High above Lake St. Clair in New South Wales, a mob of kangaroos feed on a grassy knoll overlooking Lake St. Clair. I’m here to go fishing, and of course get lots of photos. Australia’s bass fishing can be a challenge, especially if you don’t have a clue where to go or when to go. Luckily, my daughter Sheri, who lives near Sydney, has a great network of friends and family. Prior to my month long visit to Australia, She hooked me up with her sister in-law’s father in-law, Phil. Phil knows the area and has lots of “mates,” the Auzzie term for friends or buddies. Knowing my passion for fishing, Phil arranged a fishing trip with Bill Thomson, a local postal manager who also has a love of fishing. My fishing adventure began early Saturday morning, at 5 a.m. From Bill’s house we traveled three hours with boat in tow and encountered just three cars the entire length of the massively remote Australian bush country.
Our destination, Lake St. Claire, an impoundment created years ago when a small dam was built to hold water to be used as the water supply for a nearby small town. After snapping a few images of the kangaroo we continued down the road, where we spotted a road killed snake. Upon close inspection Bill said it was a brown snake, one of the most deadly snakes in the world. Luckily though, it posed no threat to us. Australia is filled with deadly snakes, spiders, jellyfish and a number of other animals that can kill you. Most Australians, including my daughter, shrug it off and say, “no worries.”
Within minutes of registering at the state campground we launched the boat into the warm, calm waters. Bruce, a friend of Bill’s and Phil’s would join us within the hour, leaving us enough time to explore the lake and look for likely looking bass fishing areas. Blue skies combined with white puffy clouds provided awesome photo subjects as well as areas to cast small diving lures. Bill looked through his tackle box and handed me a small, Australian made purple lure. He said “Bass love purple in this lake.”
At least 100 photos taken and casts made, we headed back to our future campsite, where Bruce patiently waited. Setting up camp could wait, everyone wanted to catch fish, so we headed to a quiet bay to begin trolling around trees. Lake St. Clair provided one of the most scenic bass fishing areas I have ever fished, but still no bass. Bruce suggested we try an area near a small island, where they previously caught fish in years past. Ten minutes later we entered a secluded little bay filled with birds, grazing cows on the hillside and flat calm waters we hoped would be full of bass. With three lures in the water, all purple diving plugs, Bill trolled the shoreline on the edge of the weeds.
My lure got several hits, but unlike largemouth bass in the United States, a quick hook set does not sink hooks home, it rips their lips, literally. The other two anglers aboard had several small bass each to their credit — my score — zero landed. After figuring out the best strategy would be restraint, I finally hooked into my first Australian bass, (Percalates novemaculeata) a 15-incher (380 mm), a whopper by Australia standards.
A school of bass showed on the fish finder, prompting Bill to turn around and go back through the area again. This time I steered the boat while the other two anglers held their rods in hopes of attracting a bite. Bill’s rod doubled first, followed by Bruce reeling his plug to the boat. While reeling his lure Bruce hooked up for a rare Australian bass double header on nice “keeper sized” fish.
All totaled we caught eight bass that afternoon, three of which were considered nice fish by local standards. Unlike bass fishing in the U.S., anglers here often keep their catch and are limited to two fish each, one over 350 mm and one under. All of Lake St. Clair’s bass are planted for the purpose of recreational fishing. And unlike a largemouth or smallmouth bass, these bass don’t spawn in freshwater. These bass only spawn if they can reach saltwater. In Lake St. Clair they just continue to grow without spawning and provide opportunities for the hardcore anglers who purse them. Next chore, clean fish and set up camp for the night.
Bruce had prior engagements and left early Sunday morning, leaving just two of us to fish the early morning bite before heading back to civilization. Minutes after waking up we headed back to the same cove and quickly began catching small bass. We each caught a couple bass and then caught another couple nice sized Australian bass. Seven bass later, Bill says, “I really want you to catch a yellow belly perch, (officially called a Golden Perch) (Macquaria ambigua) lets go troll around the trees.”
Same purple diving plugs, same trolling speed, slightly different area. Perch, Bill explained, love hanging out in and around the flooded trees. Sure enough, his local knowledge paid off when a 1.7 kilo perch slammed my plug and put on a nice shallow water fight. Perch, everyone has told me, taste great, so this fish got filleted and put on ice for the trip home.
All totaled, in one afternoon and one short morning we landed 15 Australian bass and one golden perch. Bill said it was the best two day trip he has ever experienced at Lake St. Clair. He also noted, it was the first double header on Australian bass in his boat. In addition to the fishing, numerous wildlife provided photographic opportunities for my cameras. Here’s a few shots of the spectacular animals and scenes during my short camping trip to Lake St. Clair in New South Wales Australia.
Pair of Australian Eagles
Australian Eagle Takes Off
Echidna foraging along the edge of the river