Anglers Insights - Hunting under the Dark with Nathan
Intro – G’day, my name’s Nathan Shaw or my mates call me Noods. I am a part-time lure angler and part-time FIFO worker from the Gold Coast. Working a “fly in fly out” position for the past couple of years has really allowed me to expand my areas of interest from the northern impoundments to shallow creek systems, as far south as Port Macquarie. Fishing these systems and impoundments mid-week and especially in the hours of darkness has a massive advantage on pressured fish.
My main target is chasing Mulloway here on the Gold Coast and surrounding systems, with a slight addiction to salt and freshwater Barramundi when I’m on the road travelling north.
The cover of darkness presents a whole new realm to fishing. It’s obvious many species feed during these hours. Let’s start; why darkness?
I believe the angler has been dealt a card in his favour, generally, the wind has eased to lake-like conditions, all boat traffic has ceased and your local lure angler has scooted back to the ramp for dinner at grandma’s place. Just as the system kicks into survival mode for the less fortunate and hunting mode for most.
Our bodies go into overdrive, all the sensors are listening and feeling the soundings of darkness. There’s something about that solid ‘thud’ that hits your paddle tail in pitch-black darkness, that brings me back out on the water, night after night.
Do you notice a difference in the way a fish hunts or sits during the night or low light periods?
Many species like the barramundi and mulloway will use the cover of darkness as a extra safeguard. They will move on from structures they hold on during the day and start to let down their predatory guard, focusing on shallow water and light sources in search of food. The larger predators of the system will always move freer under darkness.
These larger predators are using the cover of dark to their advantage, I guess you’re doing the same. How does the darkness advantage your fishing?
You will find the larger predators are in predictable locations, that has to be the main advantage of darkness. It’s all about “stealth”. We aren’t talking your gentlemen’s hours, sunset to 8 pm, it’s midnight onwards. I do the majority of my fishing solo and these fish will detect you 10x easier at night, so I keep the noise to bare minimum. I will drift if I can, but if I can’t I will never be spinning my electric past half speed. Even in some cases, I switch off the sounder after I have located the fish-holding area, to reduce any dreaded transducer ping.
Are there any key points, bridges or lighting you are focusing on when chasing fish at night? Or is it more reliant on bait presence?
Jewies and barra share the same hunting instincts under the cover of darkness. Common places would be back eddies, sand drop-offs, bridges, pressure edges, rock walls but the huge factor is light. Natural light, man-made light or light-lines. These large predatory fish will not be far, usually sitting undetected just out of sight waiting patiently for the confused bait to push into his line of fire. Just like the mulloway will use the foamy wash around stones to hunt Mullet during daylight hours.
How important is knowing the area you want to fish?
It is paramount to have an intimate understating of the system you’re fishing or area you are targeting. This only comes via exploration, time spent on the water, watching your electronics and paying attention to the land. Especially for hunting during no moon periods as you run the risk of grounding or running into submerged rock bars if you aren’t familiar with the area. Once you begin to work out your preferred area, you can apply that understanding to other systems
You mentioned a lot of your fishing is done by yourself, how do you achieve these images you’re showing.
Majority of my images are taken through self-timer, there is special art to self-timer photos, I’m sure most will agree. Using a camera with a flip screen while mounted on a tripod is the key, most cameras come with WiFi or Bluetooth options these days, so remote shooting via apps also helps. Remember to set your camera up before you get out on the water to reduce time
while the fish is out of the water.
Do colours and vibrations between lures affect your success?
Mulloway are certainly a very vibration reactive fish, same as Barramundi and jacks to an extent. I don’t feel colour plays too much of a part compared to silhouette and presentation especially under those inky black nights around a new moon, where minimal light penetrates the water. Almost always I will select a silent lure over a rattling or noisy lure, might be more of a confidence thing, but what fish “rattles” haha.
Are you favouring certain days when choosing your sessions?
There’s plenty of anglers that carry many more pieces to the puzzle than myself but I believe the effects of high boat traffic and weekend pressure does play a part in these predators movements. Outboards roaring up and down the river, send both barra and jew into a shutdown phase, no doubt you can still convert these fish if you present that lure correctly.
In saying that I will focus my time towards the end of the working week, when these fish have had a few days to move and feed without heavy pressure and boat traffic. Mix that in with your known bite times early in the AM and you’ll be surprised how aggressive these fish can feed.
What’s your most memorable catch from a night session?
It would be an unforgettable session with my good mate Nick Magnuson. A couple of fishless sessions went by in a system not well known by both of us. Finding a likely large fish-holding area, we noticed a frantic school of mullet peaking out more than your cooked mate at a bush doof. So we aim focused here and it didn’t take long and I got ‘Crunched ‘my line peeling 30 meters upriver at what felt like a small car towing us around. After a couple of heart dropping moments, a 137cm mulloway was wrangled onto the deck!
WRITTEN AND EXPERIENCED BY NATHAN SHAW