Hawkesbury-Nepean River

Hawkes bream fish caught at the Hawkesbury-Nepean River, Steve Cooper

The Hawkesbury River is regarded as one of the most consistent waters for big mulloway, or jewfish as they are called. It was with mulloway in mind that I went to the river to fish with Colin Tannahill. The river flows through Sydney’s western suburbs as the Nepean River before changing to the Hawkesbury River at Windsor. Downstream from the Sydney– Newcastle Freeway it becomes a broad water.

Surrounded by heavily forested hills and steep cliffs, the 140 km long river offers anglers rich and varied piscine offerings, from sand whiting, squid and yellowfin bream to big dusky flathead and the ever-elusive mulloway. Best of all, it is an all-weather venue because you can always find shelter in the many arms, bays or beside headlands.

We launched Colin’s 6 m boat at the George St ramp at Brooklyn at about 8.30am. The ramp is four lanes wide and amenities include free mooring pontoons and fish- cleaning facilities, all within just  over an hour’s drive north of the business heart of Sydney.

Our first stop was Pittwater near Barrenjoey Head where we fished for squid to use as bait. Pelting rain was coming north along Pittwater in squalls and the wind was blowing the boat along too fast for the squid jigs to work properly. We gave it away and headed for Patonga in Brisk Bay, where Colin said we might be able to catch squid out of the wind. What he didn’t say was that Patonga comprises a pub and a fish and chip shop, both welcome sights in these conditions.

We started fishing seriously off Flint and Steel Point. Colin had caught mulloway here to 11 kg. After an hour or two of pickers, including a golden toadfish and the aptly named shovelnose rays, we decided to move. The tide was incoming, but the heavy rains meant a lot of freshwater was heading out. Our baits on the bottom were being pushed by the tide, but the boat was yawing badly due to a combination of freshwater flow and wind.

Consequently, we headed for  the relative shelter of Juno Point.  We dropped the anchor about  100 m off the point and started to fish about 50 m from a couple of anglers in a smaller tinnie. They explained they were putting up with the rain because they had caught a 10 kg mulloway the day before.

We put out a bait rod and rigged the main rods with squid and a live bream caught earlier. The bait rod never seemed to stop dipping as species including sand whiting, pinkies, yakkas and bream bit the tiny squid bait. Our neighbours were enjoying similar diversity, adding an octopus to the species list, and then landing a yellowfin bream of about 2 kg. Unfortunately, there were no signs of the elusive mulloway, even after several hours.

Colin said the top spots for big mulloway are the upstream sides of the rail and road bridges that run alongside each other. As the water flows under the bridges, the pylons create eddies that attract smaller fish. This in turn brings larger predators such as mulloway. Land-based anglers fish for mulloway at Pelican Point, which is at the base of the road bridge on the southern shore. Many prefer to fish with lures.

Tackle

 Live baiting is the popular method for mulloway, and it accounts for some big flathead. Tackle for mulloway consists of an 8–10 kg outfit with a running paternoster rig. Attach a sinker directly to an Ezi-Rig slider so there is no leader to cause tangles. The main leader to the hook should be about 24 kg breaking strain and use a single, 6/0 Suicide hook.

For bait fishing, the rig was the same, albeit much lighter. Outfits were 3 kg rods balanced with a small threadline reel. Hook sizes ranged from No. 6 to No.4, medium shank Baitholder patterns. When fishing the Hawkesbury you will need a range of sinkers to compensate for tidal flow. Bomb sinkers with moulded in swivels are the best sort.

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