Noise and fish

Fish do get used to repeated events, after all its all about survival, they survive through learning behaviour just like us.

We were casting lures for bream in Lake Conjola on the South Coast of NSW some years back and were annoyed by the constant boat wash on a busy Sunday. I thought it would put the fish off feeding but it was the opposite! The wash on the shoreline disturbed the water and dislodged food and the bream took advantage of this. So we waited til a boat roared past and started casting our lures close to the turbid shoreline, almost a fish a cast was the result.

Whiting can be flighty but love a noisey lure.

Some people talk in hushed tones when fishing, thinking that their voice may scare away the quarry, I’ve not found this a problem. Talk away I say. In my local waters I am very very quiet, no motor or banging of the hull or paddles. Bigger fish are usually much more aware of sounds and even if they don’t scatter they often don’t feed if unusual sounds occur. Shallow water sounds travel far and wide and never drive your boat over areas you want to fish.

In busy waterways the fish population may well have got used to motor and hull sounds and will feed uninterrupted. In more remote areas be quiet and fish stealthily. You will catch more fish.

Mulloway will shut down if there is any suspicious sounds

It’s hard sometimes

You know…angling can be hard work sometimes.

I was chatting to another dedicated angler recently and he was saying how often friends would call him to take them fishing, they are the fast trackers. They generally haven’t learnt from the beginning, there has been no hanging old prawns off a jetty or learning how to catch eels or whatever from local creeks as a child. They want to catch a fish within the least amount of time and effort. This is more common now than ever.

Fishing is better when it takes a lifetime.

Time is money now and outdoor priorities have been disseminated.

I’d venture to say that catching fish is easier now than ever, just go online and learn where to go and the techniques involved. But there isn’t the deeper understanding that’s got from learning slowly and in increments, it’s all about getting that fish aboard and taking a glory photo that can be instantly boasted about. Maybe I’m just getting more cynical but when I sold a boat a while back it was to a young guy whose dad was buying it for him, he was setting it up to just go for Kingfish in the Harbour, with heavy braid, state of the art tackle and downrigger and techniques garnered online. He hadn’t even caught a bream in his life! This reeks of stunt fishing to me, where bragging is the name of the game.

As an old friend used to say…‘I weep for the future’.

Fishing the Full Moon.

Straight up…I’m not a fan of fishing on the full moon, in the past some notable anglers would say the full moon is best for Mulloway and that is the time they would go for them, a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy that one.

Full moon…not a fan.

After a lifetime of angling, it’s seems obvious that it’s more a marker for anglers and not fish. It’s easier and more pleasant to fish on a full moon, more light to enjoy the occasion and tie rigs. However it isnt the best time to target fish in general. We don’t know why this is but I have noticed when there is cloud cover over that time period the fishing can be better, it’s worse when the skies are clear. This points to it being light related. Kingfish don’t seem to care what moon phase it is and can save the day at this time.

Either side of the full moon it gets better, especially the 4th or 5th day, concentrate on those times at day or night.

Now and again a full moon will fire but it’s unusual.

Tagging fish

Recently I was given some tags by the NSW Fisheries to place in some of the Mulloway I’ve been catching in the river.

About to place a tag.

The fish that are caught there are prime for a healthy release as they are caught usually only lightly hooked on lures and just as importantly caught in shallow water. In deeper water like offshore they often suffer from barometric trauma and usually die after release. Shallow water gives them an excellent chance of survival.

60cm Mulloway with tag, about to be released.

Even if one tag is returned it will be a worthwhile venture, Mulloway have been shown to travel long distances in their lives, some more than others, just like people really!

It’s clear that Mulloway numbers are down and this worrying trend only has scant studies available. Overfishing, pollution, river health and temperature changes have all been sighted in various studies. However we don’t really know as the populations are hard to measure. The tags I’ve been placing in fish will perhaps help tell a story of their habits and growth weights from the Mid Coast NSW. So far fish have been tagged from the river mouth to the almost freshwater sections of the river.

Shallow rivers make for healthy survival rates.

The smallest fish tagged was 60cm and the biggest 92cm, all young fish and in prime condition. It’s great to be involved in this study and I hope to tag many more over the next few months.

Lifetime lasting reels

Most of our fishing gear is made to work smoothly now…but only for a short length of time .Like computers and cars they tend to have a very finite existence. There was a time in the dim dark past, 1970s and 80s, when the better tackle companies attempted to make reels to last.

35yrs on…still going strong.

ABU was one of the best, originally a watch, clock maker they stood for Swedish precision and beauty. As if to prove this I still have a hard working and beautiful piece of gear. The ABU Ambassadeur 7500C. It’s brass and stainless steel construction is simply stunning. They were made in Sweden and not Taiwan as now. It’s obvious they were proud of this reel, compared to new reels now it’s a bit more clunky but so solid, I just like to hold this thing. I’ve replaced the hard worked handle and a few bits of gearings, and it’s still landing good fish 35 years after I bought it. Amazingly crafted machine!

Swedish engineering was the best.

Glide Bait craze

Glidebaits are large shallow water lures that are articulated and often extremely realistic. They target larger predators, of which there are less, often over shallow water. Which means big Flathead are on the cards.

This Glidebait will set you back $150!

I have to admit it seems like a craze at the moment, fashion does exist in the tackle industry as much as anywhere else. This doesn’t mean they don’t work… They do!Just not much better than some lures that have been around for years. What makes me suspect of them is there ridiculous high prices, up to $80 or more for one lure. Really!!

Look around for lures that behave the same way and you will catch just as many fish.

River to Sea made an excellent hybrid hard body and soft plastic that works very well on Jewfish and Big Flathead, especially at night. Unfortunate they stopped making them some years ago, most of mine have been torn apart by fish over the years and I can’t replace them.

They don’t float like the Glidebaits but it’s just a matter of working out your retrieve style. The fish don’t know what the lures are worth.

Top is a Surecatch bottom is the excellent River to Sea hybrid.

The other is a hard body by Surecatch, it casts well and looks like a bream or big Herring, great lure and much more affordable than many Glidebaits. Don’t always fall for the ‘latest’ groovy thing, the marketing guys are getting more savvy and know how to get your dollar.

Best boat for fishing

Short answer for best boat for fishing is………….someone else’s. Ha!

All you need for a fun session or two.

I’ve had some sort of boat nearly all my life, from 8ft dingys and 30ft yachts to one man canoes. There are lots of things to take into account when buying one. The more prosaic is often the most important. How often you will use it with how many people, and storage for it are first considerations. Even the shape of your driveway will have an impact, let alone what sort of car you drive.

If there is a boat that is the most useful it would be one around 5 metres that can be towed by a standard car and has the capacity for offshore and inshore work. Even these have many limitations when it comes to general fishing. I’m not into offshore fishing as much as I used to be, it’s much more of food gathering exercise now. You have to ask yourself how often will the seas be feasible, not that often really.

From Bass to Mackeral, very handy.

In a perfect world we would have 4 or 5 floating fishing vehicles, starting from a tube float, a light strong canoe, a slightly heavier and complicated kayak with electric motor and electronics, a fast small car topper, a sea kayak, a river and close offshore one, an offshore day tripper, a offshore game boat, a sleep aboard mother ship.

A light canoe opens heaps of opportunities

Personally I find a canoe the most used and useful out of all the above. It’s suits my style of fishing and mind set. I can take it bass fishing, in bigger rivers and estuaries and explore areas that are quite remote. I use a 4.8 metre boat for estuary work and close offshore, it’s a powerful angling machine.

Small boats don’t always mean small fish.

There is no one perfect boat, they all have limitations, make your choice on what you mostly do, not what you think you want to, it has to suit your lifestyle more than anything…even a house!

Lures for Whiting

If you throw enough lures around places that Whiting live it’s a given you will land a few fish, targeting them on a regular basis and succeeding is a bit of an art form. Often Whiting can be seen feeding the flats in great numbers but getting them to hit lures can be frustrating.

Whiting are a common fish in NSW and a staple on the plate, they taste pretty good and on bait, easy to catch. A live nipper fished light will usually work well.

Eco blade scores again

Catching them with lures is a bit trickier.

Poppers are very popular and effective when the fish are in the mood. It seems a higher proportion of fish caught on poppers are female, perhaps the feeding methods are performed by fish ready to breed or particularly aggressive. Small soft plastics can work also, however the two most effective lures in my books are the small vibes and the crab lures.

Small vibes/blades either metal or rubber, are great for deeper sections as well as shallow. They cover a lot of water and the tight action and small profile switch on fish that ignore poppers. Like the poppers the idea is to keep it moving, hold the rod tip high so the blades flutter down during pauses. I’m mad about the eco blades in the smallest size, the hooks trail behind the lure seductively and most fish grab the actual hooks, so releasing is easy.

Cranka Crabs equals Winter Whiting

The next lure is one I’ve only recently been experimenting with, the Cranka Crab. It’s of course dynamite for bream but I’m now accounting for just as many big winter Whiting. With Summer on its way it will be interesting to see if it’s just as good. I fish this lure on quite heavy leader, 7kilo, not because of the Whiting but when other species like GTs and Mulloway get in the mix at least I have a chance. A lighter leader would get more Whiting for sure.

Bait/Predator equation

When it’s easy to get bait it’s often harder to catch the predators. Lately there has been lots of whitebait in the rivers, but nothing much feeding on them, the bait isn’t nervous or schooled up tightly which suggests they aren’t under much stress. When the predation ups the ante that’s when the bait tends to make itself hard to find.

Whiting are on the diet of Mulloway at any time.

In the video attached is schools of small mullet feeding freely and quite happily. There bodies glistening in the sunlight When dark arrives it may be another story, until then they can party on.

Winter up river at night.

The bigger fish tend to feed at night when boat traffic is minimal and ambushing prey is easier. I enjoy just using lures at this time, more would get caught on the right bait but I cast and search the rivers on the drift with an electric motor.

Winter is one of the best times to fish the northern rivers in NSW, as long as you can brave the cold and the dark nights. It’s best to explore the river systems during the daylight hours and get to know the depths and the things to watch out for, logs sandbanks etc can ruin a fishing trip quickly and there often isn’t much help in these regions.

On many anglers wish list. Mulloway.

The other evening a friend was visiting and had Mulloway and GTs on his wish list, we only fished for a few hours and got several species when he hooked up on a small paddle tail soft plastic, we at first thought it was a small shark as I’d had a Trevally harassed by one a few minutes before. It ended up being a healthy Mulloway and at 92cm it was a nice achievement on light Bream gear. After a quick photo it was released back into the dark mysterious waters of the Bellingen River.

Night time lure action

Tarpon/Ox Eye Herring

This week whilst working sps down the bottom in shallow water I hooked what I first thought was a good sized Tailor, it jumped high not once not twice but six times! It’s body shape was different and I realised it was the Oz version of the giant Tarpon, an Ox Eye Herring. On its seventh high jump the lure was flung back at my face and I only had the memory left. 5 minutes later I hooked up again with a smaller fish but same species, the takes were gentle a bit like a shy Mulloway or Bream but the fireworks were amazing in the small river.

The idea of fishing for Giant Tarpon has always been a fishy fantasy for me. They grow huge over in the US and are totally spectacular when hooked. The population is healthy as its catch and release fishing worth big bucks to tourism. A friend went after them with a local guide and said it was mainly trolling divers around until a fish was found…not ideal angling, in my mind anyway.

There was obviously a school of these speedsters around, I’ve heard of them being caught as far south as Sydney, they are usually a warm water fish…so what are they doing up river in the middle of Winter on the Mid Nth Coast?

In mid flight!

Come on fish scientists, a few answers would be great. It seems they need salt water to breed but I’ve never heard of one being caught or seen in the fresh of the Bellingen River system.