Bait comes into its own
  |  First Published: May 2003

It’s usually about this time of the year I start getting a bit short on fishing reports. With less activity happening with our native tours and trout season (like, there was one this year?) rapidly drawing to a close, I usually start ringing around the other tackle shops in the regional centres to find out what’s been going on.

Cities like Tamworth and Inverell have a little more to offer anglers over the colder months than up here on the Tablelands because the impoundments and lower river systems can still fire pretty well. Bait-fishing becomes more popular over Winter and it’s interesting to hear how it has been working, even though I don’t do much of this type of fishing myself.

I called Inverell Fishing and Outdoor to chat with the owner Dave Martell, who generally has the good oil on the fishing conditions up there but he was away deer hunting and had left his Mum, Libby, to look after the store. I had a great chat with Libby and she was happy to tell me that Dave had taken her fishing to Pindari Dam and while the boys had come home empty-handed after lure-fishing, she had done quite well on the yellowbelly, drowning fresh garden worms. She said they tasted pretty good, too. Keep up the good work, Libby!

It’s not so unusual for this to happen over the colder months and you should be prepared to try all manner of techniques if you want to do well. Some days the fish will hit lures but, as the water gets progressively colder, they are less inclined to travel far from cover and a more subtle approach is called for.

This is where spinnerbaits, soft plastics and, yep, even live baits, come into their own for the native species. Live yabbies and garden or granite worms are about the pick of the live baits and, fished on light string, they are just the ticket for golden perch.

While I am not a freshwater bait-fishing fan and definitely pro catch-and-release when it comes to native fish in general, I can understand that people enjoy it if for no other reason that it is so successful. Who am I to criticise thoughtful, law-abiding anglers? I think the dams here on the western side of the range give you an excellent opportunity for angling through most of the year and since they are stocked very well, I cant see the problem with anglers going there with the intention of bringing a few fish home for a feed.

End of the drought?

It might look rather pretty and green around most of the Northern Tablelands district at the moment but that facade covers an ongoing lack of water that may well trouble us through Winter and into next season. While we did have satisfactory rainfall in early Autumn which did indeed get the river systems flowing again, we really need more than double that to see a real end to the drought that we have experienced.

Many of the rivers went up to 1.5 metres or more, which certainly helped things along, but it was not really enough to clear the waterways properly. And because the ground is still so dry, the river levels dropped away quickly again to below typical levels.

Looking ahead to our next season later in the year, we will need some serious wet and at least one flood if we are to recover in time or, for that matter, for me to still be in business. Boy it’s been a tough couple of years but, hey, I’m still here!



The last thing a lot of aquatic critters see is a mouth like this. A finger stall or, in this case, the thumb off an old glove, helps prevent an angler’s thumb looking like mincemeat at the end of a cod-filled day.


Gordon Low found this fat Murray cod in the lower Gwydir River.

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