The brown water blues
  |  First Published: April 2012

Much of the past month has been a bit of a write-off, thanks to nearly 300mm of rain over a week or so. Pretty well every river on the North Coast was a raging torrent of brown soup.

And while this had a dramatic effort on the local estuary fishing, it also played hell on the inshore reefs.

The timing couldn't have been worse. We'd just got over the last brown torrent and even a few mackerel had hit the inshore reefs, plus cobia and billfish.

While it hasn't rained for over three weeks now, the brown water continues to spill from many of the bigger systems. It will take a fair while to return to normal and I’m hoping it just stays away for a few more weeks yet.

No rain and we should see the start of the recovery fishing, with many fish in the lower reaches of the systems and a slow return to inshore pelagic species like mackerel and cobia.

Those brave enough to fish the brown water of the Macleay River reported very little action. We fully expected a few jewfish at the river mouth, but nothing came.

We've had so many floods lately they're probably bored with waiting at the river mouth.

I did hear of a few bream around the mouth and as far up as the main boat ramp, but that's about it.

As crap as last month was, this month (assuming it doesn't bloody rain!) we should have a late run on the flathead and a big hit of action as the bream push in the lower reaches.

The rock walls below Jerseyville to the mouth will be the zone to fish. I wouldn't waste my time heading too far up river – unless you head way up into the freshwater above Kempsey.

While the jewfish failed to fire, I do suspect there are a few hugging the lower walls. Some live-baiting or lure casting after dark may pull a fish here and there, especially o the top of the tide. Low tide will be stinky brown for weeks to come.

As I suggested earlier, heading way up-river might be a good move.

You'll have to get a fair way above Kempsey but you should find some nice clean bass water again.

Bass are hardy, aggressive fish, and even after 8m of water has been ripping over their heads they will be out and about looking for a feed as soon as it settles a tad.

By now those lovely clean freshwater pools should be fishing nicely. But don't leave it too late or you'll find the cooling weather will slow the fish right down.


Those brave enough to venture out to sea have headed wide looking for clean water. Those running skirted lures have scored a few blue and black marlin plus some solid mahi mahi.

At this time of year there's usually pretty well every exciting pelagic species you can think of but the brown water has sent most out wide.

Having said this, one species that doesn't mind a little discoloured water is the Spanish mackerel. There were reports of fish caught before the flood and there still should be a few up on the northern reefs.

Even if the ones that were there have bailed, there's probably a new lot that's heading south after the floods.

Apparently spotted mackerel are being caught, though in minimal numbers. Again, they could fire up any time with a new influx of travelling fish.

I spoke to a few guys that headed down to Fish Rock last week. They said the water was clean and 25°. They caught a few just-legal (65cm) kings and had some fun on ‘jellybean’ yellowfin tuna.

This combination of small tuna and bath-warm water spells wahoo, so if you like running skirted lures and bibless minnows in search of these amazing northern speedsters, now is prime to do it.

If you'd sooner chase a few big snapper and look for a cobia, head over to Black Rock and set up a berley trail on the southern side of the rock. Spanish mackerel are also known to frequent Black Rock, so if you're timing is good you could have a pretty exciting day down south.

It's been a tough four weeks around here but if the rains stay away there's no reason why we won't have a late run on inshore game species.

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