Australian Bass - Macquaria novemaculeata
Did you know? Only the females of this species inhabit upstream, males generally stay in the lower reaches of rivers, including fresh and brackish water.
Sustainability and stock status
Wild river bass populations have unfortunately declined. Man made structures like weirs and dams have affected the natural breeding of this species because they inhibit access to and from upstream habitat. Ideally, fish barriers need to be removed where possible, or if not, then fish ladders need to be installed to provide wild river bass better opportunity to travel freely.
Deep Hooking is a major factor for reduced survival in released Australian Bass. For this reason it is recommended to use lures for this species. However, if you do want to use bait, then use straight shank (non-offset) barbless circle hooks.
There are closure periods for Australian Bass in NSW and QLD. Size and bag limits also apply, check your state authority for further information.
Found on the east coast of Australia from Gippsland in Victoria to Southern Queensland. During the day they inhabit structure such as submerged trees, fallen logs and branches, undercut banks, rocky outcrops, steep drop offs, overhanging branches or bushes, reeds and weed-beds. At night they will leave their snaggy homes to hunt. They tend to favour deeper waters but I have personally witnessed bass hunting in water as shallow as 30cm.
Biology, behavioural characteristics and time of year
Australian Bass are olive green to light gold and silver in colour, with an oval shaped body and forked tail fin. They are commonly confused with Estuary Perch. Aussie Bass can grow to around 60cm and 4kg. A 50cm wild bass in the rivers or creeks weighs approximately 2.5kg and is considered a "trophy" fish because landing a bass of that size amongst "snaggy" habitat can be challenging.
Australian Bass are born in saltwater, then migrate into freshwater as juveniles where they grow into adults before migrating back to saltwater to spawn. From May to September they journey on a downstream spawning migration to estuaries. October to April they return back to their freshwater haunts. They are very strong swimmers and a highly regarded sports fish. The best time to chase this species is September to April.
Fishing gear and techniques
Australian Bass are a great species to target with artificial baits like hardbody lures, spinners, flies and soft plastics. Bass are a superb sports fish and can provide an intense tussle, especially when hooked near structure. They also provide great excitement when using surface lures.
Aussie Bass usually prey on small fish, crustaceans and insects. But will also eat small frogs and lizards if they venture into the strike zone of a hungry bass.
Baitcast and Spinning outfits are a good choice for bass. A Baitcast setup consisting of a 5'10" to 6'2" baitcast rod, light to medium action and fast taper matched with and a low profile baitcast reel is recommended. Or for a spin outfit, a 6'4" to 7' spin rod, light to medium action, fast taper and 2-6kg line rating paired with a 2500 sized spin reel should cover most bases. A braid mainline of 2 to 6kg and a Monofilament or Fluorocarbon leader of 3 to 7kg will handle most bass unless you are fishing amongst very dense and abrasive structure, then you might need to go a little heavier in line class. It is also recommended to use barbless hooks (just flatten barbs with pliers) to reduce the potential of damaging fish.
Australian Bass have been stocked into many dams throughout NSW and QLD and grow to very large and heavy specimens; these fish present a wonderful option for fishermen without placing pressure on wild fish stocks. Bass can be caught at anytime but dawn, dusk and night are your best options to hook some.
Killing and cookingCatch and Release fishing practices are recommended for this species but if you are going to take one for a feed then be sure to kill the fish humanely using the iki jime method.
Top photo source: Codman / Wikimedia Commons