The “pressure is on” when one fishing guide hires another fishing guide to go fishing. Especially when the customer is an expert guide such as Rohan Soulsby from Top End Barra Fishing. Rohan operates his charters from Darwin targeting iconic species such as the mighty Barramundi, GT’s, Queenfish and Golden Snapper. So it was fantastic to see Rohan’s enthusiasm and appreciation for our southern native species. Out on the water this morning Rohan connected with plenty of bass, three of which were around the 40cm mark. I felt the pressure easing with each fish that hit the net. Clarrie Hall had done me proud again.
Thanks for a great trip Rohan. I look forward to visiting up your way for a fishing trip soon……no pressure mate 😉
The bass fishing was consistent today with plenty of fish moving around and feeding on the surface. Popping sounds could be heard throughout the morning as the bass inhaled small bait-fish at the surface under the lily pads. Robs small diving minnow lure was certainly the flavor of the morning, drawing at least a dozen strikes from some aggressive fish. Rob managed to stay connected to at least half of them, finishing the morning with a very respectable tally. Thanks Rob for a great bass fishing session!
An early start saw Conrad and I loading up the kayaks with tackle and disappear onto the lake covered in mist. As usual the bass were feeding early under the cover of the low light conditions. It wasn’t long before Conrad opened his account when a small bass snaffled his shallow running minnow. His very next cast connected with a much bigger specimen. It never ceases to amaze me how hard these fish fight for their size, and the protest this fish put up was no exception to the rule. Once netted the bass measured 42cm to the fork, which is about as big as they grow in this waterway.
Conrad managed to land another bass for the morning before the sun burnt through the mist and penetrated the cool clear water. With no cloud and no wind, conditions were hot and the water was glassy calm. Ideal conditions would include cloud cover and some wind, which tends to bring the fish out from under the security of the lily pads and into the open where they feed in the current. Today, the still conditions provided some truly awe inspiring scenery, but the fish went off the bite. None the less, it was another great morning out on Clarrie Hall.
The water at Clarrie Hall has now cleared and the dam is now looking fantastic. Much of the cabomba weed is gone which makes the fishing much easier. You can now work your lures right along the edges of the lilies without fear of having the lure covered in weed. The bass could be heard feeding on the surface which makes surface luring around the pads a great option. Today I caught bass hopping a mumbler across the bottom and also found bass by retrieving lipless crankbaits. It is great to see Clarrie firing once again!
Andrew and I enjoyed a great days fishing the Tweed River for bass. Andrew had never caught a bass before and it wasn’t long before he nailed his first on a cicada surface lure. His second fell for the same trap soon after. As the sun rose we switched to deeper divers and the bass continued to bite. Another 4 or 5 fish were netted before the sun made an appearance from behind the clouds and the bite slowed down. Andrew still managed another couple of bass before we called it a day. Andrew finished the morning with about 8 nice bass and a smile from ear to ear. Thanks for a great day!
A few bass continue to show up through the month of August. Today Melle and Kim worked their lures diligently along the edges of the snags and were rewarded for their efforts. Another couple of weeks and this freshwater section of the Tweed River will be absolutely teaming with bass as they return from their spawning run. September is the best month for bass fishing by far!!! Now is the time to book your charter.
It has now been 4 months since the floods in March and Clarrie Hall Dam is still undergoing some change. The water is still coffee coloured but this will likely have a positive effect on the lake. It could be said that impoundments are in a constant cycle consisting of boom and bust phases. Clarrie Hall is probably in the latter phase now. My theory is that the elevated water levels and turbidity during the floods has cut off the cabomba weeds light source. Subsequently there has been a major die back of this invasive weed. The die off of the weed probably led to more turbidity which in turn caused more weeds to die. A kind of positive feedback loop. Hence 4 months later the dam is still turbid.
The good news is that much of the cabomba weed is now dead. This has exposed the edge of the lily pads making lure fishing a much easier proposition. The die back of the cabomba has also made access easier in a number of places including the boat ramp area which was previously choked with weed. The lily pads have had a bit of a shake up too and now there are gaps between the pads where anglers can swim a bait.
The Tweed River has also undergone some change. There has been some extensive erosion on the river bank where riparian vegetation has been removed for farming…..no surprises there. (River bank planting in these areas is desperately needed to stop erosion and siltation of the river.) However I was very pleased to see numerous new snags in the river. Some of these snags are absolute rippers and will no doubt hold good numbers of bass. On a charter yesterday Dan had some success fishing these snags with a Donny Brasco fly. On a number of occasions the bass appeared to be only sideswiping the fly but Dan managed to connect with a couple of nice fish. When the bass return from their spawning run in September there should be plenty of action to look forward too around these new snags!
We arrived at the dam at 7am ready for action. As we were unpacking the gear the natural beauty of our surrounds demanded our attention. The mist slowly rising from the lake, revealing lotus flowers in the morning light. I heard someone comment “just being here was worth it already”. It is always such a pleasure to hear people appreciate the natural beauty of this wetland as much as I do. My job was already done and we hadn’t even wet a line yet.
The 5 of us diligently peppered the lake with our lures throughout the morning. We cycled through a number of different presentations, altering our retrieves and changing lures. But we had no bites at all. The water at Clarrie Hall is currently very turbid. I haven’t seen it this colour before and I am not sure what has caused the turbidity. With no significant recent rainfall, the discolouration it is likely due to an algal bloom. These events can strip the water of oxygen leaving the bass lethargic and unwilling to eat. High temperatures alone also decrease dissolved oxygen levels and may have resulted in a die off of some aquatic weed. This could further exasperate the issue. Either way the fish were certainly ‘off the chew’ so we decided to head for the river.
It was good to see the Tweed had recovered from its previous turbid and somewhat stagnant state. There had been just enough rain to flush the system and it looked great. Using spinnerbaits and hard bodies the boys worked all likely looking snags. By 5pm the boys had caught about 10 bass between them. They worked hard for their fish and deserved every one of them. Their enthusiasm, appreciation and help throughout the day was awesome. Days like this its a real privilege to be a guide. You guys are welcome back anytime!
Tom showed up keen as mustard ready to fish Hinze Dam for the first time. The weather had cooled since the previous days, so conditions were very pleasant out on the water. First up we headed straight for a nice looking bay where we fished the surface for saratoga. Tom tied on a popper and it wasn’t long before he had his first inquiry. The toga snaffled the lure on the pause, jumped a few times and spat the hook. Saratoga have hard mouths and throw violent head shakes when they jump, so staying connected with a toga is a volatile thing. I have heard many say “expect to land about 1 in 5 toga hook ups.”
We continued to fish the area but with no luck we decided to tie on spinnerbaits and fish the structure. We fished the edges of the timber where plenty of fish were identified on the sounder. But with no wind the fish just didn’t appear to be feeding. I threw everything I had in the tackle box at them but the bass were very tight lipped. In the afternoon the wind picked up but it appeared to make little difference. The bass were there but just not interested
As the shadows grew longer towards the end of the day we came across a school of bass that were keen to play. Both Tom and I had several hits from the school and we landed a fish each. We certainly worked hard for those 2 fish and we were very happy to take a couple of photos and release them to fight another day. Hinze Dam is a beautiful place and a valuable fishery. I can’t wait to get back there soon.
Spinnerbaits would have to be one of the most versatile lures for Australian native fish. Bass, cod, saratoga, yellow belly and sooty grunter all love ’em. They can be worked horizontally, vertically, deep, shallow and are quite snag resistant. When fishing heavy structure many other lures would see you snagged up again and again when trying to present the bait to the fish. Fish will often strike after the lure has hit some structure, so it is best to get the lure right into ‘tiger country.’ The spinnerbait design allows you to clank and clang the lure right in among the timber, with only the occasional snag-up. A tackle retriever such as a Tackle Back will help you ‘de-snag’ and about 9 times out of 10 you should get your lure back.
Today after a solid 2 hours fishing the surface I finally conceded that the surface temperature of 30 degrees was just too warm for the bass. Out deeper the bass could be seen on the sounder at around 7-8m holding tight to the sunken trees in the dam. There appeared to be a thermocline at around 6m and the bass were consistently sitting just below it. Using a 5/8 spinnebait I would cast and allow the bait to sink whilst counting to 12. This put the lure right in the strike zone. A steady roll back to the boat was enough to entice a number of bass. I landed 6 fish up to 40cm and had several other hits. I had a stinger hook on so it appeared that the fish were hitting the blades.
What do you do when it’s too hot to go fishing?……”MAN UP GIRLY BOY” and go fishing anyway!! With temperatures forecast to reach the high 30’s/ low 40’s it was always going to be hot. So with plenty of sun protection and plenty of fluids Ned and I hit the dam nice and early. To make things more challenging, there was not a breath of wind until about 1pm so it was a little sticky to say the least.
With the surface temperature so warm we chose to give surface fishing a miss and immediately tied on the Jackalls. Although diving minnows appeared to be the lure of the day for Ned, my lures attracted no fish. Ned’s little Jackall swam and swam all over the dam and by the end of the day he had racked up a total of 10 fish! I, on the other hand couldn’t raise a fin. I flogged the water with the same Jackall lures but in every other colour variation than Neds lure. It seems he had the ‘go to lure’ for the day and it was the only one in the tackle box. This for me confirms the importance of colour. On this day it was clearly the difference between an abundance of fish or none.
Over the years I have noticed this particular colour consistently catches more fish. It has always been my favorite colour for cod and bass fishing, but today really highlighted just how dominant it can be! I am almost at the point where I could throw out all the lures in the tackle box and replace them with ……….. ones. Anyway it was a huge pleasure to show Ned around our beautiful dam and put him onto some nice bass. Especially on his birthday. …..Happy birthday Ned!!
I headed to the Tweed River today for a solo ‘bass fishin mission.’ One of my all time favorite lures are the smaller size ‘finesse’ diving minnows that dive to about 2m. I believe the smaller models around the 40-55mm length are less intimidating to a bass than the larger ones. Therefore they are more likely to be snaffled by even the most finicky fish. Most small diving minnows-baits come with two very small treble hooks. These hooks do a brilliant job in hooking bass first time, every time. The fine gauge wire ensures the hooks penetrate the bass’ skin, even if the bass is just side swiping the lure to drive it away from its territory. These hooks tend to stick to anything that comes near them. This is great for hooking fish, but unhooking them can be a real issue.
Some species such as bream tend to have a tough mouths for dealing with shells and crustaceans. However the bass’ mouth contains some very fine membrane. This thin almost transparent layer of skin is often where the hook ends up. As the fish kicks and struggles either in the water or in the boat, the membrane can be pierced several times and thus becomes entangled in these tiny trebles. Major tears in this membrane can result when the angler tries to unhook the bass. These tears can be so severe that the outer edge (maxillary) of the upper jaw can come free. I have even caught bass that were missing their maxillary on one side completely. I can only imaging this is from a previous capture and release where the angler struggled to unhook the fish.
The eyes are another vulnerable part of a bass’ anatomy that can be pierced by these small trebles. With one treble firmly lodged in the mouth, the other treble can end up in the eye. This has happened to me on an occasion where the bass was kicking in the net and landed eye first on the hook. This is a particularly troubling thing to witness. When fishing in waters that are heavily pressured by anglers I have caught bass with one ‘milky’ eye. I suspect these milky eyes are from hook injuries. These kind of eye an mouth injuries mouth injuries would obviously hinder the fishes ability to find and eat food. The good news is that you can make a few simple modifications to lower the risk of injury to our native fish.
Firstly, ‘de-barb’ all the hooks. Simply take some pliers and flatten the barb on all hooks on each treble. This ensures that any hook piercing can easily be removed. This significantly reduces any potential damage from occurring to any fish you plan on releasing. Using barbless hooks doesn’t necessarily mean a reduced hook up rate either. As long as you keep a ‘tight line’ when playing the fish (which you should anyway) there is no reason why the fish could spit the hook.
The second thing I like to do is cut off one hook on each treble, so you now effectively have 2 doubles (not trebles). Again this reduces the chance of injury to the bass whilst not compromising your hook up rate. Sometimes I go one step further and replace the trebles with a single lure hook. But I think modifying the trebles already provided with the lure is cheaper, easier and takes advantage of these small sticky hooks. Both these modifications can be made with a simple set of pliers.
With all my hooks now modified I had a trouble free day on the water today. I managed to land 9 bass averaging about 36cm long. All the strikes from the fish I caught today were converted into landed fish. My customized hooks worked brilliantly.
The bass continued to bite well on the Tweed River today. Edward and Craig were more than happy to take advantage of the great weather and the hot bite. Using spinner-baits and diving minnows the boys racked up a respectable tally of bass between the two of them. Neither had caught bass before so it was a great introduction to our native fishery. Once again the Tweed river offered up its gems. Thanks for a great day gentlemen 🙂
Some of the fish had damage to their mouth parts which might be the result of injury caused from previous captures. If your intention is to catch and release, remember to flatten the barbs on your treble hooks. I like to snip one or two hooks off each of the treble hooks, just to reduce injuries to the fishes mouth parts and eyes. I don’t believe it significantly reduces your hook up rate.
Lenore and Ben showed up this morning bright eyed and bushy tailed ready for action. We spent the best part of the morning at the dam. It was dead calm, not a breath of wind. The water was like glass and all around us the mountains were mirrored. After lunch we fished the Tweed River and managed a couple of feisty bass. Ben scored his first bass ever so it was smiles all round. Awesome day and great company. Thanks guys.
Have you noticed that bass seem to like low light conditions? Whether your fishing in the shade under a tree, at dawn or dusk or on overcast days, the bass appear to be more active in these situations. My theory is that predators such as birds of prey can see a fish better on a bright sunny day, because the light penetrates deep into the water column. But low light condition appear to give bass the extra confidence to move closer to the surface to feed. Perhaps evolution has played its hand here and any sun bathing fish have been quickly dispatched from history. The wiser more cautious bass have lived to pass on their genes to the bass we see today.
With a thick coverage of clouds my fly of choice was always going to be a surface fly. Twitched in amongst the cabomba weed it was only a matter of time before my frog imitation drew a response. After landing one fish and dropping another, the heavens opened. As the rain poured down I noticed I could no longer hear the popping sound of bass inhaling the gudgeon against the surface of the lake. Perhaps the rain had scared the baitfish down deeper and the bass may have followed. I quickly switched to a deeper presentation.
A lead eye clouser is such a versatile little fly that can be worked at a variety of depths. Retrieving the fly along the edges of the weed resulted in a couple of feisty bass attacking the tasty looking morsel. After some perseverance another fat bass was in the live well. By now I was soaked to the bone, so I released the bass and made a hasty retreat for home. But rain hail or shine Clarrie Hall Dam always offers up some gold.
Had a great trip to Clarrie Hall today with Tim and Tyson. An early start saw us on the dam which was completely enveloped by the mist. I believe the low light conditions the mist provides usually gives the bass the confidence to feed near the surface for as long as the mist hangs around. However the fish had other ideas today and we saw very little surface activity at all.
By around 9am the mist had dissipated revealing a picture post card day at the dam. Not a cloud in the sky or a breath of wind all day. All around us was mirror images of the horizon and each others boats as we persistently peppered the edges of the lilies with our lures. As the sun rose we switched to deeper presentations. Tim ran a 1/4 oz Slider across the points and flats and Tyson chose a 1/8 oz Revehead Jig Spin with a Slider Grub.
All 3 of us got a number of bites but on this day the bass appeared to be apprehensive in committing to an all out attack. Tyson came up trumps with a solid bass of around 36cm. Once hooked it gave him plenty of curry and soon Tyson had his first bass on a soft plastic/spin. One of many more to come no doubt. Another great day on the dam!
I tried out Austackles ‘Shimmer Stik’ today at Clarrie Hall Dam. After first hearing about its ability to swim backwards away from the angler, I was very keen to give it a go around the edges of the weed. Sure enough when cast out to the edge of structure, as the lure slowly sinks it shimmers backwards away from the direction it was cast. I have always thought that if a someone invents a lure that swims backwards they would surely make a million dollars. Because by casting to the edge of a tree or weed like lily pads, the lure will actually swim under the structure where the fish are!
Once the lure has rested on the bottom I would slowly lift the rod and impart a few twitches. This provided an excellent darting action that I imagine would be very tempting to a hungry bass. I would then wind up some slack before letting the lure flutter back to the bottom. To a bass the whole show must have looked a bit like a wounded bait fish trying to regain its senses between epileptic fits! Whatever the case I was very pleased with the action and the bass appeared to like it too.
There are plenty of lures on the market that wiggle or shimmy on the drop but most are either too light and don’t cast very far or too heavy and sink too fast. The beauty of the Shimmer Stick is it casts a country mile but sinks at quite a slow rate. This allows the lure to hang in the face of the target species which should improve your strike rate considerably.
After giving it a go today and catching a couple of bass I am convinced it is a great addition to the tackle box. The Shimmer Stik is no magic bullet, but it certainly comes close.
Check it out here Shimmer Stik
Here is the latest video showing some highlights catching bass on the Tweed River. On a still day this place is heaven on earth!
Last summer I was able to dedicate some quality time to fishing. Chasing Australian native fish in my local creeks, rivers and dams I was lucky enough to tempt many fish on both lure and fly. By-catch included some very nice eastern cod that can be a real test on light bass gear.
A couple of valuable lessons were had during these fishing trips. On overcast days, fishing the surface is an excellent proposition even in the middle of the day. On some of my local dams, it is difficult to raise a fish at the best of times. However, tying on a surface lure in any low light conditions, be it dawn, dusk or during overcast day light hours can produce great results.
As an added benefit I found that often the larger fish are the most eager to scoff a well presented surface lure or fly. During a recent trip in the canoe down the skinniest of creeks I managed a 42cm bass on a cicada surface lure. I was amazed at the size of this fish inhabiting such a small creek. Upon closer inspection I noticed a small water dragon protruding from the bass’ mouth! What a guts! He had obviously just eaten the dragon and then decided to have a go at my lure too. No wonder he was so big.
On a different trip I was using the same cicada lure, again targeting Bass. This time a nice 65cm eastern cod snaffled my offering. The loud implosion when he smashed the lure at the surface nearly caused me to wet my pants. The fish then proceeded to put up an excellent tussle on my 6lb outfit.
Our Australian native fish species often appear to react to a lure out of instinct. ‘Reaction strikes’ can be triggered if a surface lure sounds just right when it hits the water. If the lure or fly touches down with the same sound as an insect such as a cicada, a bass for example, will smash the lure in a split second without a second thought. Similarly a jungle perch will follow a lure as it is cast through the air across the river with tremendous speed and crash tackle the offering as soon as it touches down. If not in the mood for food a cod will simply chase away any intruding lure from its territory. However if you can provoke the cod by landing the lure in it’s face, the fish will smash the lure in an instant. In these cases the strikes are lightening quick. There was no time elapsed for contemplation.
The challenge of catching our natives lies within figuring out how to trigger a reaction strike on any given day. Ya just gotta love fishing for Australian natives!
Simon Fitzpatrick (Fitzy)