Fishy business on the Clyde
  |  First Published: May 2004

LAST issue we travelled to Batemans Bay to check out the facilities on the Clyde River Houseboats.

While not really camping in its purest form, it is getting out there and seeing Australia and it would be negligent of Fishing Monthly if you were not given the low-down on all the options available in the great Aussie outdoors.

I purposely neglected to mention the fishing last month because I needed more space. So now I will give you the nuts and bolts on how to get the most out of a houseboat adventure from a tourist’s point of view.

It all starts down near the Batemans Bay bridge and, frankly, I could have stayed at the jetty because the bream are fed there each day and there are dozens of fish, from finger-spikers up to oyster-munching monsters.

But head off we did and the first thing you notice is the shallows and the shoreline all the way up to the first night’s mooring – they’re all covered in oyster racks. This means bream and they didn’t let us down.

Virtually every rack had heaps of bream on it but they were finicky. Lures just didn’t rate a look and most fish bolted at the mere sight of a soft plastic and bait did little better.

Maybe they had been copping a hiding but they were the touchiest bream I have ever seen. That doesn’t mean to say we didn’t get any, we did, but not in the numbers you would expect after seeing so many large fish.

The houseboat comes with a small tender but we took our own boats and used the houseboat as a mother ship. It worked very well.


On the way to the first-night mooring buoy we noticed some extensive sand banks, so with nipper pump on board, they had to be checked out. We weren’t disappointed as each pump produced up to five large pink nippers which would come in handy latter on as the tide was rising.

The houseboat people couldn’t have picked a better spot to have a mooring point. It was just 20 metres out from an oyster-covered rocky point that caused an eddy on the rising and falling tides. The water dropped from waist-deep into 10 metres onto a sandy bottom with the odd rock scattered about.

A hundred metres away in each direction were shallow flats that dried at low tide, exposing extensive areas of sand flats and oyster racks. The bream had to go somewhere at low tide and the bank next to the mooring was the logical choice.

Upstream there were extensive shallow sand flats that dropped off into deeper water, so it was estuary-angling heaven.

We headed for the flats first for a quick look and tossed a few lures about, but things had to be done back aboard the mother ship so after half a dozen average flathead, we went back. But we wanted to see what would happen when it got dark. After all, we had a heap of live nippers.

Deckchairs were set up on the back deck and the kids were kept amused with small bream and baby snapper, with the odd reasonable flathead thrown in as it started to get dark.

When it got totally black the larger bream started to get in on the act, as did some better flathead. The best went 64cm but the highlight of the evening was Chang’s 45cm sand whiting, which really had us guessing what it was before it eventually came into sight.

The day finally caught up with us at 10pm but it was a good start, seeing we had only boarded the houseboat at 1pm. It’s amazing what you can pack in to an afternoon when you try.

The next morning we were up early and after a few more bream, we headed up the river and fished the flats around the last island before Nelligen bridge. We caught a few flathead but decided to head as far upstream as we could and chase some bass.

It is a beautiful, scenic trip as you navigate through some spectacular country with fallen trees, rocky banks and sandy beaches. Towering eucalypts and grassy meadows just add to the backdrop.


We dropped anchor at the farthest point upstream we were allowed. The owners of the houseboat provide a folder with charts and diagrams of where you can go, where you can’t and some of the things you must look out for. It definitely comes in handy.

It was a sensational place and we felt we might have been the only people on earth. There wasn’t even the slightest hint of humans for miles and this place looked fishy.

There were fallen trees all along the banks and the bend in the river just upstream had a huge rock wall that dropped straight into deep water which, up around the next bend, shallowed to only two metres on one side and seven metres on the other.

From here there were snags and deep holes interspersed for kilometres upstream until you hit Shallow Crossing, where the road fords the river.

That afternoon proved to be frustrating, with half-hearted hits, follows and bumps but very few hook-ups. The fish were there and we could see them but they just weren’t playing, so it was back to the mother ship to have a few beers and fish off the back deck.

That evening we caught a few more bream but it was hard going. Then, when it got dark, the river came alive. The mullet went berserk and it seemed the whole area was crashing with them, some quite large.

They were hitting the boat, probably attracted by the lights, but even when all the lights were out in the middle of the night they were still jumping everywhere. Some of the larger splashes woke me up.

Early the next morning it was back in the boats and upstream to work the snags, this time with almost instant success as Chang had his third cast grabbed by a cranky little bass with a few more following the hooked fish. So all looked good.

Up at the next snag, a prawn did some fruitless jumps before something nailed it from below. My cast was a shocker and the little purple Attack hooked onto an underwater branch in the middle of the snag.

Then one of the ugliest bream you will ever see grabbed the lure and tore it off the branch and hooked itself in the process.

This fish was dark brown with black anal fins, a worn, rounded black tail, a pointed head with flabby lips and a large body in poor condition with very little muscle. It looked more like a genetic mutant than a bream.

For the next couple of hours we fished about 2km of river and hooked bass and the occasional bream on just about every snag. There were plenty of snags and all fish were released.

But we had to head back downstream to a mooring closer to home so we could return the houseboat back by 10am the following day. We went back to the first night’s buoy so the kids could have some fun. That night we were not all that serious but still managed some bream and flatties.

During that afternoon, though, we did mange to check out a few more places for future reference and found one bend in the river where the water dropped from an ankle-deep sand bank into more than 35 metres just 15 metres from shore.

There were some showings of big fish on the sounder but time did not allow us to really exploit the possibilities. It’s in the memory for next time.

The trip back to the boatshed through the mist on a sunny, mirror-calm morning was something special. And there, back under the jetty, were the hordes of hungry bream, eager for scraps that might come their way.

It was a great relaxing weekend on the houseboat. If you were inclined, you could fish yourself into a lather or just sit back and tack in the scenery. You could spend a month on this river and still not see all its moods or experience all it has to offer.

I will be back in the future to take another look from the comfort of a houseboat.

Just tossing a line out the back of the houseboat while tied to one of the moorings can produce results such as this good catch of flathead and whiting.


Night seemed to be the right time for the larger flathead such as this 63cm fish that took a nipper right under the houseboat.

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