Winter is here and there’s plenty of other activities that might seem more appealing than waking up at dawn in the mist and cold, but this doesn’t mean that fishing in local waters is a total waste of time.
There are plenty of species around in the Hawkesbury and Nepean rivers to keep you occupied, but you’ll have to change your ideas a little to be successful if you’ve been chasing bass and EP’s over the warmer months. The rewards can be worth it, and you might be amazed and impressed at what is out there.
There’s plenty of flathead about in the Hawkesbury, and there's plenty being caught in the middle reaches of the Hakwesbury at the moment. While fresh bait such as live prawns and flesh baits are the preferred options for those targeting them, getting a good berley trail going will attract flathead. Having a berley trail that reaches the bottom where the fish are, and using just a little berley often rather than a lot in one hit, is the most successful method
A visit to Narooma last year for a half day charter with fellow NSWFM writer and guide Stuart Hindson on Wagonga Inlet was a great way to see what techniques work with flathead. Stuart is great at how he targets big flatties in Wagonga, and with large 120mm Squidgy Wrigglers he makes long casts into known flathead territory and allows the plastic to sink to the bottom with jigheads offering enough weight to get the plastic to the bottom.
To make sure the plastic is on the bottom, it’s important to look at your line about a third to half way down from your rod tip to the line entering the water. Watching this area, you will see a sudden dip in the line as the plastic reaches the bottom.
With two violent rips to attract the attention of nearby flathead, Stuart allows the plastic to fall to the bottom again and works it back to the boat. I’m keen to try this in the Hawkesbury for our flatties. Natural colours were used in the clear waters of Wagonga, and while the same would be used in clear waters locally, if the water is murky try Coral (pink), Drop Bear (white) or Silver Fox (silver) which all stand out in discoloured water.
Give Stuart’s technique a try and see what happens. If not, simply bouncing soft plastics along the bottom should eventually see a flattie landed.
While the larger flathead are great to show to the family and friends, let the larger fish of 60cm or larger go, as these are the females which will continue to breed if you release them carefully.
Good-sized bream seem plentiful at the moment in the middle sections of the Hawkesbury. Soft plastics like Berkley 3” minnows in watermelon and pumpkinseed do well, especially for guys working under boats, pylons and under docks near Lower Portland and Wiseman’s Ferry. Lightly weighted plastics cast close to these areas that allow the current to take the plastic works really well, and is growing in popularity locally. Anglers in bream tournaments have been using this technique for a long time now, and it works well.
Other locations that should attract bream will be along rock walls, pylons and places where creeks flow into the river, especially after a period of rain.
There are often big bream caught at this time of the year, so a heavier leader that will not deter a bream is recommended. Some of the bigger bream won’t be landed if you are using ultra-light leader.
Jewies like to hold in areas that give them the opportunity to ambush their prey, especially after periods of heavy rain. Any gutters and depressions in the bottom, where they can sit out of the main current, allows them to expend little energy in order to grab a feed that wanders past them.
There are a number of deep holes along the Hawkesbury that jewfish will lay in wait for a feed to come along, but two of the better known ones are at the mouth of Webb’s Creek and the mouth of the Macdonald River, both near Wiseman’s Ferry.
Jewfish from a few kilograms to around 25kg are a possibility in the river this month, but you’ll need to be targeting these fish specifically with heavy sinkers to hold to the bottom. Line between ten to 15kg and up to 24kg for the really big guys will work best. Trace between 20-30kg for smaller fish and up to 40kg leader for the bigger specimens, with strong 4/0 to 9/0 hooks are recommended.
A lot of water passes through Wiseman’s area, so the top and bottom of the tides is probably the best time to fish here. Fresh strip baits, as well as live baits are the best options. If you are using live baits stick to tailor and mullet.
Night-time fishing for jewfish seems to yield some great fish, and a hot thermos of coffee and warm clothing, along with a good deal of stamina are the three main ingredients on top of the right tackle.
If you happen to be in the Wiseman’s area at this time of the year the keep an eye out for blackfish or luderick, which have a regular and serious band of followers along the coast up around the Wiseman’s Ferry area. About 50km upstream from the entrance of Broken Bay you’ll find plenty if you use some of the weed that is found along some of the rock walls in the area.
Get a regular berley trail on a run-out tide, and blackfish should be about. In past years blackfish up to 50cm have been caught around Wiseman’s. Now that’s some serious fun!
If you want to try something completely different, suspend green weed or cabbage weed a few metres below a pencil float. Keep the line light, around one to three kilograms, and use a small hook, preferably a number 10 to number four.
I don’t know many anglers who would eat a fish out the Nepean and upper sections of the Hawkesbury, but if you were to head into the Warragamba River and target some trout, you might be more inclined to dine on some healthy trout. Trout might be a feral species to many native fish lovers, but there’s no denying they taste great from clean water.
You’ll find trout in the Warragamba River and further downstream as the waters in the Nepean cool during the winter months.
Trout will take a variety of natural baits, including worms, grubs, insects, mud-eyes and small yabbies. One to four kilogram line is ideal, and you’re going to need hooks between a size 12 and one.
If using lures is the way you like to fish, small minnows and celtas are probably the number one choice.
Whatever species you plan to catch, always use tackle specific to what you want to catch. It’s sad when I ask an angler what they are hoping to catch, and hear them say something like “whatever will take the hook!” What’s even worse is when they are fishing with their kids with that attitude. While kids love fishing, making the most of their fishing experience will mean they learn more and be more likely to have fun catching fish rather than driving you nuts when they get bored with the whole fishing experience. The “whatever will take the hook” attitude often ends up a frustrating waste of time and brings little joy to those fishing.
Remember that this month marks the start of the new regulations regarding a zero bag limit on EP’s and bass. This covers the period from 1 June to 31 August, and any bass caught within this time must be carefully released unharmed back to the water.
This closed season probably came about from the idiots who had no regard for spawning bass and the future generations of fish stocks. Stories of total disregard for bag limits and eskies of bass and EP’s being loaded into freezers was probably enough for the authorities to act.
If you see any illegal activity regarding these species, phone 1800 043 536 and report as much detail as you can without getting yourself into a confrontation. It might take some effort on your part, but if you care about the future of your fishing, and those of your kids, you won’t think much of the effort it takes to report those who do the wrong thing.
To release bass back safely, try to release them without taking the fish from the water. If you must take a fish from the water, wet your hands first to protect the protective slim of the fish, and then be careful to support the body of the fish so that its weight can be supported evenly, or better still using a knotless landing net like an Enviro Net. Do not hold a fish up by the mouth and let it hang with its tail pointed towards the water. If you were made to do that, you’d end up in a bad way too.
Lefty Krey, the world famous fly angler, once offered some words of wisdom concerning catch and release: “You don’t burn your golf balls when you finish them, so why kill your fish?” Golf might not be your thing, but fish are, and their future depends on all of us, so let’s look after them.
There’s no doubt that with the cooler months, the less hardy anglers have signed off and probably taken to watching the football. Thinking anglers often make the most of the quieter months, and look for ways to improve their fishing results. This is especially true if anglers’ results have been far from consistent and disappointing.
So where can you start to make improvements to help improve your successes? Upgrading hooks can improve your catch rates, as fine gauge hooks and incredibly sharp hooks work more effectively.
Downsizing line and leaders is probably one area that can really turn your fishing more successful. With braided lines, they are incredibly strong for their diameter, and while three-pound braid might sound light, it is in fact much stronger than that. Using thinner line and leader can be especially worthwhile for shy fish, or when the water is very clear.
Thinking more about your lure choices can make all the difference. I read a lot about lure fishing, and while one writer’s favourite lure might bag them a lot of fish, lure choice often comes down to an angler’s confidence in their lure. Don’t feel swayed about a lure just because it’s the latest one to hit the headlines. Use what you feel confident to use and don’t feel you have to be a trend follower.
American bass anglers have provided us with many techniques that we have applied to our bass. Kevin Van Dam is the highest money earner on the U.S bass circuit, and watching his DVD’s and reading his thoughts on bass really help you get inside the mind of how great anglers think. Another favourite U.S writer is a guy by the name of Homer Circle. His book called Bass Wisdom has seen my fishing and the way I approach it change dramatically.
If you’re stuck inside due to lousy weather, stop contemplating your lack of fishing success and spends some productive hours thinking about how you can turn your fishing around.Reads: 1776