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Plenty to be happy about
  |  First Published: May 2012



We had a pretty tough time over the ‘Summer’ months with seemingly endless rain and unusually cool temps, but the change of season has brought a vast improvement in weather and fishing.

So far Autumn has lived up to its reputation for calm, stable weather and good fishing, with estuary and offshore action showing vast improvement.

Brown water seemed to spill from the Macleay River for months, with much of it covering the inshore mackerel grounds. While a sprinkling of Spanish mackerel on the reefs didn't seem to care, the good schools of spotties couldn’t leave quick enough.

Now, with clean water on the reefs again, the spotted mackerel are back in force – but for not much longer. If you're keen to target these terrific-fighting, great-tasting sport fish, now is the time to do it.

Those keen for a Spanish mackerel could do a lot worse things than by-pass the traditional grounds off Grassy and Scotts Head and shoot down to Hat Head. The run of Spanish mackerel and cobia off Korogoro Point there is worth the effort.

There have been some great Spanish caught, with the biggest I've heard so far going 28kg. Slow trolling live or dead bonito is as good a way as any to tempt these northern speedsters.

Those keener on catching a few snapper are coming home with decent bags. The recognised northern mackerel reefs between Scotts and Grassy are fishing quite well, especially out in 140’ or so.

Black Rock and Fish Rock are also well worth a visit for reds. Some real thumpers come from these spots at this time of year but it's usually the early bird who gets the worm.

Back a little closer to shore, it seems the first of the inshore run of bream and tailor have arrived, with anglers flicking whole pilchards and cut pieces reporting some quality bream and decent-sized tailor in the headland washes.

Over the next few months we will see a real increase in bream and tailor along the open beaches and headlands. The main hurdle they have to pass is the inshore beach haulers.

Sadly, the entire run is often governed by netting conditions – nice calm weather and most will be netted; big swell and rough conditions and we will see good numbers of fish right through until Spring and beyond.

RIVER REVIVES

In the Macleay River there are surprising numbers of bream but no real monsters.

The floods seem to have pushed many species closer to the river mouth and from Jerseyville bridge to the mouth is really quite alive.

The past few sessions I've had spinning the walls for bream has been quite productive, though most are under the legal size of 25cm.

I’m hoping the numbers remain and the size increases with the new influx of spawn-run bream off the beaches in the next few weeks.

Mulloway have been steady though as most locals know, the average size of the local fish is tiny compared with only a few years ago. So while the average jewfish is one-fifth as large as it used to be, it is still possible to catch them each day.

Heavy bream gear (a 3-4kg spin stick) is really all that's need to make them fun again.

Flathead are another species that has shrunk alarmingly in recent years. Only a few years back 10lb (4.5kg) flathead were very common on the Macleay; now the average ‘big’ fish is around 1-2kg.

Don't get me wrong, you can still catch mulloway and flathead daily, it's just bewildering how much the average size has shrunk in the past five years or so.

With a bit of luck DPI Fisheries will begin to take the decline seriously and act on it, ideally making the Macleay River a recreational-only river system like the thriving Hastings River to the south.

Until something is done about the dramatic decline in the Macleay you have to either accept the current state of the fish stocks or drive the 160km round trip to Port Macquarie to experience good fishing again.

You can do a lot worse things than contact Fisheries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson at --e-mail address hidden-- The more people politely asking for something to be done, the more chance this wonderful river has to slowly return to its former glory.

Those keen on bass fishing are running out of legal days to target them. Once we hit Winter they are basically off-limits until September 1. While it's not illegal to actually catch one, you just can't have any in possession and have to release any accidentally caught.

Anyway, we've got a bit of time left and they're still pretty keen to belt lures so get out there.

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