Fishing in the Hawkesbury this month is at its slowest but don’t despair, there is consistent enough action to warrant a trip.
Forget the pre-dawn starts, I find most of the action will be after the sun has risen to adding that little bit of warmth to the water surface layers – and to the anglers.
Afternoon sessions are by far the most productive, after a full day of sunshine has helped to charge the fishes’ batteries.
Couple this with an incoming tide and the fish should be more inclined to snaffle your offerings.
Monitoring the temperature readings on your sounder is a must for Winter fishing: Half a degree rise or fall can mean fish or no fish.
As a rule, the incoming tide will be the most productive because the ocean temperatures are a lot more stable than the estuary temp water, which can drop a degree or two overnight with a bit of decent rain – not uncommon these days!
Fish to target this month include salmon, tailor, bonito, bream, flathead, jewfish and hairtail.
For salmon, tailor and bonito, trolling a spread of lures such as poppers, soft plastic stickbaits, shallow and deep hardbodies, metal slugs and feather jigs will help you find out where they are holding on any given day.
Once they’re found, you can then stay with the school and cast metal slugs and soft plastics if they are holding deep or try your luck with a fly or two.
Finding the fish can be made even easier if there are birds working the surface. Barrenjoey Headland, the eastern side of Lion Island and the rocky shore on both sides of the river back to Juno Point are great starting points.
For those brave enough to stay out for the night, hairtail should be about in OK numbers. Cowan Creek, Jerusalem Bay, Coal and Candle Creek, Smiths Creek and Waratah Bay are old favourites and reasonably reliable.
Having an assortment of baits such as WA pilchards, live and dead yakkas and strip baits rigged on ganged hooks will put you in with a chance.
Don’t forget the wire trace to combat their teeth and those of the occasional juvenile hammerhead sharks that call Cowan home in Winter.
Last year yellow glow sticks didn’t get much attention from the hairtail but red ones got plenty, so pack a few different colours and do a little experimenting.
Upstream a little further, there will still be the odd bream, flathead and jewie around for those prepared to put in that little extra effort.
Bream numbers will definitely be down compared with Summer. You will need to keep a consistent berley trail going and fish as light as the conditions will allow.
Baits of peeled prawn, squid, and strips of bonito, yakka, tailor, mullet and slimy mackerel will work. If the water remains clear, fluorocarbon leaders as light as 4lb are not uncommon. Be sure to check it regularly for any nicks or cuts and replace as necessary.
Flathead should still be about, albeit not as active.
Lures worked slowly over sun-warmed mud banks should be an easy way to get a feed. Try to coincide your trip with an afternoon high tide as the mud banks would have warmed throughout the middle of the day.
As the water floods up over the bank, the bait will move with it and the predators won’t be too far behind.
For the XOS flathead, try some of the deeper drop-offs and reefs with live yakkas, tailor and herring, if you can find any.
Please release all large breeding females; I often hear of fish close to a metre being kept – what a waste! They are far more valuable alive than dead.
Fish ranging from 40cm to 60cm are much better eating and far more common than the big breeders.
Jewies have quietened down a bit but some good schoolies have been caught by anglers chasing hairtail in Cowan Creek. Other spots to try include Flint and Steel, Juno Point, Eleanor Bluffs, Gunya and both bridges further upstream.
Live baits are No 1 in the colder water, followed by big dead baits butterflied or in fillets. Tailor, squid, pike and yakkas are the most reliable to source.
If throwing lures, the aforementioned spots are all worth a cast.
Remember to work your lures a little slower this month because the fish aren’t as active.
Soft plastics with inbuilt action, paddletail shads and big curl-tail grubs are personal Winter favourites and give extra advantage. Lifting and dropping your lure has the tail do all the work for you, sending out those important vibrations to draw a strike.
As for Bass and Estuary Perch, which were my Winter target species in the upper reaches in times past, they will have to wait til next month!
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