Don a beanie and slip into a set of long johns winter is definitely here. Water temps are down to 10 degrees in the upper catchment and around 14 degrees around Brooklyn.
Don’t be deterred though, there are still fish to be caught. For the keen there is still the occasional jewfish in the lower reaches mixed in with some pan sized flathead and a sprinkling of bream.
The local jewie population gets a little bit quiet over winter but for diehards like myself there is just enough action to organise a trip. Most fish will be taken down near the mouth of the system where the warmer ocean waters meet the cold clear waters of the Hawkesbury.
Fishing an incoming tide is the key in the river proper but systems such as Berowra and Cowan could fire on either tide because of the lack of tidal flow and warmer water temps in these deep creeks. Squid; live, dead or in strip form should yield results as will any live bait you can get your hands on.
Long leaders, preferably fluorocarbon are required if the water clears considerably during this time. For the lure tossers there is still a good chance of securing a jew or two but be prepared to put the hours of casting in because they don’t come easy. One lure that does stand out for me during winter is the Koolabung X-Ray blade. The ability to cover a greater amount of water per cast will see bream, flathead and jew come to the net at regular intervals.
If planning a trip down to Brooklyn don’t forget to duck around Juno and scour the horizon for any signs of bird activity. A morning spent chasing Australian salmon on fly and light spin tackle is always memorable and great fun for any beginners and the experienced alike.
Don’t forget the important rule when chasing these fish on the surface, don’t drive your boat directly through the school. Give them a wide berth, position the boat up wind/current, kill the engine and let them come to you. Once they have passed repeat the procedure again, this way if there are multiple boats working the one school everyone can benefit.
If targeting bream this month, start from Bar Point and head down towards the mouth. Use the lightest line practical and ample amounts of berley to fire them up. Peeled prawn, strips of mullet, fillets of tuna or yellowtail fished back down your berley trail on a long trace will be the undoing of a few resident bream this month. Those anglers up for a bit more of an active approach will find Gulps and blades the ‘go to’ lures. Thrown around shallow flats particularly in the afternoon on the top of the tide, down towards the mouth, these will see a bit of action with bream and flathead basking in the warmth.
Bass and estuary perch are still in spawning mode and are subject to the closed season implemented by the DPI last year. They will be well and truly schooled up and will stage themselves anywhere from Sackville to Broken Bay. If you catch these fish, make sure you handle every fish with the respect it deserves by using an Enviro net, wet hands and minimal time out of water.
Most techniques will work but I’d probably pack the surface lures away until spring. Soft plastics, blades, fast sinking flies and hard bodies will account for fish that are holding deep on rock walls, weed beds and back eddies. Cover all likely spots before moving to the next. It only takes one fish to ‘flick the switch’ and you could be in for a memorable session.
Winter in the Hawkesbury usually means one thing for most anglers - hairtail. Known to many that they congregate in Cowan in winter, moving in from the deep offshore waters. Setting a variety of baits such as pilchards, live yellowtail and strips of mullet at varying depths under floats around your boat is the norm.
The use of wire or a set of ganged hooks in your bait is common practice because of their toothy nature. Also a small glow stick positioned a foot or so above your bait may be beneficial. Whilst waiting you could cast a medium sized hard body or soft plastic around as well just to cover the immediate area thoroughly and stay a little bit warmer!
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