South Coast fires for EPs & Bass

RECENT rainfalls have resulted in excellent conditions for estuary perch and bass in the Shoalhaven River, near Nowra on the NSW South Coast. The water upstream of the bridge at Nowra is tannin stained yet clear, with plenty of small baitfish and prawns providing easy pickings for the resident EPs and for the wild bass which have moved downstream to spawn.

Fisho’s SA Correspondent Jamie Crawford was in town this week during a road trip up the east coast with his new campervan and young family in tow. As there aren’t too many bass and EPs in SA, Jamie was keen for a session chasing these feisty native sportfish.

Together with angling activist and now good mate Martin Salter, I took Jamie up the river last Friday arvo to see if we could find a few fish. The first couple of EPs were caught literally a few hundred metres from the ramp – Martin and I both caught fish around the 340mm mark. The fish were hiding hard in amongst the boulders and rock walls, lying up in back eddies and crevices out of the run-up tide. A cast tight into these natural ambush zones was needed to elicit a strike. We got a good drift along the fish-holding areas in the Fishing World Sea Jay 4.65 Discovery Sports, getting some nice EPs, as well as a couple of chopper tailor.

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Martin Salter and Jim Harnwell and a trio of Shoalhaven resident sportfish, prior to release. 

A move further up the river resulted in the occasional nice bass to 320mm, as well as a few smaller ones. The fish were hitting deep-diving Jackall Chubbies, with green being the standout colour. A late afternoon tide change, and a relocation to a highly productive rock wall, saw multiple hits from EPs ranging from 200 to 350mm. Jamie and I noticed a fish working prawns hard against the rocks. A nicely placed cast from Jamie saw an immediate hook up on a solid fish. A tense, see-sawing battle on 3kg tackle saw an excellent wild bass of 360mm netted for a very happy South Australian fishing writer!

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Jamie Crawford looking suitably pleased with this nice bass taken on a Jackall Chubbie.

Water temps in the upper Shoalhaven are currently around 20 degrees C, with water quality looking fantastic. A wet summer, and more rain over autumn and early winter, has created perfect conditions for sportfish. The EPs in particular appear to be in fantastic numbers, with Gavin McCallum from McCullum’s Tackle World in Nowra telling Fisho that local anglers were reporting good numbers of these enigmatic sportfish throughout the river. Scott Sharpe from Culburra Bait & Tackle reported that EPs had been reported as far downstream at Broughton Creek, but the main concentrations of fish seemed to be upstream of the bridge. The many rock walls that line the banks of the upper Shoalhaven seemed to be the gun locations for perch, especially if the walls were in close proximity to deep water. Chubbies cast hard up against the rocks and slow rolled out into the current proved effective for Jamie, Martin and myself. Other anglers reported that blades have also been producing fish.

EPs are fantastic little sportfish – once you catch one, you want to catch more. It is fantastic to see such a healthy populations of EPs in the Shoalhaven at present. Obviously, C&R is mandatory is these fish are to continue to prosper in this and other waterways. Many local anglers are concerned that intensive commercial netting of the Shoalhaven is resulting in bycatch of EPs (and bass). Hopefully one day soon the nets will be removed from this magnificent coastal river system so the sportfishing opportunities for our native species, and other popular fish such as bream, flathead, whiting and jewfish, can be fully developed for local and visiting anglers.

If you want to find out more about how the Shoalhaven River is fishing, and where you might expect to find a few EPs, contact McCallum’s Tackle World on (02) 44212418 or Culburra Bait & Tackle on (02) 44472087. Local guide Greg Reid from Bay and Basin Sportfishing can arrange trips targeting the Shoalhaven’s bass and EPs. Contact Greg on 0413610832 or check out

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