THE FINAL month of Winter at last and, according to my records, water temperatures should start to nudge a little higher this month.
The past month has seen catches of other species apart from bass that have provided plenty of excitement and this should continue to improve. Long time reader Steven Chang has enjoyed late-afternoon sessions with some exciting mullet action. Mullet are one of the most underrated fish in the area and after a talk with anyone who’s caught one on light line you’ll soon get the picture. Zig-zagging runs from these silver wonders make for plenty of fun on light line.
If you’re looking for some excitement, try targeting mullet with a light rod of around 1.8 to 2.2 metres with a small threadline loaded with 3kg line. A small float or an unweighted rig can both be successful. Hook sizes vary from No 12 to No 6. Pinch lightly moistened, kneaded, white bread onto the hook. Mix it with strands of cotton wool to give it better holding ability on the hook or even mix up your own flour-and-water dough reinforced with cotton wool fibres. Berley makes for a far better bite, so take along extra bread and use it liberally.
Plenty of carp have also fallen to baits meant for mullet. These guys won’t come easily to the bank and outfits a little more beefy than for mullet are recommended.
Down around Wisemans Ferry there have been some school jewfish caught on Hawkesbury prawns. Heavy rain and discoloured water will often get the fish on the bite. Big jewfish will often hunt alone, but smaller fish will form schools and lie in gutters and eat crabs, prawns and small to medium fish like mullet.
Small jewfish fall for prawns, fish pieces, crabs and worms. Fish bits that are meant for flathead and bream will often attract mulloway. Mulloway haunts include the mouth of the Macdonald River on the run-out tide and off the wharf at Wisemans Ferry. Rosevale, Webbs Creek, Lower Half Moon and up to the mouth of the Colo River will sometimes hold mulloway.
While surface strikes are a more visually exciting way of catching bass, sub-surface temptations are the way to go if you’re seriously trying to hook up at the moment. There are a few different techniques to try, some easier to try than others.
Try small deep divers with clear bibs when the fish are not responding to larger lures. There are plenty of Aussie lures such as Halco Sneaky Scorpions, Taylor Made Tiny Nuggets and Predatek Min Min M50 and M50Ds.
Light spinning outfits allow smaller lures to be cast farther by using lighter line, which gives the lures better action and allows them to dive deeper. In clear water, thinner line is less visible to spooky fish.
Soft plastics are great at catching fish when nothing else seems to be working. Apart from the hairy and often bizarre creations that fly anglers tie, plastics are as lifelike as you can get without having a heartbeat. Squidgies, Atomics, Berkley and Sliders are the most popular.
A sensitive graphite rod and a spinning reel spooled with thin braided line are the ideal combination to allow you to tell what your plastic is bumping into on the bottom or when you feel a fish take the lure.
Two popular methods can be used down deep, with both used to great effect in a number of bass competitions. There’s the ‘do-nothing’ approach and one shown to me by Matthew Mott from Burnett Sportsfishing on Boondooma Dam in South East Queensland in 1999.
The do-nothing approach was pioneered by Charlie Brewer of Slider fame in the late 1960s. In Charlie’s words, the idea was simply to ‘sweet-talk ‘em’. He discovered that even while small baitfish were making forward progress in the water, their bodies weren’t making huge variations in movement. Charlie’s approach was simply not to give the plastic any ‘life’ by using the rod tip in the belief was that small baitfish don’t make radical movements unless they are being chased and so a plastic should do the same.
Matthew Mott’s technique has proved itself time and again, especially when fish have lockjaw. I’ve tried it many times locally and it works just as well in local rivers. I’ve you’re planning on a visit to South East Queensland, phone Matt on 07 4168 4811 to take you out for a day on Bjelke Petersen or Boondooma dams and you’ll learn a lot.
His technique is to target fish near the bottom and the idea is to keep the plastic down where the fish are. Cast your plastic and keep an eye on the line as it sinks. Keep the rod tip pointed towards your feet and when the slack line has stopped coming towards you, you know the plastic is on the bottom.
Matt’s idea was to wind the handle about four times and then open the bail arm to lower the plastic to the bottom again. If you don’t release line the plastic will rise in the water column and not stay in the strike zone.
It pays to experiment with the retrieve speed until you find out what the fish prefer. A retrieve may be agonisingly slow, so be prepared to take your time.
It’s worthwhile remembering to use some kind of scent on your plastic. At times when fish aren’t all that active, scent can be enough to entice a strike and it also masks smells such as sunscreen, petrol and oil smells from our hands.
A lot of people object to targeting bass in the cooler months in areas where they are likely to be spawning but the fish are still in other areas if you are patient enough. Some sections of the Nepean above North Richmond can still be fished without having trouble with the huge amounts of weed that still plague large sections. Steven Chang has been prepared to take on the bass in these areas and while most are small, there still are larger bass.
The Colo River has had small patches of salvinia for a few months now but not enough to be a problem. The usual weed beds are still present.
Bass have been a little more willing to bite than might have been expected and Halco Sneaky Scorpions have worked really well. They have an enticing action when retrieved, and I’ve witnessed these suspending lures being chased down by bass from quite a distance. My Sneaky Scorpions are going to get quite a work-out in coming months.
Upper sections of the Nepean might not be high on angler’s destinations at this time of year but it might be worth your while having a shot. There are bass being caught, especially by anglers using smaller crankbaits, small Beetle Spins or sinking fly.
While bass are in spawning mode downstream, bass in the high 40cm range are trapped behind a series of weirs which have no fish ladders in the upper reaches of the Nepean, which means these fish can’t migrate to spawn
Salvinia is still a problem in much of the Hawkesbury-Nepean and while many were hoping the cold weather would kill off this pest, an extensive green carpet over much of the river has stayed with us over Winter. However, it seems the work done by the harvesters brought in to reduce the weed problem has had some effect.
On a visit to North Richmond and Windsor in late June, the river seemed almost clear of salvinia in these areas. Let’s hope more is done to reduce the problem.
If you have any news, ideas or pics, I’d love to hear from you. Phone me on 0418 297 353 or email me at the address above.
Luke Heiser picked up this lovely bass on a small Betts Spin in the lower section of the Nepean. There are still some willing bass if you’re up to the challenge.
Gary Lee got the shock of his life when he caught this mullet on an Attack crankbait while prospecting for bass. You’re bound to be impressed with the tussle these silver wonders will provide.Reads: 937