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Autumn is a great time for drives in the country and having a crack at catching one of the great native fish species - golden perch.
Fishing for inland Natives - NSW


Once the cooler days of autumn have arrived, river activity slows in the inland areas of NSW with the fish responding to the cooler water temperature and lower river heights by seeking the shelter of the deep holes and submerged logs. Their metabolism also slows at this time and they are in semi-hibernation at this stage. Both of these factors, together with the cooler weather, make it harder for the angler to catch native inland fish during Easter.
Generally I might avoid fishing at this time, but last year with my stock of golden perch in the deep freeze drastically low, I decided to give an Easter fishing trip a go.
I simply couldn?t imagine life without the promise of a feed of fried native fish on the plate. Yes, we are pretty spoilt out West!
Having heard about a late run of golden perch in the nearby Murrumbidgee River during early March, I was very eager to try my luck by the riverbank.
The thought of landing a Murray cod also sounded pretty appealing. Getting out to the river and catching a few Easter fish before the holiday camping hordes took all the good fishing beaches for a week was uppermost in my mind.
So I put out a few yabbie nets baited with frozen carp in an irrigation channel overnight hoping to attract some 10 to 15 small yabbies.
The yabbies are the ?bees knees? for evening and night angling off a river beach. I also decided to use the usual daytime standby of worms, together with shrimps. The latter being also close to hibernation mode were easy to catch in small numbers using baited nets at the river.
I practically beat the school children out the gate after school that Friday afternoon in my haste to get home. I wanted to make use of the three hours of fishing before darkness loomed over the river. I packed my strong torch just in case I decided to stay till late because the fish where proving hungry.
Down to the River:
When I arrived at the river it looked a real picture. The water wasn?t its usual turbid colour but olive-green, slow flowing with a glassy appearance.
A chance to spin amongst the logs perhaps! I quickly set the shrimp nets amongst some red gum roots, and then returned to the beach with an armful of wood for the fire. In the bush I noticed kangaroos crashing through the tall grass with huge, tireless leaps.
The shadows from the oak, willow and red gum trees on the opposite bank had spread halfway over the water ? a signal for the hungry fish to come out from their hold up places to search for food.
I quickly started setting up my three rods baited with worms and placed them one at a time in the rod holders. I attached rod bells to alarm me of inquiries.
Meanwhile, I hurried over to where the shrimp nets were pegged in near the tree roots. As the weather was a lot cooler there weren?t many captives in the nets. I emptied out the half dozen shrimp into a bucket and covered them with a little water to save them from drowning. I regard shrimp as the best percentage bait for capturing native fish since they are naturally occurring in our rivers and are the basis of inland fishes? diets.
The beach rods organised, it was time to light the fire to keep warm, then sit back and watch the rods for signs of activity.
It wasn?t long after that that a bell started ringing. As I started reeling in the line a whiskered horror (a carp) broke the water; this carp eventually ended up on the beach. Later it would be used as bait for yabbies and shrimp.
Not long after another rod took a solid hit, the old mustard bell dropping to the water?s edge. This time the fish, though small, dived deep and stayed under the water till it was by my feet. The handsome fish that eventually broke the surface was the protected and endangered trout cod. Thankfully this fighter had only been lipped and I was able to return it unharmed back into the water. It kicked its tail into gear and disappeared from sight.
This healthy 30cm trout cod was one of the thousands of hatchery-bred fingerlings, liberated by officers of the Narrandera Fisheries Centre into the Murrumbidgee River. They are released downstream of the Yanco Weir, within NSW.
I decided to take the rod that had just landed the trout cod down to the bottom end of the beach where there were several submerged logs and backwater. I thought that baiting up with a shrimp and worms on the same hook (?a fruit salad? or ?a shandy?), would be a good move. Then I cast before the structure hoping the smell would drift towards the timber and lure a fish from its hold up station and cover.
A few more heavy branches on the fire then it was time to check all the lines and bait up with shrimp.
A Tug On the Line:
One line indicated a gentle tugging motion, and as I wound in the line a pair of large white claws appeared. A spiny Murray crayfish had taken a liking to the worm and had tangled itself in the line.
This was a female Murray crayfish, so I took the plastic measurer from my tackle box and measured her. Even though she was of legal size I released her just the same to help propagate this freshwater species? declining population.
When shrimps become scarce, the large native river fish (golden perch and Murray cod) feast on small and large Murray crayfish, since their active period is about to start.
With about an hour of daylight left and a spinning rod in the boot for just an occasion as the river presented, I decided to walk out onto a chunky log and do some spinning. All the while I kept my ear listening for the ringing of a bell.
After casting and retrieving about 15 times I was about to give up spinning and head back to the rods when my Bidgee Bug, medium diver Blockhead lure was crunched.
I furiously wound the line in, carefully directing the struggling fish away from the snags. Then the streamlined body of a golden perch appeared. The treble hook was well embedded in its mouth.
I lit up like a Christmas tree, hardly believing my luck. After all, the flood plain along the Murrumbidgee River at Yanco is not renowned for its spinning attributes.
Darkness was fast approaching so I hurriedly took the well-conditioned 1kg golden perch back to camp, put another log on the fire then started checking the rods for any activity and loss of bait.
What a magic evening it was, high up in the gum trees sulphur-crested cockatoos shrieked in chorus as they jockeyed for the best roosting positions.
It was time to add another hook to each beach rod. Surely a succulent shrimp and a tasty yabbie would be a banquet for a hungry, prowling native fish that might be out to explore the night scene.
Darkness had now engulfed the river as I sat back to enjoy the snack I had brought along together with a drink and an apple.
Suddenly a car?s headlights appeared along the winding river road. The car stopped and the driver walked over to the campfire, for it had attracted his attention and caused him to stop.
It was Leslie Ng, my fishing mate from the Chinese restaurant! He had driven out to the river looking for me. Before we could even exchange greetings the bottom rod bell rang out loud. I told Leslie to quickly follow me and hold the torch as we raced off to tend the line.
Meet Murray:
There was more weight behind this fish!  Leslie trained the torch light in the direction of the snags as the unmistakable wide mouth and mottled green back of a Murray cod broke the surface. 
Leslie rushed into the water and had the Murray cod in the landing net in two shakes.
The handsome fish had taken the juicy shrimp from the top hook. Quickly wetting my hands to avoid ?burning? the fish, we rushed the Murray cod up to my tackle box and whipped out the tape measure. The fish cleared the legal length by 4cm ? 54cm! I felt like the cat that came home from the dairy! Leslie held the fish in the landing net while I took a quick photo.
With two take-home fish to skite about we thought we?d call it a night. Leslie was quite excited about the catch and asked if I came out again tomorrow could he come too? I agreed and we made some hasty plans.
Before leaving we doused the fire then put a stick in at the edge of the beach to let us know if there had been a rise, or fall in the river overnight.
Early next morning Leslie was at the beach with a couple of rods. Using worms he?d caught two golden perch, one of which he had released. Briefly admiring the golden perch in his esky it was time to get serious once again.
I stuck to my favorite bait ? shrimp ? especially since the barometric pressure was up, the native fish in my aquarium at home displayed a great deal of activity when rain looked imminent. As well, there had been a slight rise in the river of about 4cm overnight, probably due to irrigation demands- another factor that could bring the fish on the chew.
While Leslie occupied the centre of the beach, I decided to use the bottom end again casting as far over to where the channel was on the other side. With bells attached, and now with 14kg line, a running sinker and 5/0 hooks in place, I was hoping this was going to be my last chance at catching a big Easter fish. This would help feed my family and relatives who were coming down from Sydney.
Big Perch:
All was quiet for a while till Leslie?s rod went berserk and the bell rattled its head off. He reeled it in to reveal a much larger golden perch than his other two golden perches. I scooped it up in the landing net for him.  Leslie was fizzing. Out came the camera again.
He?d just finished cleaning the fish when my Jarvis Walker also went ballistic, the tip practically hitting the water. Obviously we had a beauty on the line and as long as I kept the line tight, I?d have a chance of landing it.
The adrenalin was fairly pumping in both of us as a big, white belly popped up to the surface followed by the heavy splash of a large tail. It was a Murray cod and boy was I excited. Thankfully the hook was well anchored in the corner of its mouth.
I threw the rod onto the beach and rushed into the water to scoop him out. Leslie was just as excited. In fact, we both had grins wider than split watermelons!
Summary: What a fishing trip this had turned out to be! When we weighed the fish it tipped the scales at 7.5kg, or 16lb in the old system. Talk about the loaves and fishes ? this was an Easter fish that was going to feed all the family without a problem. I hadn?t expected to catch a fish like this, but here it lay in my arms.
Out came the camera again to capture the moment on celluloid. We both marveled at the size of the fish as we packed up, more than satisfied with our luck.

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