Where and what to fish for this spring
Jamie Crawford offers some suggestions on what to target as the weather warms up.
Spring is a great time of year to be hitting the water. At this time of year we have officially left the doldrums of winter behind us as we start entering into warmer, longer days. The new sunshine and bursts of warmth encourage a lot of seasonal fishers to pull the boat out of the shed and dust off the tackle.
The changing of the season kicks the water temperature up a notch or two, and this can be a catalyst to move winter species along, to be replaced by a new wave of spring arrivals. The weather isn't always seamless in spring, as we often get a bit of wind in some locations, however, by keeping a close eye on the forecast, it's possible to pick some good windows of weather to get amongst it.
Regardless of where you live around Australia, there will be some good spring fishing options to pursue. Let's take a look at several spring scenarios from around our country.
Spring fishing options
At this time of year the water in our southern estuaries is starting to clear after winter rains, and the fishing for black bream starts to heat up. Bream are a great species, and accessible to virtually everyone. The lower salinity of winter has usually encouraged bream to push upstream in preparation for their spawning activity.
When targeting black bream in spring, we usually concentrate on areas further upstream away from the estuary or river mouth. These small waterways can be relatively narrow and shallow away from the mouth, so it pays to hit the water around the low light periods. Both bait and lures work effectively at this time of year, but for the fun factor, casting small soft plastics or hard body lures works a treat.
On the East Coast spring denotes the opening of the bass season, with September to November arguably the best time of year to chase bass. Mixed with the wild bass in the rivers will be a few estuary perch.
Both species offer great fishing in the spring, whether on hard body lures or vibes. The top water action is often a bit slow at this time of year, and you are better off going with sub-water presentations.
Bread & butter species
For inshore bread and butter species, southern calamari and King George whiting are good spring targets.
Our southern bays generally produce good numbers of calamari around weed beds and scattered reef at this time of year. We concentrate around the shallow fringes of the bay for our spring squid, with size 3.0 and 3.5 jigs doing the damage.
King George whiting are a good spring target in our southern bays in WA, SA and Victoria, and represent one of our finest table fish. It's at this time of year the fish move from their traditional winter grounds and are transitioning onto hard bottom.
Early spring can be a bit fickle, as the fish are often still in this transition, but once they're over the hard bottom, the fishing can be fantastic. Springtime King George are generally good fish too, and on light tackle they're a heap of fun.
For the surf angler, spring represents a change of season, where schools of salmon start to taper off, but are replaced by some nice gummy sharks and mulloway. From the end of September onwards, mulloway catches are generally on the increase, which is always an exciting time of year. There is something special about seeing a silver-slabbed mulloway pulled from a clean surf beach.
Fresh baits, including squid, fillets of salmon, tailor, silver trevally and whole mullet all work well, especially fished over the building tide. During spring we see our large daytime high tide switch, with the bigger tide generally peaking in the middle of the night.
But with the increasing air temperature, spending a few nights soaking a bait along your favourite surf beach is a lot more comfortable in spring - compared to the icy nights of winter. And even if a mulloway doesn't hit the sand, taking a nice gummy shark home for the table is a good consolation prize. Breakwalls are another good spring option for mulloway along the East Coast, especially after a good downpour.
Spring has traditionally been a good time of year to target snapper across our southern states, with good fish moving into inshore locations throughout Victoria, SA and WA in preparation for spawning. November 1, 2019 signified the commencement of a three-year hiatus on targeting snapper in most of South Australia's state waters, with an annual spawning closure in Cockburn and Warnbro Sounds in Western Australia from September 1 until January 31. Outside of these areas though, you can expect some good snapper fishing.
Freshwater targets during spring
Moving away from the salt water and into the fresh, native fish activity is on the increase in spring as water temperatures start to climb. Golden perch are a prime candidate for spring fishing, as their metabolism and appetites increase with the rising temperatures. This includes fishing in our main catchment rivers, as well as our impoundments along the eastern states.
The water clarity is often still poor at this time of year, especially in our rivers, but the visibility starts to improve as spring pushes on. If the clarity is okay, fishing hard body lures in amongst the timber and lipless crankbaits down deep seems to get results.
For those who enjoy bobbing baits, spring is a prime time of year to drop a yabby, shrimp or bundle of earth worms next to a snag. Shrimps and yabbies are harder to catch at this time of year, so it pays to take some back-up bait.
Pushing into our tropical climes, the barra fishing in the north can run hot during the build-up to the wet season. It can be an uncomfortable time of year to be in the Top End with afternoon storms and humidity, but the spikes in temperature can often trigger a good bite in the tidal river systems of the NT and QLD.
We've experienced some good barra fishing in the Top End in spring, mainly fishing in the smaller tidal rivers and creek systems. These waterways can run quite clean at this time of year, and the barra are beautiful chrome fish. While there isn't a closed season in the NT, there is in QLD from November 1 onwards.
A lot of boats get pulled out of the shed in spring after months of inactivity. There are a few safety checks you should make on your vessel and trailer if it's been sitting dormant during the winter months.
Firstly, throw your battery on charge, and replace fuel that's been sitting around for too long. It's a good idea to go through the required safety gear to make sure the flare kit, para rockets and EPRIB are all within date. It's a good habit to check the first aid kit, PFD's and torch while you're at it, and renew bottled water.
The trailer should be checked thoroughly as well, making sure the brake calipers aren't seized, the bearings and bearing buddies are in good order, and the tyres are inflated to the recommended pressure - including the spare. I generally give my trailer a coating of CRC Soft Seal in spring, which is a spray-on protection film that coats the trailer to protect from corrosion.
Spring is the end of hibernation and the start of fishing for many southerners. With our better weather just around the corner, it's time to gear up for some spring fishing.