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Turning to other targets
  |  First Published: May 2004



THE IDEA of fishing in the cold doesn’t excite many anglers and many of those who have been enjoyed happy bass fishing over the warmer months are taking a break for six months to give the fish a hassle-free spawning period over Winter and early Spring.

If you’re still hoping to catch bass on lures this month, you’re going to find the action a lot slower than in the warmer months. They will test your patience and many anglers will simply give up in frustration.

A number of anglers will be still happy to target bass in the upper freshwater sections of rivers. Some readers, such as Steven Chang, have made it a policy to target bass only in the cooler months and in areas not likely to be the havens of spawning bass.

There are other species worth chasing locally that can offer challenges of their own. They make a welcome change from the bass and estuary perch that most anglers have been chasing.

There’s a growing number of bass anglers who go after bream during the cooler months, where they are often caught on the bottom using bait. Bream are known to move well above the upper tidal limits in coastal rivers and last year they surprised a lot of anglers when they were caught around Windsor, with salt water being compressed by fresh water over the top.

Bream are very slow growers and if you do catch a big one, it’s probably best to let it go, despite the temptation to use it as a brag fish. The big ones can be 20 or 30 years old and considering the amount of commercial and recreational fishing pressure they face, it’s remarkable that they have achieved such an age at all.

Probably the most versatile tackle for bream would be a light, whippy rod of about 1.8 to 2.2 metres long with a threadline reel with 2kg to 4kg line.

While bream will take lures, flies, and plastics, bait such as prawns, chicken gut and steak are pretty staple. One way to attract them is with tuna oil mixed in with some wheat. You don’t need a lot of tuna oil to do the job, but mixed well into a bucket of wheat and allowed to soak overnight, it really adds to a berley trail.

Then there’s always Mr Whiskers. Before you screw your nose up at the thought of catching a catfish, they are reasonably plentiful in the upper parts of the Nepean. A 500g to 2kg fish is average in local water.

Catfish are considered to be under pressure these days, which in part, is due to weir construction and to the proliferation of European carp. It is believed that with greater amounts of silt being deposited as a result of reduced water flow, and carp feeding on the bottom, the ability of catfish to spawn is reduced, as their eggs are deposited on the bottom and covered by silt and eaten by carp.

Typical bait for these fish includes steak, mussels, shrimp and the top choice, worms. A similar outfit to that described for bream is a pretty common outfit to use on catties. I’d opt for up to 4kg line, depending on the water being fished. These fish offering a surprising fight for anyone fortunate enough to catch one.

Local waters are nowhere near clean enough for my liking to eat one of these fish, but I have eaten them before. If you can put aside their appearance, your taste buds will be impressed. Skinned cattie fillets are very tasty.

By using worms as bait, there’s always the risk of catching bass as well. Bass will often be hooked deep when using bait and any boatside surgery on the fish is likely to cause serious damage. If you do hook a bass deep, it’s best cut the line close to the fish’s mouth and let it go. A pair of long-nosed forceps allow you to see inside the fish’s mouth and will make hook removal a lot easier.

To experience some cattie action, the Nepean River near Penrith and up into the Camden section are the most likely spots to try, while the Warragamba River is another haven.

Be very careful of the catfish’s dorsal and pectoral spines, which can inflict a very painful reminder to be more careful next time. A landing net or Berkley Grip would be a great suggestion and keep the hands well free of the pointy bits. Any contact with the spines will definitely spoil your day.

TAKING A BREAK?

If you’re still going to take a break over Winter, clean your fishing gear before you forget about it. Seeing gear that comes out of storage dirty is a bit like meeting someone who doesn’t brush their teeth for a while. It can be very unattractive.

How many times have you given your gear a clean in the past six months or so? You want to know you can count on your gear. If you trust yourself to pull a reel apart, lay out the parts in the order in which you dismantled them so that when the time comes you can reassemble it correctly. Give the reel a good clean and then lubricate with oil and grease in the appropriate spots. If you don’t know where they are, you need to look at the instructions that came with the reel.

If reel maintenance seems as complicated as brain surgery, take it to a good tackle shop. It’s a lot cheaper than paying for a new reel. At the very least, give your reels some basic TLC by removing the accumulated sludge that builds up. A damp cloth and a soft toothbrush will give a good outside clean.

Line gets caught in outboard props, dragged through timber, over rocks and abused in every way possible, yet we expect it not to let us down. It’s bad enough to admit a poor knot let you down at the wrong time, but losing a fish due to line wear is even worse. Change line or replace damaged sections and you’ll be more confident that it’s going to be up to the task next time.

Once you’ve finished with the reels, loosen off the drags before putting them away to hibernate. Drags should always be loosened after each outing to ensure they are ready to perform next time you use them.

Rod tips invariably face a lot of pressure, especially when the rod tip is used to remove a snagged lure. Thoroughly check your rods and replace or repair problem areas. Give them a good wipe down afterwards and say goodnight.

CAROLINA FLOATERS

They may be old hat in the US but, as I mentioned last month, I’ve been giving some Carolina Floaters a test. These are made of hard foam and are bullet-shaped to float plastics over weeds and keep them off the bottom when rigged correctly. They can also be made to pop on the surface.

To keep your plastic above the bottom, you need a favourite plastic worm and a hook such as a Gamakatsu worm hook. Rig the plastic so the hook is hidden in it, and use a small swivel with enough line to have the worm float at the required height above the bottom. Make sure you use a small bead to stop the sinker running onto the swivel. Using a sinker appropriate to the conditions, the Carolina Floater works the worm through problem areas down deep without pulling the plastic off.

The second way to rig them is simply with a worm, a similar hook and a Carolina Floater. For simply working a plastic through lilies or heavy weeds, this rig will get through these areas without fuss and give the plastic more buoyancy.

Or you can rig with the concave end of the floater facing forward. Fished like a normal surface lure, plastics rigged in this way make small popping noises and bubbles to attract a strike. I put a small bead in front of the Carolina Floater to stop it disappearing up the line.

The three techniques work really well but you’ll need waterproof the floaters if you plan to use them for extended periods. I found that they didn’t keep the worm on the surface after about 15 minutes. Using a can of fly floatant worked but for a more reliable floater, I’d suggest using a light coat of clear varnish. There’s no doubt they do what they say, but some additional waterproofing will go a long way to helping them perform better.

ROTTEN SALVINIA

That green carpet that’s been covering vast sections of the Hawkesbury/Nepean will hopefully be less evident by the time you read this. Salvinia is an aquatic weed from South America used as a decorative floating plant in fish tanks and ponds. It thrives where nutrient levels are high and will spread aggressively, altering aquatic ecosystems, greatly reducing water flow and diminishing water quality.

Salvinia is spread by dumping, animals, water movement, wind, and boats. Sadly, flooding helps spread Salvinia, which has been the solution according to some people who have been quoted in Sydney newspapers over recent months.

In the right conditions it can double its surface area in just two days and is considered one of the worst aquatic weeds in the world. Ten years ago, Salvinia covered the entire 10 hectares of Lake Parramatta to a depth of around 30cm in places.

The main methods to control this pest have been by introducing a weevil to eat the plant and by using a herbicide licensed for use in water. The overall success of its control has been variable. Let’s hope that authorities get off their tails and do something about it.

Until next month, drop us a line at --e-mail address hidden-- or phone me on 0418 297353 with news, or to arrange for some fish pics to appear in the magazine.

Surface hits aren’t going to be frequent this month, but Dave Currey caught this Nepean bass caught on a trusty black and gold Rebel Crickpopper by shaking the rod tip, which made it look like a injured insect.

Curtis Parker took his biggest catfish from the Nepean on scrub worms. They might be ugly but they’re a lot of fun but be very careful of the venomous dorsal and pectoral spines .

At 43cm, this lovely bass was caught using a brown Knol’s Native 50 in the upper Nepean River and another three of similar size were caught on the same day.

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