Hot times kick in
  |  First Published: December 2010

The fishing on the Clarence Coast is warming up nicely along with the weather.

With the transitional months of October and November behind us, the Summer species have started to hit their straps.

The big lady flathead are around in numbers and anglers working lures and live baits from the Middle Wall through to Browns Rocks will encounter some outsized lizards over the next few months.

Even though the river still has some colour in it, the whiting are around in good numbers and sizes. The water is clearing nicely and we are starting to get the odd whiting on poppers again.

Whiting are also suckers for our little polycarbonate blades and it has become a bit of a fad in the area to target them this way, especially in the deeper water around the rock walls and reefs further up river around Maclean.

By the time you read this, they should be back on the flats.


The Christmas break would not be complete without an outing chasing mud crabs.

The river is primed and looking set for a great season. All the tributaries of the lower Clarence will yield their share of crabs.

The best tip I can give you for great results is to use fresh bait.

I don’t know how many times I have been told in the shop by crabbing ‘experts’ that old stinky bait is the key to catching muddies.

Nothing could be further from the truth, though; as any experienced crabber will tell you, the fresher the bait, the more crabs you will trap.

Mullet would be the top of the list, but most fish that have oily flesh will also work. Pilchards work pretty well on the local crabs, too.

Make sure you keep and eye on your traps, though, mud crabs will fetch upwards of $50 a kilo around Christmas so share-farming can be rife. And also check local rules as they vary as you travel upriver.

The ‘other’ crab, the blue swimmer, has been almost non-existent in the Clarence for the past handful of years. Plenty of people have their own theories on what has happened to them, including the offshore trawlers smashing them before they enter the river.

I wrote in this column some time back of my fears for a fishery in serious decline or even collapse, and nothing has changed to allay these fears.

Maybe it is time NSW Fisheries put someone on the case to find out just what has happened to them.

With any luck they will show in good numbers this year and prove me wrong but I’m not holding my breath.


The upside with all the rain in recent seasons is the best breeding conditions for mulloway in many years, and those little soapies that have been around in almost plague proportions are starting to grow up.

Mulloway of 4kg to 6kg are now reasonably common again in the Clarence. It is now more than feasible to target them solely and not come away disappointed.

Jewies are the ultimate lateral-line hunters. It would be fair to say they use their ‘ears’ rather than their eyes more than most other estuary fish and for this reason they are absolute suckers for vibration blades.

Soft plastics are still a great bet and regular readers will know of my love of the 100mm black/gold Squidgy when targeting mulloway, especially in clear water.

But if light conditions are low or the water is discoloured, vibration blades have the ability to pull in fish from a long way. As a bonus, everything else eats them.

With the sea temperature already hitting 23°, one can only assume we are in for a cracking Summer offshore – lord knows, we are due for one!

Whispers are filtering through of mackerel already being caught around the Sunshine Coast and I reckon there is an excellent chance of them showing up in Shark Bay, north of Iluka, this side of Christmas.

All that warm water can be a double-edged sword, though. It can provide us with some fantastic pelagic action or combine with an east coast low and deluge the entire region. Let’s hope we are spared and have a great Summer.


Big River Bait and tackle has a new employee in Joey Urquhart, who comes from a fishing-mad family and has spent the best part of his life fishing the Northern Rivers region.

Bream and bass on lures and fly are his favourite fishing and for an 18-year-old he has a lot of experience under his belt. Joe has already become a regular face on the ABT bream and bass circuit, he was a top 10 boater at the Clarence Super Series and has qualified for several BREAM and BASS grand finals in recent years and a big win can’t be far away.

He gets ups into the granite country chasing big Murray cod a fair bit and has also put some time in on tropical speedsters and has an impressive photo portfolio of big mackerel, golden trevally, barra, queenies and the like. ‘

Best of all, he is a likable young bloke, loves a joke and is always quick to pass on knowledge to a customer, young or old. If we can only stop him from burning out!

Since he moved to Maclean, he fishes most mornings and every afternoon (weather permitting), which bodes well for our customers as he has his finger right on the Clarence’s pulse.

Drop in for a chat and you may be surprised to find this young dog can teach an old one a few new tricks.

• For all the latest info call in and see us at Big River Bait & Tackle, 16 River St, Maclean, phone 02 6645 1834. Country service with city prices.



Many kids experience their first fishing trip over the Chrissy hols. As a father who has been through it, I know how important it is to have patience with young fishers.

Don’t turn it into a big drama, they are going to get bored, they are going to submerge your reel in saltwater, they will throw mud at you, they will get phantom bites every two seconds, they are going to tangle your line, eat the filling out of your sandwiches and backwash it in the drink bottle.

On the plus side, as long as you remain calm and don’t ruin the experience, they will want to go back and do it again, often.

And I know from experience that mums never stop dads going fishing if they have the kids in tow! – PK

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