Dam shy fish
  |  First Published: July 2005

Frosty mornings and cold westerlies make the rivers are really quiet and it is a good time to leave the river bass alone – they will be in spawning mode until early Spring.

Up the valley, Lake St Clair shuts down very quickly. It is an open dam and at current 50% capacity is quite shallow so the water temp drops very quickly and it does not take long to get down around 12°, which really slows up the bite.

The other problem with this dam is that the water remains very clear and the fish become very easily spooked. I have learnt not to release a fish where it was caught but will motor out wider and do it there.

There will be some schools of bass in the Carrowbrook and Fallbrook arms but they are usually smaller fish and can be very frustrating to catch. Small Jackall TN50s, ice jigs or plastics can sometimes entice a bite but these fish are usually inactive due to the low water temperature .

Trolling lures that run around four metres along the banks up these arms, especially if the water is a few degrees warmer, should entice bass and the odd yellowbelly. Good lure colours at this time of year seem to be the greens, blues or violets.

Bait is usually the better option for those chasing a feed and with some good size silvers now coming on line along with the goldens, fishing around the larger trees in the Fallbrook Arm and the main basin should get you something to take home. The prime bait in Winter seems to be the garden worm with a shrimp or yabby as a back-up.


This month at Glenbawn the fishing can be very frustrating but can also be very rewarding. I have caught some really good fish in July but usually not a lot of them. Around the timber is the best option for bass and yellowbelly with bait and lures.

The best bait at Glenbawn seems to be the worm but if the dam is rising (hopeful thinking), work the softer banks with yabbies, although they can be hard to get at this time of year.

Because of the low water level, there are plenty trees to fish around ,especially at the back of the dam. There is also the old river bed, which is now well-defined and can be trolled along very easily for a few kilometres.

A little trick I used to use years ago when bait fishing around trees was to firstly drop a vibrating lure down around the trunk and slowly work it back to the surface. It was not uncommon to see the goldens follow it to the surface and that way you knew straight away if you were at the right spot.

With a good sounder you can also see the fish moving around the tree ounce the rattler has exited them. The Jackall is a good lure to use but hang on tightly because there is a fair chance that a bass or golden will nail it.

I have just received a new Lowrance LMS 332 colour sounder and it is it is very easy to see the fish in among the branches and you are then able to drop your lure or bait right in their faces.

Soft plastics are also good for this style of fishing. Rig them weedless so they do not snag up as much but use plenty of scent. Good colours for crankbaits or spinnerbaits are green, blue and purple.

If casting lures, I begin using normal crankbaits but if things are a bit quiet, I try lures with a rattle such as those from Mann’s, Daiwa or Jackall.

At this time of year the barometer needs to be consistently high for at least three or four days (over 1020hPa) with very little wind to let the water warm up and give the fish time to locate the feed. Best action is usually on banks or points that face north.


The water can be very clear after this pattern and the fish in passive mode. Bass shut down below around 16° and goldens around 15° so you must work lures and spinnerbaits very slowly. The fish can see them from a considerable distance but they do not want to expend too much energy chasing fast lures.

Downsizing lures from 60mm to 45mm and going to a minnow style in place of a shad style such as the Tilsan Bass can also help.

Downsize spinnerbaits from the more traditional 3/8oz or1/2oz to the more compact 1/8oz or1/4 oz. I still use some of the original Fina spinnerbaits. If you have trouble casting them you can add some extra weight to the shank with stick-on weight from your local tackle shop.

Downsizing also allows the lures to stay up in the warmer water which is predominately in the top one to three metres. Generally the water temp drops around 2° for every five metres and then after that around 1° every metre.

Fish are cold-blooded creatures whose body temperatures closely approximate the surrounding water. All temperature changes motivate the life processes, such as ,feeding, digestion, behavior, activity and the energy consumed to carry out these functions.

The most important fact to remember when Winter fishing is that although a fish requires around 2% to 3% of its body weight in food per day to survive, the digestion rate in Winter is days compared with hours in Summer when the metabolic rate is faster. Thus the total amount of food a fish can consume is limited to the size of its stomach and the rate of digestion.

The fish like to hold close to the timber in Winter because the water around it is slightly warmer because the tree conducts the heat into the surrounding water. This time of year you can usually fish office hours because the prime bite is usually from around 11am to 3pm. I put this down to the maximum sun on the water and the diurnal barometric rise during that period.

Remember that we go fishing to enjoy it and if we catch a fish, that is a bonus. The more knowledge an angler possesses the better their chances to do more catching than fishing.

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