For the anglers of the Manning Valley 2012 was very different year from normal.
We experienced heavy rain in the early part of the year, including several freshes that discoloured the river, then practically no rain for the last three months of the year.
The Manning remains very salty right up to Wingham, allowing the fish to migrate up the river more easily.
There have been schools of garfish scattering on the surface up above Taree. Tailor are the main reason that the gars are a bit skittish but school jewies are also riding herd on the schools.
Large schools of mullet are forming up in the upper saltwater reaches. It is very early for this to happen and it could be because of the lack of fresh water.
The mullet have also been very active in the freshwater parts of the Manning, with reports of fish schooling in all parts of the river.
This year should be a beauty for all types of angling because of the availability of heaps of food fish for the big predators.
Flathead have really come on the bite and most anglers have been able to bag a few.
There have been some larger fish caught and most have been released to shed their eggs and increase the flathead population. The flatties are taking live bait and soft plastics, with some also falling to yabbies fished for bream and whiting.
Whiting are the most popular fish in the estuary at present and are taking fresh yabbies and beach worms.
The spit at the end of the sea wall and the backwater are the best spots to try for a feed of these tasty little scrappers.
School jewfish continue to take soft plastics up river around the buoy and up the Lansdowne River.
Results from the beaches have varied depending on the various winds.
When the southerlies blow nothing much is caught but when the north-easterlies return or there is no wind, the fish are on.
Tailor have been scarce but salmon and school jew have been taken when the conditions have been right.
Some of the schoolies have been up to 1m long and have taken beach worms and pilchards. Some days they would take only pilchards and on others, worms were the go.
The rocks at Crowdy Head and Diamond Head have continued to produce plenty of small to medium drummer. It is very rare to get a 3kg fish nowadays.
Snapper continue to be the mainstay outside catches with 1kg-4kg fish hitting bait and soft plastics.
The plastics are taking fish in areas where bait does not work. Bait works better when berley is used.
Mostly small trag have been caught on the northern grounds but pearl perch are also on the bite up north.
February is the time for big flathead, mulloway and big tailor.
The big tailor arrive around the third week of the month and are caught by spinning the rocks with metal lures or large garfish or by fishing the beach very early in the morning with slab baits.
Luderick will be on the bite in the estuary in the day on weed and on yabbies at night.
Flathead are easier to catch during the day but they will still take a bait at night. There are plenty of anglers who have got a run from a supposed jewfish and finished up with a 7kg flathead instead.
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