Most welcome by-catch
  |  First Published: February 2013

The run of small black marlin working their way down the coast close to shore has been the talk of the Summer and over the past month or so there have been many caught on the inshore reefs.

A lot of these fish were caught by anglers targeting mackerel and kingfish. Marlin have been caught on jigs, live bait and hardbody lures as well as your standard trolling skirts.

If you haven’t caught a marlin before and don’t have all the big gear, this is probably the time to give it a go.

Try trolling live slimy mackerel around any of the inshore reefs where bait is hanging around. These marlin are mostly 20kg-50kg so they can be knocked over on lighter gear and there are also plenty of other pelagics that will go for a trolled live bait.


Longtail tuna have also been working their way down the coast. They are usually a bit behind the mackerel and billfish but it’s this month that they should start to arrive in numbers.

It’s very much a case of matching the hatch for these guys, which can become very focused on a particular size of baitfish that they are targeting. If you can work out what they’re eating and match your lure with the bait, a longtail is far more likely to jump on your line.

For all the Summer pelagics the best bet is to chase the warm water and the bait. If you find both, you should find the predators.

Reefs like Bullocky, Macauleys, Whitmores and the Patches are some of the top prospecting grounds around the inshore systems.

Try trolling hard lures or live bait along the drop-offs and pinnacles. Floating out a pillie or slimy mackerel is also a method that has been catching many fish at the moment.

The islands further north are also well worth a troll for some monster kingfish that have been patrolling the washes of most islands and exposed reefs.

On the beaches the whiting should be in full swing and the hot evenings this Summer means that barefoot at the beach is about the best place to be during those muggy afternoons. Boambee Beach is 4WD accessible, which means you can get away from the crowds and find a good gutter to park on.


The whiting aren’t all hanging at the beach; many have been caught on poppers in our estuaries.

The flats up the Bellinger River are a great place to give it a try. Target flats from 2’-6’ deep with patches of weed and sand. Use clear poppers and remember to keep the lure moving fast until you feel a hook-up.

Elsewhere in the estuaries there have been decent numbers of mangrove jacks and some good-sized giant trevally.

Live-baiting around the snags at night is bringing the most strikes, although most end up in bust-offs if you’re not on the ball. All the local creeks harbour jacks and trevally.

If you’re really after a challenge try live-baiting in the Coffs Harbour Marina. There are some very large jacks and GTs that call this place home as well as mulloway, bonito, tailor, kingfish, cobia, bream, whiting and flathead.

It’s always exciting at the marina because you never know what you’ll catch next.


The bass fishing has definitely picked up since the cicadas have come out to sing. There are a lot of smaller bass in the local systems at the moment so it may be worth using a larger lure to try to attract one of the bigger specimens.

As with the jacks and trevally, all local creeks are holding bass; look for snaggy sections in the freshwater reaches.

Major systems like the Bellinger and Orara obviously hold more fish than the smaller creeks so are the most reliable.

For the rock fisher, Summer can be a great chance to land a variety of fish that wouldn’t normally be around.

Mackerel, longtail tuna, bonito and even marlin will be on the cards this month.

Floating live bait off the rocky ledges and rock walls around the harbour is one of the best bets for a big fish off the stones.

No matter what technique and style you fish, there should be a little something for everyone this month.

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