Plastics – The Last Bite
Its coming onto that time of year again, you know gustily August winds that would just about blow a dog off its chain.
I’m sitting here on the 23rd floor in Sydney looking south out over to Botany Bay thinking that the strong winds we are experiencing are a good sign to the start of a new season and that they are spot on time this year unlike last year. Looking at the weather map I can see a high bringing up in the bight and that is a sure sign that we are in for a rising barometer soon, woo hoo almost time to fish.
Fishing is like crossing the road, if you cross without looking the chances are you may just get to the other side without getting splattered… In reality though I suppose it all depends on how busy the road is and where you cross it as to whether you end up road kill or infact like the proverbial chicken you get to the other side unscathed!
Fish, just like humans use an underwater network of roads to go about their daily business and just like us humans fish have their peak hour rushes, traffic jams and detours, so how is this information going to help us catch fish and be consistent in doing it?
Just like the example of taking pot luck and wondering aimlessly across the road and praying that we don’t get hit in the process so it is with most recreational fisherman when it comes to fishing. I call this method chuck n chance, first; pull up to a nice spot, second; chuck out a line and maybe by chance you might just get a hit or two and maybe even land a fish. But that’s not what this article is all about, what I’m talking about is consistency.
There is a lot of truth to the old saying, practice makes perfect and my other favourite is, if at first you don’t succeed then try, try and even try again.
In my younger days I was certainly a chuck n chance fisho which of course yielded mixed results, mostly a quick stop off on the way home to buy some pre battered variety of fish so that I could at least say that I took some fish home for the day.
It wasn’t for lack of trying that I didn’t get good catches of fish as I must of tried every spot along the shore line in the Hawkesbury River known to gregory’s fishing spots map book.
However I went for a drive one arvo to Berowra Waters and pulled up in wait for the ferry, on the rocks near the road were a couple of old guys fishing with long soft rods, blackfish floats and literally a chaff bag full of bream. I knew from this moment on, my search for a spot was over for now but what of the chuck n chance method?
From that day onward for nearly a decade I fished that spot and after some time I began to realise that there were a set of keys to the underwater road map that surrounded this spot. In the process of learning this I landed everything from Flounder to flathead and even caught my biggest land based mulloway from this same spot. In time I came to understand why this spot was such a winner, taking what I learnt from this spot an applying it to other areas I have certainly raised the consistency stakes a notch or two since.
I remember fishing Berowra one memorable Anzac day with some really heavy gear and I hooked up to something really big, big enough to stop the ferry, who’s captain allowed me to clamber aboard to fight this behemoth in some deeper water. Even the drivers in the queue waiting with their cars didn’t mind being held up and gathered on board the deck in anticipation to see what sort of monster was on the end of my line. It felt like an eternity playing this thing out, gain line, loose line, gain line, loose line until finally it started to come when suddenly it broke the surface and in a heart beat my big Jew turned into one of the largest sting rays (minus a tail) that I had ever seen….
OK back to business, the keys to the underwater road map of this particular spot were; I knew there were fish there to start with and had seen the results for myself so I knew if I went there enough times I would finally crack the jack pot so to say even using the chuck n chance method.
But what I learnt over time from this spot was there was a peak bight period that lasted between 20mins to half an hour. This peak period changed with the seasons and reverted to opposite cycles of the tide in the opposite season. Knowing this sort of information meant I could effectively organise my time around these ‘bite’ periods which limited my time away from other important things. Slack water either tide mostly produced small chopper tailor, herring, mullet and some nice Crabs.
I learnt that usually around the month of August you would be better off visiting the fish n chip shop rather than clambering over the rocks for a couple hours wasted at this spot.
Burlie, Burlie and more Burlie, this spot had only a small amount of ‘grazing’ opportunity for fish as they passed by on their fish highway to their other feeding grounds but with the liberal sprinkling of a constant Burlie trail these fish would quoe up in the inevitable traffic jam in their peak hour rush to deeper or shallower water.
The burlie I found worked at this spot was WA block pilchards cut up finely with individually frozen pilchard pieces cut into thin strips and threaded neatly onto the hook as the bait.
Regarding burlie it probably goes without saying for those in the know but for the others it really makes sense to ‘match the hatch’ where bait and burlie are concerned, carp fisherman use this technique with corn to great effect. In fact keen old time fresh water fisho’s who mix hunting and fishing will sometimes dispatch some kind of feral critter and hang it out over a favourite hole or piece of structure and wait for the ‘gents’ (maggots) to hatch and drop, they will then fish with prepared gents with good effect.
One of the reasons this particular spot fishes well is due to a division in the tidal current (see the map and note the ferry point jutting into the main river flow, Western Ferry approach). The ferry approach creates a back eddie on the run out tide (river running out to the North) and on the ‘flood’ incoming tide water from the main current diverts against the side of the ferry approach which pushes out along the shoreline up into the marina (North West of Ferry approach, see map) which has excellent feeding zone of black mussel beds along the shallow shoreline.
Of a night time the roadway near the ferry approach provides excellent lighting for timid bait fish and in summer draws school mullet like flies to stink, hence probably the reason why the XOS Mulloway turn up here from time to time.
During the flood tide fish swim past this little spot to an area above the ferry approach just past Britannia Rock and the Woolwash where there is a series of shallow sand flats and mangroves which hold plenty of squirt worms, crabs and yabbies further upstream in Bewrowra Creek, so to my mind of thinking my spot is a minor detour on the fish highway as the fish move from feeding zone to feeding zone, deep to shallow water and vice versa.
There was one more factor in this puzzle and it was moon phase and its effect on the tidal flow, put all these pieces of the piscatorial puzzle together and you can almost guarantee at least one decent fish if not a bag full every outing especially.
This same approach can be used with any spot no matter which part of the country you intend to fish or species sought, also of note is that the barometric pressure can make a difference to catch rates. A generalisation to this is in a deep low (barometric pressure), the fish go further down in the water column and can appear to go off the bite or as Bass fisho’s will say, “the fish are sulking on the bottom”.
Some say knowledge is power and in this instance I would have to agree that it is a powerful thing, in getting to know this spot I kept a small diary which eventually helped me to see certain trends which in turn became a tool in determining when to go fish and when not!
Now days with the advent of the smart phone there are some brilliant little fishing diary ‘apps’, I recommend them thoroughly as some even have the ability to link with the phones camera and GPS capability.
This same approach to understanding the fish highway when utilised in conjunction with a boat can be a deadly weapon with a devastating effect when all the variables line up, especially when a couple of these spots are ‘nutted’ out together and you go from one to the other at just the right time. It certainly also helps if your arsenal includes a boat that goes like stink especially if the spots are some distance apart.
I believe that knowledge shared is knowledge gained and what comes around will certainly go around, there is no such thing as a secret spot but there are definitely secrets that can help us to fish any spot.