As we edge into Summer, there are strong signs of good things to come.
Out wide and just north of us, there's bath-warm water holding some exciting pelagics. Mates heading out wide say the water is up to 26° and holding plenty of bait, some nice striped and blue marlin and some good mahi mahi.
‘Out wide’ for these guys is towards the canyons about 30km out, so a little too far in my little trailer boat, but it's a good sign we may get some good water with fish in it this Summer.
We should find as the days slip by the royal blue stuff will edge its way towards the shore, hitting the shore by January and hopefully full of marlin, cobia, wahoo and the like. Fingers crossed!
A little closer to shore, a pretty good run of snapper has been taking place. As usual, most of the action is on those northern reefs between Grassy Head and Scotts, with a few keen anglers heading further up towards Nambucca.
There's a lot of good country from Grassy Head north – enough to find some nice fish if you sound around a little looking for good patches of reef and schools of baitfish.
Lure or bait will work fine, just go nice and early or in the afternoons to get the best results.
The Macleay River is fishing reasonably well, though it's not hard to see the fish stocks dwindling every year.
There's been a noticeable drop in all common recreational species, with the exception of bass.
Funny, that – bass are the only species not commercially targeted. I blame a combination of heavy beach hauling and unregulated estuary netting.
No doubt some valuable breeding fish are taken by recreational anglers but compared with the netters, the figures are hardly worth a mention.
In the saltwater end of the river you can still find some nice flathead, a few school jewfish and the last remaining bream. There should be noticeable whiting active up on the flats, so for those like flicking small surface plugs around, now is the time to stock up on some proven stickbaits, cup-faced poppers and fizzers.
Those keen on targeting bass should find the fish keen hit to any number of lures from now to late April. The Macleay is a reasonably large river so there's plenty of water to explore from Kempsey to well above the famous Bass Lodge up at Gorges Junction.
Those heading south have found numbers of kingfish at Fish Rock but by the time you read this report, this iconic chunk of rock – along with nearby Green Island and a fair section of headland between Smoky Cape and North Gap –looks like being closed to most forms of fishing.
The closure (in whatever form it finally ends up) is to do with protecting the ‘critically endangered’ grey nurse shark. So, since about 12 nurse sharks are reputed to be killed in NSW by recreational anglers annually (!) we're getting even tighter restrictions.
Apparently numbers are getting fewer every year, as the so-called highly accurate studies show. Apparently the best way to work out exactly how many nurse sharks are left is to dive at random spots and count the ones you see. And lowering a camera down with a bait near it will also give you precise figures.
Bear in mind this is all in sub-30m of water and I'm sure nurse sharks live in deeper water than that.
Anyway, from Mooloolaba in Queensland right around the southern half of Australia up to Shark Bay in WA, the ‘studies’ have shown there are less than 3000 left (funny, there were only 500 left in a previous ‘accurate’ study).
The figures I&I Fisheries like to bandy around are about as accurate as guessing the population of Australia by counting the people you see walking around in a few selected coastal towns.
No one knows how many nurse sharks are left and no one ever will. By making major decisions that affect the livelihood of struggling coastal towns like South West Rocks and Hat Head based only on guesstimates is a joke!
It gets worse: We actually paid for the studies with our licence money, all $442,662 and steadily rising.
A better allocation of trust funds, and one that actually will help fish stocks, would be to buy out beach haulers, estuary netters and employ more Fisheries officers to police the regulations.
Those who sit on the recreational fishing saltwater trust expenditure committee (RFSTEC) should hang their heads in shame for wasting so much of our hard-earned licence money.
This whole grey nurse shark debate is a farce and the shark is just a convenient tool to lock anglers out of prime fishing locations so they can become the sole domain of very pushy organized dive groups. Recreational anglers –despite overwhelming numbers –are totally factionalised and marginalised and have become easy targets for those that want to lock up large chunks of coastline.
We're basically being clubbed with the good old grey nurse shark whacking stick – and we paid for it.
If you feel ripped off, you should be. Voice your concerns to Steve Whan at --e-mail address hidden--
If the new laws are in by the time you read this, there may be hope of reversing the decision at the next election. Member for Oxley Andrew Stoner recently said, “The Nationals and Liberals will be happy to review the regulations if elected to Government next March”.