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Focus turns to mackerel
  |  First Published: March 2013



It's good when a prediction in this column in previous issues comes true and, pretty well right on cue, the baby black marlin began pouring onto the reefs at South West Rocks.

The Jail Ground was, as usual, the place to be, with numbers of marlin not seen for seven years.

Good timing meant the holidays and minimal wind and swell coincided so plenty of boats were out targeting these great inshore game fish. One day I counted 70 and most days at least 10-20 were on the water looking for action.

Amazingly most scored fish daily, with the hook ups coming regularly.

Some wild weather after Australia Day slowed things down a bit but this month the blue water should be back hitting the ocean rocks and a few marlin should be poking around on the Jail Ground and down around Fish Rock.

The second the marlin go a little quiet, most locals and holidaymakers tend to switch focus and it's time to think mackerel.

The reefs to the north off Grassy Head and Scotts Head are the prime places to head.

But between these two systems there is plenty of broken reef which, on its day, can fire for mackerel, especially Spanish.

Strangely, these reefs, despite being in a direct line between the two main mackerel reefs, hold very few spotted mackerel. Sure, you'll get the odd fish if you hunt around but the spotties definitely prefer the reef just off Grassy Head and the main hump of reef 500m off Scotts.

Fingers crossed that this stream of warm water will continue to sweep down some other exciting northern speedsters.

There are not many anglers who don't get a thrill when a wahoo strikes a bait or lure. In the past when we've had good runs of marlin and mackerel it's usually fair to say we'll get some wahoo action also.

RIVER FLATHEAD

In the Macleay River the focus has been flathead.

Due to some seriously heavy netting a few years back many of the big breeders were scooped out, leaving the Macleay little more than an empty drain. But this year it seems a few of the big flathead this system was renowned for have made a return.

As usual, it's the lower walls with their strong tidal flow and good bait supplies that tend to hold the bigger fish. Hard places to fish, but the results can be terrific.

Most anglers however opt for the less challenging country and hit the tidal flats and drop-offs up towards Stuarts Point.

While there are usually plenty of flathead up that way the size is usually much smaller than the main system. But if you’re primarily after a feed of tasty fish, these 1kg-2kg fish are as good as it gets.

The Macleay was also renowned for its jewfish population and thankfully this season there's certainly been a return of fish numbers.

Don't get too excited, though, I'm only talking 1kg-3kg schoolies.

They’re fun to catch on light gear and quite tasty, but the bigger fish have still been netted into oblivion. Unless DPI Fisheries get serious about mulloway stocks and beach hauling, you can expect these glorious, once-abundant fish to be a thing of the past.

Bream numbers haven't been too bad, with those keen on lure fishing having some good days up-river fishing the small feeder creeks off the Stuarts Point Arm or the less tidal, shallower rock walls towards Smithtown and beyond.

There are miles of good bream country on the Macleay; it's all a matter of minding the sections with the largest concentrations of bait. No bait, no bream, it's that simple.

Further up-river again and you're into bass country. This year has been great for these fantastic sport fish.

One thing in the basses’ favour is that no netters (that I know of) hit the freshwater sections for them so our stocks of bass are just as healthy as I recall them to have been 20-odd years ago.

The Macleay is a big river with plenty of bait and hidey holes up in the freshwater sections and with very few serious anglers working these waters, bass have the opportunity to grow big and healthy in the clean, swift waters.

The bass fishery is in great shape; pity the saltwater end of the system is so neglected and mismanaged.

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