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Bass follow their instincts
  |  First Published: June 2004



HERE we go – icy mornings and fish that can be anything but co-operative.

This month is pretty quiet for most anglers and, depending on your point of view, only the brave or foolish venture out over the next few months. Spawning bass are off-limits for a lot of anglers but there are still some who don’t have an issue with targeting them.

Bass spend quite a few months of the year with spawning on their minds. If it’s not travelling to the spawning areas, it’s feeding up for the big swim or deciding if, in fact, they will be making the annual journey at all.

Steve Starling believes that mature bass will not always make the migration. In a demonstration of perhaps the ultimate in long-range weather forecasting, some bass, like many other creatures, might be demonstrating their ability to give their offspring the best chance of survival by not all spawning in great numbers. Without being Dr Doolittle, it’s just a theory and we’ll probably never the real answer. But, based on other species, it could always be a strong possibility.

For those dreaming of all those lovely bass in the throes of spawning, a 1kg bass can produce up to 500,000 eggs. A scientist recently told me only about 30% of them will reach maturity and continue the breeding cycle. Water salinity needs to around 25-35 parts per 1000 for bass to fertilise their eggs successfully, and in water from 14° to 19°.

Bass anglers who have a problem with targeting spawning bass are still happy to look for the fish upstream, above the brackish spawning water. The often hectic catch rates of Summer are long gone in the cooler waters. Learning to be more patient is a hard lesson but working the water much more slowly is often the key.

One way to keep the lure on front of fish longer is with a suspending lure. Once it is cranked down to the desired depth it will sit enticingly in front of the fish instead of rising or sinking. When the water temperature is low and fish are not feeding very actively, a suspending lure can be kept in front of a fish for longer periods in the hope of enticing a strike. Repeated slow twitches help entice a strike.

The RMG Sneaky Scorpion is a 35mm minnow developed by Kaj ‘Bushy’ Busch. It has a very slight positive buoyancy that works well with a twitch-and-rip retrieve ideal for sleepy fish.

TROUT ABOUT

Mr Speckles is a fairly uncommon catch for most local anglers unless you make an effort to go looking for him. The Nepean isn’t that comfortable for trout in the warmer months, when most anglers are looking for the bass which far outnumber them.

During Summer trout are found in the Warragamba River from the dam wall to the junction of the Nepean and Warragamba rivers. There’s about four kilometres of fishable river and the cool water from the dam offers prime trout conditions.

In Winter the water in the Nepean drops to around 12°. I wouldn’t have a problem with eating trout from the Warragamba, with fish living in such clean water, but would twice about eating one from the Nepean. With 136,200,000 litres of effluent being pumped into the catchment every day, I can think of other places to catch a fish for a feed

A small threadline outfit with 1kg to 4kg line is the most popular trout weapon, teamed up with spinners, small minnows, or wobblers. Best bait would be an earthworm.

SPAWNING BASS

There’s always debate about targeting spawning bass. Members of Bass Kempsey have been concerned for some time about the increase in the number of professional operators coming into the Macleay River, which missed out on being designated as a recreational fishing haven. Bass Kempsey believes there is increased fishing pressures on migrating bass in the Macleay and has called over recent years for a closed season on taking bass in June, July and August. With bass migrating into the brackish waters to spawn at this time, Bass Kempsey believes overfishing from rec and pro fishers makes bass very vulnerable.

In rivers like the Macleay and the Hawkesbury, where other species can be caught using similar techniques to those for bass, a closed season would be hard to police. Perhaps a catch-and-release only policy for bass might be a better option. Most bass anglers practise catch and release but with each female bass returned to the water, hundreds of thousands of eggs are able to be released.

If you listened to the babble of supposedly educated people, recreational anglers deserve to cop the brunt of criticism for declining fish numbers, while commercial fishers work the waters without much in the way of restrictions on their activities. With 61 prawn trawlers working the Hawkesbury and 15 other methods of capturing fish available for commercial fishermen, I’d love to see somebody convince rec fishos that we catch more fish than pros.

FOCUS ON HABITAT

Some fishing clubs are forming an environmental group focusing on the declining habitat of native fish and ways of improving fish habitat. The Hawkesbury Nepean Bass Anglers Association, which meets at the Windsor Bowling Club on the third Tuesday of the month at 7.30pm, is one of the clubs which will be working closely with others who want to see the environment improve.

Facts have been published in this column before about how the Hawkesbury-Nepean is struggling. Other clubs from other areas would also have tales of declining waterways as well, so the focus will not just be on the Hawkesbury-Nepean. More details will follow in this column.

• It’s always great to hear from readers and have a chat about what they’ve been up to. If you have any news on recent captures or have pics for the magazine, it would be great to hear from you. Exact locations aren’t given to the masses but the info and pics are always of interest. Phone me on 0418 297 353 or email me at --e-mail address hidden--

Dave George has made it a habit of nailing bass over 40cm, which has made him a bit of a legend among his mates in the Hawkesbury Nepean Bass Anglers Association. This one was caught on a lime creek Kokoda Bugger Chug.

Ken Neale from the Hawkesbury Nepean Bass Anglers has been enjoying good catches. This fish was released and will hopefully be happily spawning as you read this.

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