almost a death sentence. Due to stress-induced complications, fish just don’t recover the way they normally would. Still, some anglers insist on chasing these extremely important wild fish when they are most easily impacted on.

As I write, rains try to escape from their fluffy airborne prisons and there have been a few helpful showers but the fact is we are still battling a serious drought. The long-range weather forecast is looking pretty good so hopefully things will improve dramatically soon.

Fly-fishing boom

At recent demonstrations I’ve conducted, I’ve been astonished at the surge of interest in fly-fishing. I will hold a fly and lure fishing seminar and clinic at Glen Innes shortly, after plenty of interest has been shown for demos that until now have been city-based.

Many anglers just want to find a more challenging way to catch a fish. Generally you find that once someone has caught enough fish using traditional methods (mainly lures), they look for a more satisfying method. To me that is fly, but each to his own. The number of cod captured on fly isn’t as great as on lures but boy, do you appreciate every fish.

Even a fish of 50cm leaves the angler with a feeling of satisfaction as it swims back to its lair. My most vivid fly memory is of a 15kg-plus cod caught and released on a Sean Ash creation and a four-piece No 8 Strudwick. The average cod encountered will be below 5kg, depending on the water you fish, but can be more satisfying than a 20kg fish on a lure and a 35kg model on bait. Enjoyment and sport is what it’s all about, not food.

Softly, softly

With all the hype about soft plastics, I thought I had better do some research on the cod and yellas. The results have been varied and inconsistent, but here are the standouts that have taken fish when trialled side by side. For shallow to medium depths with decent clarity (40cm to 50cm) I like the Storm 2” and 3” Shads in green and in orange, Berkley PowerBait in pumpkin and orange with capsule scent release , 4” Berkley Power Craw, Mann’s George ’n’ Shads and 3” paddle tail shads by Gene Larew.

I have just been in contact with Randall Gilbert (phone .0428 714 623) from House of Lures, regarding some new shad bodies and yabby creations I saw recently and believe that these could spark a freshwater bonanza in the plastics scene.

Recently I used a soft plastic lure of theirs called a Tripletail in the Nambucca River. It outfished the lures the other guys were using by about five to one. The Tripletails were the perfect size to match up with my 1/8oz and 1/16oz jig heads and were hit anywhere from the moment they hit the water to just at the boat.

The best technique was to hold the index finger up the side of the rod and ‘quiver’ the rod tip once the lure hit the bottom – not a lift, a quiver. I also used the new bream-grade Platypus Super Braid 4lb and found the extra distance and abrasion resistance on the snags to be a big plus on the bigger fish. Finished off with a two-metre length of 5kg Platypus Pre-Test, the rig was a joy to use.

The rods were the Mark Williams-designed, Strudwick SPS 1kg to 3kg 6’ spin stick, and the new 1kg to 3kg 6’6” Struddy baitcaster developed by guide and NSWFM writer Dean Hayes. I prefer the baitcaster for big, open-water ‘rack’ bream and in tight cover the spin stick was more versatile.

We also caught and released numerous flatties on this little-known lure. Another refreshing benefit to the House of Lures products is the ability to store many different colours together with no fear of the colours ‘bleeding’ into each other.

These days I am happy to experiment with new stuff in preference to tried and proven techniques. Soon to come will be a cod on plastics article. I will mention only the products that worked for me and some that are true standouts which no doubt will work for you.



A Barraba Dad and his kids having a ball on the Split Rock golden perch population. The author saw these anglers catch and release at least a dozen fish.


Kelly Kent from Glenn Innes, her brother and the author all fished out of the Koastal Kayak at once – a testament to their stability.

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