By this time some anglers have chosen to put their gear away for six months and hibernate, while there are still some diehards who will continue to fish year-round.
Some anglers do not target bass in brackish and tidal waters during the cooler time, when large numbers of fish are spawning. It’s really a personal preference and, while I can see the point, I still target bass over Winter as I don’t see them being any different from other fish targeted at spawning time. That’s except, of course, for the closed season on freshwater species such as cod and trout.
Having said that, I’m all for the catch and release to help maintain natural fish stocks. Long-time readers will probably remember John Bethune’s letter to the Editor a few years ago concerning spawning bass. One of the points he raised was that the spawning period of bass can extend over a broad portion of the year and varies from year to year. We really have no way of knowing when, or how many, will spawn at any given time.
For those who want to target the larger bass in the system, the brackish waters should be the place to give a working over. Those who fish at this time of the year head towards the Lower Portland to Wisemans Ferry area, but this largely depends on the salinity of the water so important in the breeding cycle of bass.
To find just where the fish are holding up, you need a quality sounder and the patience to work the river. You might want to get some mates together in their boats and break sections of the river up so you can locate the fish faster than on your own.
You can still have a go for the fish that have remained in the waters farther upstream. I’d generally give the surface lures a miss, but they can still be caught on them so don’t discount them altogether. Generally, working deep-diving lures, spinnerbaits, flies and plastics deeper and slower is the way to go. This can be a mental challenge because of the speed you’ve worked them during the warmer months. Remember that these fish are in colder water and don’t tend to race about too much. You need to tease them into a strike.
With the fish a little more scarce in the upper reaches, you will need to work slowly and concentrate more on really working the water there well. Fish slowly and more patiently and you should enjoy catching a few fish. Sometimes it’s not the number of fish that makes a good time – catching a few in tough conditions can be just as satisfying, especially when you find out others haven’t been catching any at all.
I find deep flies work well in Winter and this would have to be one of the most enjoyable ways of catching bass I know. A fast-sinking line gets the fly down quickly but if you find sinking line difficult to cast, a good sink-tip line can also be successful. I like to fish all techniques for bass, but bass on fly, well you’ll just have to try it and experience the pleasure of it for yourself.
Some stiff southerly winds have made the upper reaches of the Nepean very quiet. A few fish are still around but it’s becoming more difficult. Robert Longney from TSF Bass Tackle in Campbelltown has been employing three methods to catch reluctant fish.
The first is to work a 100-metre stretch with Taylor Made Surface Breakers to get the fishes’ attention. They seem to be catching the odd fish on the surface, but not too many recently. He then goes back over that stretch with the new Whitty's in black with purple scale overlay or black with silver scale and he’s been picking up fish on the diving minnow.
Robert’s second way is to find concentrated fish holding in schools and then slow-roll 1/8oz spinnerbaits or use Atomic 13/4” Paddletails on a drop-shot rig.
His third method is to use a fast-sinking purple or black and red fly on the schools or around overhanging trees. This seems to be the best method for when the southerlies send the fish quiet.
Most Upper Nepean anglers seem to be picking up a few small fish, but some reckon they’re still catching quality fish around 40cm. I’d suggest that now the larger fish will be well and truly downstream.
For those who doubt the value of fishing in the cooler weather, the Hawkesbury River has been producing fish from 45cm to 50cm. Devlins Lane at Castlereagh is heavily choked with weed but has still been producing, while farther down, around Yarramundi, has also been turning up fish. Matt Shearim has found the middle of the day better than mornings or afternoons, with green and black JP lures and white 1/4oz AusSpin spinnerbaits taking fish. Matt by now should have made the progression from canoe to his new boat.
The Windsor area has been worked fairly heavily and the odd fish of more than 45cm has been making an appearance. Robert Frost has been trying worms and turned up a few fish. Water clarity has been surprisingly good, with water temperatures cooling. The Lower Portland to Wisemans Ferry area is where larger fish should be working.
Local carp numbers have been reduced somewhat, with anglers taking to these pests with a vengeance recently. These fish breed like rabbits and while their numbers will probably always be high, it’s always great to dent the population.
In the top end of the Nepean, especially around Menangle, where there has been recent bridge work, Robert Longney’s young son caught a 6kg carp. If the bass are a little slow, why not target carp?
Monster carp have also been taken in Pughs Lagoon at Richmond, while for those in the Penrith area, Werrington Lake has resident monsters that are worthy opponents. These brutes will make short work of light tackle, so be prepared. Worms, bread and corn are top bait. The last few hours before dark have been best. Berley with what you use for bait to get them interested. If you haven’t gone on a carp bash before, you’ll be in for some fun as well as helping reduce numbers of these pests.
Release your bass so they can breed future generations of fishfor future generations of anglers.
Stu Morgan caught this nice 323mm bass on a spinnerbaitfrom a canoe.Spinnerbaits are a sound choice at this time of year.Reads: 823