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.
Today was no ordinary fishing trip. Whilst paddling our way up the river we came across a calf in the water. It appeared the poor little fella couldn’t make its way up the steep river bank and we feared it would drown. So I jumped in the water to help it out. After lifting the calf out of the water and placing in on the river bank I realized it couldn’t stand. On further inspection I could see an umbilical cord still attached to its belly. I soon realized the mother cow must have recently birthed the calf in the river and it was yet to take its first steps. After a little encouragement the little calf stood on its back legs and eventually propped itself up on all fours. The calf was a little wobbly but immediately made its way over to me, presumably for a feed.
By shear stroke of luck Ray knew the property owner and he called the farmer and notified him of the calf’s dilemma. You’ll be happy to know that mother cow and calf have since been reunited and all is well. Now that’s a fishing trip with a difference! Oh and we caught some bass too 🙂
Conditions were perfect out on the Tweed today; a slight breeze, some cloud cover and mild temperatures. Niya and Anthony were keen to enjoy the conditions. Anthony scored the first bass using a cast and retrieve technique. Niya was next on the score board with a feisty bass on the troll. The fish were certainly in the mood for food and all that was needed was good lure placement. Anthony ended the day with about 5 bass and Niya clocked up 2. An excellent effort considering neither had been bass fishing before. Well done!
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.
Fishing for natives in our impoundments can be tough. It takes a lot of planning, preparation, checking weather forecasts, organizing time off work, preparing tackle etc. But if the fish aren’t willing to play all the best laid plans go to waste. I am happy to say this was not the case with my recent trip to Clarrie Hall. One of the most beautiful dams in Australia.
It was an extremely hot and humid day and shortly after I put the boat on the water I had to seek shade for an hour or so. This gave me some time to collect some underwater footage and do a little research as to the bass’ potential food source. There was certainly plenty of bait fish swimming amongst the lilly pads. Probably Firetail Gudgeon and Gambusia. So I made a mental note to collect some next time for identification.
The other thing I noticed is there appeared to be more weed than usual. There has always been a thick perimeter of lilly pads around the edge of the lake with another rim of feathery submerged weed, I identified as Ambulia, leading into deeper water. I think this ambulia has spread since last I visited the dam and it is my theory that the extra cover provided by the weed has drawn the bass out of from under the lily pads thus making them more susceptible to angling. In any case the fishing was great!
I worked the edges of the ambulia with hard bodies, jerk baits, soft plastic frogs and dahlberg diver flies. I caught fish on all my presentations and finished the trip with about 12 bass. Watching the bass crash tackle the surface flies is always a highlight! As usual the bass aren’t huge in Clarrie Hall but they are a robust and hard fighting population with a very respectable average size of around 35cm. I also managed my personal best for Clarrie Hall dam landing a fish of 38.5cm.
One night I had a dream that I caught a meter long Murray Cod. It was a vivid dream. Perhaps the dream was just in anticipation of the trip to Glenyon Dam I had planned the following day. In any case the next morning I headed off to the dam with great enthusiasm. I stopped along the way at the tackle store and bought the biggest landing net they had in the shop. The label on the net revealed it was rated to 30lb. I asked the assistant if he had a bigger net? He replied that 30lb was a big lump of a fish and that I would be lucky to land a cod that big.
Once on the water and after about an hour of casting my spinnerbait, I had a good strike. As soon as the fish hit I said to myself “This is it!” I somehow just knew I had my first ‘metery’. After a shorter fight than expected, I lead the behemoth of a fish into my new landing net. Whilst lifting the fish into the boat the net was stretched way beyond its’ recommended weight limit, but it somehow held. The cod measured 106cm. The DPI fish length/weight conversion scale shows a cod of 100cm weighs 22.1kg. So an conservative estimate of 25kg (55lb) sounds about right.
In an effort to release the fish I must have swam it beside the moving boat for over an hour, but to no avail. The big girl passed away. I think it may have been weakened by some kind of illness as the cods eyes were bulging a little. Popeye or exophthalmia is a condition sometimes seen with aquarium fish that causes the eyes to bulge. I usually release all my native fish captures, especially Murray Cod so was a little disappointed she died. That disappointment was short lived after tasting the fillets over a camp fire that night. Absolutely delicious! After returning home I sent the Cod’s otolith (ear) bones the DPI to have it aged. Gavin Butler at the Grafton DPI was nice enough to reply with his estimate of 17 years old.
I am not quite sure what to make of that sequence of events. But never the less that’s how it happened. Some days you are full of confidence and everything goes right. Well almost everything. The video of the fish I shot on my phone was pretty lousy and it is equally hard to take a good photo of yourself with a phone and a fish that big, when you are by yourself. When I got home I bought myself a Gopro.
Simon Fitzpatrick (Fitzy)