My fishing PLACE
Insights into the favourite fishing spots of Inner Circle Members, as posted on the Clubhouse Wall, generously shared to ensure all Fishotopians have the best fishing experiences possible, no matter where they find themselves in Australia. A huge thanks to each and every member whose stories end up here.
SHOALHAVEN RIVER, NSW.
This blog showcases the exact processes I went through to find and catch fish at a notoriously tough time of year in a hard-fished (and very heavily-netted) estuary system. I suspect many members may find the process interesting and perhaps be able to apply it on their local waters.
Naturally enough, one of the first things I did was to return to those parts of the river that had been good to me in the past. These included areas right in front of the main boat ramp at Shoalhaven Heads and among the moored boats and yachts there. I caught a lot of jewies here in the early 2000s, but it hasn’t fished all that consistently (according to reports) since it was heavily netted by commercial fishers during that period. I found reasonable amounts of bait here this trip, mostly consisting of schools of chopper tailor, and there was the odd larger target but I failed to get a bite from a jewie while having way too many plastics chewed up by tailor!
SideScan image of tailor schools in the lower Shoalhaven, near Shoalhaven Heads. The distance between the very obvious targets and their shadows on the bottom show that they’re quite high in the water column. They ranged in size from 20cm choppers to some quite respectable specimens. However, there wasn’t much obviously hunting them, so I soon moved on.
Later, I fished the eroded casuarina-lined banks in the lower Canal that joins the Shoalhaven to the Crookhaven River at Greenwell Point. This is a very “fishy” area and, as expected, produced estuary perch, flathead and more tailor for me, but again larger targets were scarce on the sounder and it wasn’t really “happening” there.
The water was clear, cool and very saline, which led me to surmise that the bulk of fish activity may be concentrated further upstream. With this in mind, I headed upriver, slowing down to sound out some obvious (and historically proven) spots like the junction of Broughton Creek, the rocks around the Manildra ethanol plant and the “Reef” system just downstream of Nowra, where the channel is quite constricted. All held bait and fish, but not in the concentrations I was looking for.
I finally struck “pay-dirt” just downstream of the twin highway bridges at Nowra, in deep water close to the northern (Bomaderry) bank. Here there’s some really interesting structure in the form of a couple of massive, living-room size boulders that rise from 11 or 12 metres of water to about a metre under the surface on the low tide. As they so often did in my former days on the river, these impressive current breaks held massive quantities of fish… in fact, my sounder screen lit up like a Christmas tree!
That’s more like it! A mixed school of estuary perch, blackfish, bream, etc sheltering out of the current behind a series of massive boulders that rise from 12 metres to about 2 metres. The fish high up in the water column are tailor and they are moving, creating longer streaks. The three or four long marks on top of the “bait” school at right of centre COULD be mulloway, as could the two or three bigger targets near the bottom to the left of centre, but I can’t swear to that.
Lit up like a Christmas Tree! When you find this much life there’s almost sure to be predators nearby. These are tailor, estuary perch, blackfish, bream, etc, etc. Note the differences between fairly quickly moving targets and more static ones. I’d put money on the nice solid cluster of seperate “blobs” upper mid-screen being estuary perch. To the right, tailor are either chowing into bait of some sort or its a tight mass of much smaller tailor. Anyway, it’s all good news… the piscatorial equivalent of a big, flashing neon sign saying “All You Can Eat for $9.95!”
Fishing small plastics on light gear, I quickly established that large numbers of estuary perch, tailor and blackfish (luderick) were present here. I’m sure there were also bream and tarwhine. These are all prime tucker for mulloway. While prospecting among these hordes of smaller fish, I hooked two very powerful opponents that both escaped after straightening my light jig hooks… I’d found what I was looking for. Unfortunately, losing those two jewies spooked the school.
SideScan imagery traveling over the top of one of the big boulders. Note how the central dark area of the image (representing the water column under the boat) narrows right down in the shallower water on top of the boulders. Plenty of small fish are also showing, especially on the left, as is that same tree trunk shown in the previous DownScan image. The big “shadow area” with no detail at bottom right is caused by me not having the outboard leg trimmed up sufficiently. The leg and prop are obscuring the signal to the right (transducer is mounted to the left of the motor). You can see the point at which I trimmed it higher to get a better picture to the right. There COULD be two jewies (facing the centrreline) in the bait over that gutter to the left, about mid-image, but again, I wouldn’t hang my hat on it.
You can clearly see the boulder structure here with quite a few fish holding on it. There’s also a big tree trunk at the far right of the image: flood debris trapped here over the years.
See how the fish stack up in the current breaks behind (and in front of) structural elements? The wavy nature of the returns is the result of the bow wave of a passing boat bobbing me (and the transducer) up and down. The big “python” top right is probably a better tailor scooting along at a fair clip.
Next morning I launched at 8AM and headed straight to this area, sounding up similar quantities of bait and fish. The tide was running out reasonably briskly, so I surmised that any large predators sitting in handy proximity to the motherlode of food would be seeking some sort of current break. The most obvious one was the dual sets of pylons immediately upstream of the aggregation of perch, tailor, etc. It took me about three or four casts into this slot to get my distance and sink time right with a large-ish soft plastic to ensure I was “touching down” in the prime slot… Next cast after that, I came up tight. The result was a 104.5cm, 10.5kg mulloway. I put it in the boat, drove straight back to the ramp and pulled out. One fish like that is plenty for our needs and I love leaving on a high!
I hope this process makes some sort of sense and potentially helps you to crack some codes and unlock some patterns in YOUR neck of the woods. There’s nothing magical about it. It’s simply a combination of:
A) Previous experience
D) Educated guesswork
E) A little good old-fashioned luck!