Have you ever had a fishing trip where everything seems to go wrong? When I hit a kangaroo on the way to the dam recently I should have seen this as a bad omen. Later that day I hit a rock in the boat and snapped the shaft on the electric motor. I also broke 2 of my favorite (and most expensive) lures and after 3 days of solid fishing, I caught absolutely nothing!! But with scenery like this I really can’t complain 🙂
Join me on a Kayak Bass Fishing Charter. Your courtesy pick up from your Northern Rivers accommodation will take you to the most pristine local waterways where the bass are fat and healthy. I will accompany you throughout the day, sharing all the local secrets on catching Australian bass.
Simon Fitzpatrick Bass Fishing Guide. Bookings and inquiries
I discovered some interesting truths about shark nets whilst writing an evaluation on the Shark Net Trial that is taking place off Northern NSW beaches. It is quite long so if you want to cut to the chase just read the Abstract and Introduction at the start and the Conclusion at the end. Enjoy! and be informed.
After a long drought the heavens finally opened up last night. Parts of the Tweed Valley received 150mm of much needed rain. When Dave and I launched the Slayer kayaks on the dam this morning it was still drizzling. The overcast conditions remained with us all day which was a blessing compared to spending a day in the punishing sun. The low light conditions also provided an opportunity to fish closer to the surface.
Dave busily prospected using a variety of lures throughout the day. We fished the edges, we fished the surface and we fished out in the open. Fish could be seen on the sounder at all these locations around the dam. When the wind picked up a little we found a large school of bass on the sounder, suspended in the current created by the wind. We busily cycled through all that we had in out tackle box. We danced, slow rolled and trolled our offerings through the school, but the schooled up fish were simply not interested.
Using a variety of techniques and lures we caught a number of solid bass in various locations around the dam. The fishing was by no means easy, but with a little persistence, patience and know how, Clarrie once again offered up her gems 🙂
Ray and I were ready waiting for the gates to open at 7:30am at Crams Farm this morning. It wasn’t long before Ray landed his first Clarrie bass! As usual the feisty bass pulled hard and took every opportunity to head back to the weed. After lunch we headed to the river to try our luck there. Ray managed a further 3 or 4 hook ups there but as is the case sometimes, the fish all managed to spit the hook. In any case it was a great day on the water.
Camping by a lake or river for me is food for my soul. Especially when that water is full of big native fish. Throw in some family time with the kids, skiing, fishing and beer by the fire and I am in heaven.
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.
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 🙂
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.
Here are 4 excellent videos that come from the leading experts that are involved with research on the potential introduction of the carp herpesvirus in Australia. Be informed and have your say.
First of all, ‘I take my hat off’ to anyone who has dragged themselves out of a nice warm bed at some ridiculously early hour to go fishing. I congratulate you because I too feel your pain. When you are addicted to fishing it’s not as though we have a choice right? Surely you can see the bind we are in? In my case my addiction to the big green fish (Murray Cod) had me drive several hundred kilometers to a place where, like on The Game of Thrones- “WINTER IS COMING.”
The cod tend to be most active at the bookends of the day so 4am to 7am and again at 4pm to 7pm tend to be the best bite times. Awaking to a 4am alarm when temperatures are minus 4 degrees celsius and dragging oneself out of bed is no easy feat. Speaking of feet, if you happen to have left your shoes outside the tent they should be nicely frozen solid along with the car, the boat and and all your tackle (hopefully not the wedding tackle). Once in the boat and on the water as you are speeding into the black abyss your ears will soon match your frozen shoes.
But the challenge has only just begun. In the pitch blackness and the sub zero temperatures you soon discover that cod fishing is ‘a game of one thousand casts.’ This basically means that perhaps every thousand casts you might expect to catch a fish. After many years cod fishing, I think that estimate is sometimes a little ambitious. But cast our lines out into the abyss we do. We cast and cast and cast and cast………..and with each retrieve we envisage a huge fish attacking our offering. Perhaps more often than not we go back to our tents empty handed. “Did you catch anything?” they ask. “Nope” you bluntly reply, “I think the barometer is too low” or “it’s the wrong moon phase.”
Later that day and then again the next morning you head out into the cold determined to catch the big one. You can’t give up now, you have driven too far, spent way too much time, money and planning this trip to simply stay in a warm bed. In fact the more time you spend chasing the fish, the more determined you become. It is an obsession now, you are thinking about it every minute of the day. Everyone else you speak to in the camp ground has caught fish. “So and so got a metery last night…… and two the day before. ” Their words are like poison to your ears.
The next night you are sitting out there in the dark. You are retrieving what has been ‘the last cast’ (for the past 27 casts) and you are dreading heading back to camp where you will hear those spiteful words “did you catch anything,” when KERSPLASAAAAAASH!!!! the water explodes around the lure right in front of you and a massive piscatorial beast inhales your lure and heads for home. A small tight lipped “yep” is all that escapes your mouth as you struggle to perform a reality check on what just happened. After a few dogged runs the fish surfaces near the boat and you swiftly swim it to the net. As you try to lift the fish into the boat you realize the enormity of it’s bulk and prey the net doesn’t break before you boat the fish.
Once on the deck you gaze in utter amazement at the size and beauty of this mottled green thing. Lifting and holding a 25kg plus fish for a photo is not easy, but it is the happiest moment you have felt since the birth of you own children. All the effort has now paid off. All the time and money spent, all the blood sweat and tears, the 4am starts, the frozen shoes and testicles have all been worth it in the end. Now you can finally go back to camp with your head held high. This time you eagerly await those wonderful words “Did you catch anything?”
Later that night as you lay there in your bed with a huge feeling of satisfaction and a smile on your dial as you drift off to sleep, a small part of you knows that tomorrows another day and the addiction starts all over again.
With the first rays of light on the first day of the new year I was in my happy place. Happy New Year to all 🙂
Pindari Dam is a horrible place. If you live on the North Coast it is way too far to drive to get there. The dam is filled with too many huge rocks and snags for the Murray Cod to hide under. Due to it’s remoteness, hardly anyone goes there and there are no amenities with the free camping on the lake shore. To top it off the beautiful scenery and wildlife distracts you from your cod fishing addiction. So don’t go there! Best you leave it all to me 🙂
What better way to celebrate ANZAC day than a father and his sons fishing for the iconic Murray Cod. Just holding one of these glorious fish makes you proud to be Australian. This is what life’s all about. This is what our forefathers fought for. So live it up!
It’s Easter already and the average daily temperatures have dropped now that summer is over. But that hasn’t stopped the bass from feeding on the surface of Clarrie Hall Dam. There are still plenty of dragonflies doing their business and laying their eggs in the water. I have seen dragonflies hovering just above the surface, dipping their tails in as they go. I am not exactly sure what they are doing but I notice they often choose a gap between the lily pads to perform this strange dance. In any case the bass notice it too and use these gaps to wait in ambush. These are perfect little windows to cast your surface lure. Low light conditions that occur at the book ends of the day are best, as are overcast days. However today I still managed a few fish on surface lures in the middle of a bright sunny day. Fishing the lily pads that were in the shade of the bank side vegetation was the key. The cover provided by the lily pads and the shade cast from the trees was all that was needed to give bass the confidence to feed at the surface.
There I was standing on the surface, like Jesus walking on the water. Only I didn’t have to walk. As the river moved me along, I could see occasional big green fish in eddies behind the rocks. Immediately I would snap out a cast and hope to connect with one of these beautiful creatures. If not, it didn’t matter, I was in no hurry. For the next five days and nights it was just my canoe and me. I had plenty food, drink and supplies on board to fuel my fishing expedition and there was nowhere else I would rather be.
Since its inception among indigenous people around the world, the canoe has been a reliable form of transport across waterways. The canoe has connected communities together by opening up communication and trade. For fishermen it has long been a vehicle to access fishing grounds. The modern day canoe has changed little in its design. Its multi-purpose shape continues to ensure the canoe will remain the vessel of choice for fisherman the world over.
The style of canoe I am referring to is the traditional Canadian canoe with a fully open cockpit, seats inside and a hull pointed at both ends. Examples in the Australian market place include brands such as Rosco Canoes, Australis, Coleman, Old Town and Mad River Canoes. They are predominantly made from polyethylene, making them tough, durable and light. Perfect for canoe fishing.
The main advantage of a canoe over a vessel such as a kayak is its carrying capacity. With its comparatively wide beam (width) and high freeboard (walls), a good length canoe can carry upwards of 200kg. In addition to this, a heavily loaded canoe can actually increase the boats stability allowing the angler to stand and fish (albeit very carefully). These two features make the canoe the vessel of choice for extended multi-day canoe fishing trips.
Buying a canoe
When choosing a canoe for just such an adventure I would recommend something in the 4.3 to 5.0 metre (14 to 16 f00t) range. A canoe with a nice wide beam and big open spaces will allow more options for carrying gear. A canoe with too many seats and thwarts (cross members) that take up too much space could inhibit carrying capacity.
Buying a canoe is a big investment, so you want to ensure you choose one that suits your needs. Before you make your purchase be sure to ask yourself the following questions.
- What am I using the canoe for?
- How am I going to transport the canoe to the water?
- How heavy can I manage?
- How many passengers (seats) do I need?
- How much gear do I need to carry?
- How am I going to propel the canoe?
Propelling a canoe
Traditionally a single blade paddle is used to paddle a canoe. This is fine if there are two paddlers. If you are by yourself and you only have a single blade paddle you will need to learn to ‘j-stroke.’ During the j-stroke the grip is rotated in the paddler’s hand. This eliminates the need to alternate your paddling from the left side to the right in order to prevent yourself from going around in circles. The j-stroke can be frustrating to learn but once mastered it is like riding a bike. Alternatively a double bladed paddle can be used if the paddler(s) are seated in the front or rear of the canoe. From the middle seat the beam is usually too wide to comfortably use this type of paddle.
Other more creative options for propelling your canoe include standing up and using a pole or a paddle. A paddle with an extendable shaft can be employed so the user can choose between seated paddling and standing. Be aware however that standing up in a canoe increases your chance of getting wet tenfold. In other words, don’t stand up if you don’t want to get wet. Elevating any object in the canoe (including people) will reduce the stability dramatically.
Another option is to use an electric motor. These days you can pick up a new electric motor from around $250. No need to go for anything too powerful, just an entry level stern mount motor with around 30lbs of thrust will suffice. Connected to a decent size 12 volt battery, there is enough power to motor all day for a couple of days. There are motor mounts available on the market or if you are good with your hands you might try to build one yourself. There are plenty of designs available on the internet.
Weight distribution has a dramatic effect on how your canoe will handle on the water. If all your gear is to one side the canoe will lean to that side. Not so obvious is when all the weight is either down the front or down the back, the paddler will struggle to get the boat to track in a straight line. This is because any momentum caused by wind, current or paddle strokes will dramatically alter the course of the canoe.
For the most part, weight should be distributed evenly throughout the canoe. If this is not possible then put the heaviest things in the middle of the boat. For example if you are using an electric motor down the back of the boat, it will be beneficial to put the heavy battery in the middle. A 10-20lt water container can be placed up the very front of the canoe as an additional counter balance. I never go canoeing without one. Particularly if I am canoeing solo. When paddling my 16ft canoe alone with no gear on board, I always sit in the back seat and put a 20lt container up the very front. This helps the canoe track correctly.
So there you have it; canoe selection, propulsion and handling. Understanding these basics before heading out on the water to fish will help you to position the canoe where the fish are. With lure casting in particular, good positioning of the canoe is one the greatest challenges. Get this right and you will improve your chances of catching fish dramatically. Tight lines and happy canoe fishing
Thanks to Scott Rawstorne at Global Paddler for the inspiration http://globalpaddler.com.au/canoe-fishing-101/
If I had a bucket list, somewhere near the top of that list would be to catch Murray cod on fly. Well last weekend I made that dream come true, although it took some doing. During the week leading up to the trip the conditions couldn’t have been worse. Easterly winds and a low barometer were forecast. To top it off the recent rains had dirtied almost every river in the area. All accept one. The Severn River.
After the long drive I met up with Nick and we hit the Severn. The river looked great. It was running clear and warm. But the low pressure system and easterly winds Heralded that the cod fishing would be tough. As tough as it was, we patiently probed our flies into the depths of every fishy looking snag. Nick was first of the mark with a solid little cod of about 50cm. I encountered a few bumps and follows before I had my first hit. There is little question when a cod hits your fly. They tend to hit it hard. Whether fishing with a fly or a lure, that familiar strike delivered from a cods’ powerful jaws always puts a smile on the dial.
With the first strike, I simply failed to set the hook hard enough and the fish swam away. But I didn’t make the same mistake twice. When the next strike came I lifted the rod sharply and drove the hooks home. I was very happy to feel weight at the end of my line and shortly after had my first Murray cod on fly in the net. He wasn’t going to break any records but I was stoked. My First Murray cod on fly!!!!
The next day we tried a different section of the river. The easterly wind fired up and again it appeared the fishing would be tough. As we worked the pools and runs from our kick boats no strikes or follows were forthcoming. I decided it was a good time to replace my leader. The very next cast I let the fly sink deep across the face of a snag under a willow tree. To my amazement the fly was smashed hard and I immediately set the hook. I gave the fish no line as I knew it would bust me off if it headed back into the sticks. Suddenly the line went slack and the tell tale boil of a large tail fin surfaced. Upon closer inspection the uni-knot in the leader had pulled. It was definitely my bad. I have tied hundreds of uni-knots before but not in 30-40lb fluorocarbon line. I’m not exactly sure what went wrong but from then on I vowed to leave longer tag ends and set the knot really tight. Loosing that fish was a bitter pill to swallow. Not only did it feel like a very big fish, but the knot failure was my fault and to top it off the fly I lost was a ripper.
Still, the day was young and we continued floating on downstream. Then to our delight, the wind died down and the day started to really warm up. From then on the fishing vastly improved. We both worked hard and by the end of the day I managed about 4 cod averaging approx 50cm. Nick, being the local must have landed closer to a dozen cod, at least 4 of which were more respectable fish of around 60+cm. I watched him closely and tried to learn from his example. He had fly fished these rivers for many years with great success.
For the most part, the tactics used in fly fishing for Murray cod are similar to any type of lure fishing for Australian natives. Cast the fly/lure as close as possible to any likely fish holding structure and retrieve the fly with plenty of action, pausing occasionally to tempt a strike. Trying a variety of retrieves to see what works best on any given day is the key. Triggering a ‘reaction strike’ that day involved beginning our retrieve the moment the fly hit the water, with shorts sharp strips that would cause the fly to ‘pulse.’ I have seen this style of retrieve work with bass on certain days too. Other days they like the fly to just sit there motionless.
What surprised me more than anything was the type of habitat that we caught fish in. Of course the cod were found in the usual places around the best looking snags, but most of the fish came from sunny positions. When fishing for bass I only ever focus on the shaded areas as most often the fish are found under the trees. However it would appear that day the cod actually preferred more sunny positions. What surprised me even more was the depth of the water Nick was targeting. He had no hesitation in fishing snags that were in no more that 1ft of water!
The other surprising thing was how close Nick would manoeuvre his kick boat to the snag he intended to fish. What appeared to be paramount was getting that fly right up into ‘tiger country’ and if you need to be 3 meters away to do just that, the cod didn’t seem to mind. Nor did they appear to be put off by repeated casts, with the fly slapping the water, probing for a closer position to the snag. In fact if anything I think the cod were actually turned on by all the commotion. I clearly had some old habits to break.
We caught cod on a number of different flies that day but the pink ones were the flavour of the day. With the sun now fast retreating I excitedly gave a purple surface popper a swim, but it drew no response. As we made the long hike back to the car I reflected on what an awesome day it had been. A dream come true and hopefully the first of many more to come.
I have fished many impoundments on the east coast of Australia but perhaps none as beautiful as Clarrie Hall Dam. I find it necessary to be on the water at sunrise to achieve the best results. At that time of day, as the rising sun slowly dissipates the mist covering the dam, the true beauty of this wetland materializes from the early morning haze. Lush green lily pads, purple and yellow lotus flowers come to light as the lake margins are revealed. The calls of water fowl echo and the popping sounds of Bass feeding are all part of the morning symphony as this ecosystem begins another day. Finally when the fog lifts, Mt Warning watches over the lake.
This particular morning I fished a tan coloured Dahlberg Diver, blooping it across the surface like a frog or insect of some type. Initially upon touch down I let the fly sit there for a while then gave as little action to the fly as possible. If that drew no response I would make short ‘bloops’ back to the boat. I had about 5 hits and boated 2 fish of around 33cm. About average for this dam. Once the sun rose higher I changed tactics, pulled out the spin rod and flicked out a small diving jerk bait. I immediately got smashed but the fished shot into the snags and spit the lure.
All in all not a bad 3 hours of fishing. If I had managed to convert a few more hits into fish landed then I could have had 5 Bass in the live well. Clarrie Hall is my local impoundment and I have fished it numerous times. The Bass are of modest size and I rarely come home with cricket score card numbers of fish, but the place is just so incredibly scenic. I will be back!
Minyon the Cod has out grown her previous tank. Now at 57cm long she is enjoying her new tank and the added space it provides. As you can see she is a very inquisitive Cod. Always looking for some action; some food, any movement really. She loves chasing the cat and she will bite anything that goes in her tank. Including the hand that feeds her. If I need to move anything in her tank I use the barbecue tongs because a bite to the hand will draw blood every time.
Interestingly each spring at exactly the same time as the wild cod are spawning Minyon prepares to lay her eggs too. Despite the artificial lighting and heating in the dining room, she is still able to determine that early spring is spawning time. She doesn’t have a male fish to prepare a nest for her so she does it herself; busily moving gravel and rocks into a suitable position for egg laying.
Minyon is a very intelligent fish and although doesn’t say much, she has somehow talked me into feeding her raw king prawns. At $24 a kilo she must be very convincing. I mostly feed her a quality pellet but have started feeding her green peas also for a balanced diet.
I have always kept fish and I am fascinated by fish of all kinds. But Murray Cod are definitely my favourite. And Minyon is my number 1.
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)