Prime bass spawning time
  |  First Published: August 2003

I’ll start with the good news for bass anglers, particularly those with small craft suitable for skinny water.

The region had substantial rainfall through Autumn and into Winter. Clarrie Hall Dam had water over the spillway well into June with many breeding-size fish washed into Doon Doon Creek and into the Tweed. Most of the North Coast catchments also enjoyed heavy rain, meaning the best bass spawning conditions for a long time.

The Tweed and many creeks have produced some great fish. When the conditions improve, as they will this month, anglers will find bass along shorelines with overhanging vegetation, fallen timber, rocky areas and shallow grasses early and late in the day. Getting into the structure is what it is all about, so don’t hold back. If you’re not snagging up, you’re not trying hard enough.

My lure bag at this time generally consists of natural and hot fluoro patterns in crawdads and minnows. I also have jig heads and tails along with a couple of small spinnerbaits.

Clarrie Hall will still to continue fishing well this month with land-based anglers getting their first real opportunity to fly- and lure-fish for bass. Thanks to some clever planning, the Tweed Shire Council, with input from many members of advisory committees, has improved shore access. This is a great location for shore-based anglers.

The wild bass would have found conditions pretty tough during the recent drought and when the heavy rain occurred, large amounts of topsoil were washed into the creeks and rivers. The healthy stocks from the dam will have bolstered their numbers substantially. About 200,000 bass have been stocked into Clarrie Hall in the past eight years or so but I doubt there would be many fish over 38cm remaining above the wall. Every time we get close to trophy fish, they go over the wall or die when the dam thermocline rolls over.

The council has embraced restocking, along with the Australian Bass Association and NSW Fisheries. It is disappointing that for all the effort over the years that we still are only catching a smaller class of fish. The introduction of a fish barrier, as used in some northern impoundments, should be considered if the dam is to achieve its true potential.

Estuary, offshore

Reports of large snapper and jew on the near shore reefs are coming in thick and fast. Substantial rain fall has done its part in bringing the fish on the bite. At this time of year most charter boats are spending time out wide. The currents have slowed and there is opportunity to access deep-water fish.

But I have seen plenty of great fish taken during August by those in small boats and even on surf skis who fish the points and close reefs. Tides and timing are everything and sometimes the weather will beat you.

The Ten Minute Reef, the southern side of Cook Island, Little Wommin and the reefs off Kingscliff and Hastings Point have produced some great catches of jew, snapper and kingfish. Big Winter mangrove jacks have also been reported from these locations recently so It should not be long before the Australian record is again broken off the NSW coast.

Best methods have involved drifting lightly-weighted baits over the shallow reefs or anchoring, berleying and floating out baits.

The beaches have also benefited from the recent deluges with excellent schools of bream along the coast south of the Tweed, particularly along the stretch from Black Rock to New Brighton.

The beach fishing this month should improve with calmer conditions. I watched a visiting Victorian beach angler getting among the fish using a standard Ninety Mile Beach rig of a star sinker on the bottom with two paternoster droppers. Most of the locals gave up because of the strong sweep, so it pays to be versatile.

The estuaries will also benefit from rains. With more nutrients available, conditions will be pretty good. My favourite spots this month are around the mouth of the Tweed or right up into the top of the system on the flats. Well-oxygenated water around the mouth often produces good catches of bream with other species like jew, kingfish and sharks also venturing into the system.

Around the full moon should fish well on the changes of the tides while the smaller tides at other times of the month will allow you to fish with the least amount of tackle loss and cover more ground at a slower pace. Drifting with live baits on the bottom is a sure-fire way of nailing big fish and rigs similar to those used offshore are suitable.

This is a great month for lure and fly anglers with plenty of flathead, bream, tailor and occasional tarpon and jew visiting the shallow reaches. Shallow-diving, small-profiled minnows and soft plastics are the pick. My favourites are the Eco Gear Grass Minnows, not because I am sponsored by them but because I have used them for the past eight years from the NSW North Coast to the tip of Cape York as a guide. They are a superior product in design subtlety and finish. Designer Norio Tanabe is a marine biologist who developed scent and colour impregnation with the most advanced manufacturing techniques. I tried for a long time to distribute the product in Australia but realised I’d rather use them to catch fish than work hard in the tackle industry. When this product gets into more hands, more tournaments will be won through their virtues.

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