Willing fish turn up
  |  First Published: August 2003

It seems the Winter mornings that have greeted bass anglers have not been the only chilly receptions anglers have been getting lately. Judging by the lack of boats on the water and the small numbers of fish caught, it looks like the cold weather and unco-operative fish have kept anglers away.

Surface water temperatures have been around 15.5° and with cool winds, conditions on some days have been just plain miserable.

Robert Longney from TSF Bass Tackle has been finding the going a bit tough with the stiff winds in the upper reaches of the Nepean. The fishing has been pretty good, all the same. Fish have been reasonably willing, especially for anglers using anything that is small. Beetle Spins have done extremely well, as have small sub-surface flies.

It’s worth working the opposite side of the river when the winds pick up, as the water is calmer and anything remotely edible that falls into the water is snaffled by bass. Overhanging trees provide plenty of activity for feeding bass like this. Using this tactic, Robert has picked up some nice fish to 38cm, with most fish around 20cm to 25cm. Robert has even seen bass bigger than 45cm. For those in the lower sections of the Hawkesbury-Nepean, this is good news. There’s also the story that was overheard being told in a local tackle shop in the Campbelltown area of a 50cm bass being caught in the Nepean.

Robert has also been spending valuable time cleaning out the fish ladders in the upper reaches of the Nepean, which will allow bass to move freely upstream and downstream. Not a bad idea if you feel inclined to help their migratory instincts along.

Catfish have been caught on worms and the carp fishing has been quite exciting, too. Both these fish are not terribly fussy when it comes to bait, but worms would be a great choice for either. Just watch the pectoral and dorsal spines of the catfish – being stuck with one of these spines will be a miserably painful reminder for next time you catch one of these fish.

Steven Chan doesn’t fish below Cattai for bass at this time of the year. While things have been a little slow in the bass stakes, Steve’s been chasing carp. He’s found that bass are on their way downstream and are in surprisingly large numbers, though still co-operative in the upper stretches above the Penrith weir.

Hawkesbury slow

The Phantom, that publicity-shy contributor of information to this column, has found that the fish have had to be annoyed into attacking lures by making repeated casts into the same area. If casting is your preferred style of fishing, then follow the Phantom’s lead. He also suggests using the long-preferred tactic of breaking out the sinking fly lines to chase estuary perch and bass.

Soft plastics and deeper divers have turned up estuary perch and bass. Spinnerbaits and sinking fly lines will also be good choices to land a few fish. A lot of fish have been holding in five to eight metres of water, with some much deeper than that, so get your offerings down around those depths.

Working over the water really well is generally a must at this time of year and this can be very frustrating for those who still end up with nothing. If this gets to you, you can always troll, which is another worthwhile exercise, although it’s much less interesting than testing your casting skills.

If you do troll, using a good sounder can make all the difference. I use a Humminbird 450TX which has proven a great unit. I’ve found that any areas where there is a variation in the bottom contour, rock walls and around cliffs have shown good numbers of fish in some parts of the river. Any area that produces back eddies will enable fish to hold out of the main current.

Those fishing from the banks of the Hawkesbury should take heart. Areas adjacent to rock walls and cliffs have been showing good numbers of fish on the sounder in recent weeks. For shore-based anglers in the Lower Portland and Wisemans Ferry area, good access to these areas is possible with local roads coming very close to the river.


Carp are still active in the suburban lakes such as Werrington and Pughs Lagoon in Richmond. Dave Horvat has been catching these mud-suckers in as little as 30cm of water and has been having a ball on light gear.

There has been a lot of big mullet activity on the surface of late and, as I’ve mentioned before, these are great fun if you’re finding things a little slow. If you’ve never caught one of these silver torpedoes, just try landing one some time and see what you’ve been missing out on. Berley up with a little bread and run some on a hook under a float and be prepared. I’ve never tried catching one on fly, but a bread fly put in the berley trail would probably be the best way to have that long rod doubling over.

The annual debate

The yearly debate on establishing a closed bass season is on again, and although anglers’ reasons for wanting this are understandable, the logic behind determining when to have a closed season is a little bit of a mystery. One of the loudest critics of a closed bass season comes from John Bethune. There wouldn’t be too many bass anglers who would be game enough to compare their knowledge on bass against his. If there was a Who Wants to be a Millionaire series based on bass questions only, the million would be as good as gone.

John wrote a letter in 2001 to then Fisheries Minister Eddie Obeid to voice his opinion. His letter, published in this magazine, made several points about bass and their breeding cycle.

Bass can survive capture during their spawning time, John said, citing fish caught in a competition surviving their initial capture, periods in boat livewells, the weigh-in and subsequent transported to the Mangrove Creek bass hatchery. There, they survived numerous nettings, examinations and the manual stripping of their eggs before being transported back to the river and released. All apparently survived the entire process.

Spawning periods can range from March-April to as late as November and it’s difficult to determine when bass are spawning in a given area. John believes that salinity, water turbidity and temperature all have parts to play.

John also argues that it would be better to have a catch-and-release period only, with no bass or estuary perch allowed in possession, as well as a restricted season on prawn trawling and its complete phasing out over a number of years in our major recreational and tourist areas.

Makes perfectly good reasoning, don’t you think? To have a closed bass season when nobody can be certain when the fish actually spawn makes it very difficult. To apply the logic of those who would argue for a closed season, shouldn’t we have a closed flathead or bream season? After all, these fish are more eagerly-sought species. Why not have a closed jewfish season and perhaps a closed tailor season? With so many environmental factors influencing when fish spawn, how can we possibly say with all certainty that we have got it right as to when we should have a closed season on any species until we have a biologist on hand around every waterway?

In the Hawkesbury River, there are 61 prawn trawl commercial fishermen with access to the Hawkesbury River. On a program on commercial netting around the world on SBS television two months ago, it was stated that for every one pound (Pommy documentary for you!), five pounds of by-catch is taken. Make you wonder what is happening to our local fish stocks in the Hawkesbury, doesn’t it?

Rather than have a closed season on bass, perhaps a better solution might be to have a catch-and-release period on bass or estuary perch and a closed season on prawn trawling in the Hawkesbury. Why not e-mail me with your thoughts?

Photo 1

Chris Elliot took this 485mm bass from Lake St Clair on a purple Feral Cat lure. Fish of this size have been spotted recently in the Nepean.

Photo 2

When the going gets slow locally, Christian Serne and fishing mate Chris Elliot go farther afield for bass. The guys took these fine 47cm bass on a spinnerbait and a punkinseed Slider.

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