I briefly wrote about my anticipation to tackle some urban bass monsters with Aaron only the other week, and since then Aaron and I have managed to get together with the intention to catch and track some of these fish on their seasonal pilgrimage up into the skinny back waters of Sydney.
I originally met Aaron through the bream tournament scene. He is a successful and well respected bream angler, but it has been over the last year or so that I have learnt so much more about him, his encyclopedia-like knowledge and profound passion he has for all things bass. If you ask him, he’ll tell you that bass fishing is a ‘black art’, something that he has been studying since he was old enough to cast a line. In his local area, he even regards these bass as his pets. He can give you a pretty damn accurate idea when and where they will be from years of following these fish, almost on a daily basis during the open season. On numerous occasions he has blown me away, changing up his lure and casting it under a specific snag or to a section of undercut bank only to come up tight on a fish as if he knew it was going to be there.
Our trip last week was planned to be a regular walk, a kilometre or two up one of his local creeks. Aaron has been following these bass from the river since the beginning of the season and knew they were holding ready to migrate up river a little further. Three days before our planned afternoon outing, the report was that the bass were firing on topwater and crankbaits. The day before I was due to hit these creeks, Aaron headed down for his daily bass ‘fix’, only to find that there were hundreds of stunned mullet floating as well as dead carp, eels and bass, all within a couple of hundred metres. The fishing itself by Aaron’s reports was almost dead. Something he had never seen at this time of year in all his years fishing around the area.
What caused this massive fish kill and disturbance to the system? It isn’t entirely known, however one event that occurred which couldn’t be determined by season, moon phase or barometric pressure and definitely would not have been predicted by the bass or other fish in the system were a number of bush and grass fires throughout the Sydney region the day before. Some of these fires were in very close proximity to residential areas as well as the creeks we were going to fish. Homes, schools and other property were under threat, and one theory is the water bombing helicopters that were utilised to assist in fighting and control of the fires may have drawn water from the creek, in turn churning up the holes where the fish were residing, resulting in hundreds of stunned mullet and the fish kill that occurred.
Despite all of this, we still headed down to the creek to see if there was any more fish floating belly up and where any of the remaining schools of bass were. When we did get down there, it was evident to Aaron that the environment had significantly changed again. Although the water was still quite dirty, unlike the days prior to the fires when the water was very clear, we only found a couple of dead fish. Two carp, one eel and one bass to be precise, in the 700-800 metre stretch we walked. At the beginning of the outing we found a few decent fish biting and as we headed further upstream the water became more and more lifeless with the odd dead fish floating by the bank. Returning back to the start, we ended up spending an hour or so, right up until dusk, catching fish after fish in a hole as big as your average backyard swimming pool. Topwater, crankbaits, vibes, spinnerbaits, it didn’t matter. What was obvious was that a large concentration of fish, whether they were still moving upstream or had retreated back down, had survived and were eager to feed on any lures we through at them.
It’s been about a week now since that trip and it has left me thinking about how quickly nature can turn around from what we may initially see as a catastrophe. In less than a week, this area went from fishing well (I avoided the term ‘on fire’), to lifeless and then back to fishing well again. It just goes to show how quickly the ecosystem can bounce back and with some of the monsters we saw and didn’t hook, I can assure you I’ll be heading back again soon.