Brown-water blues
  |  First Published: April 2013

It seems it's pretty hard to jag a win around here lately. As soon as one flood ends, another starts.

And as that one begins to fade, another tropical low forms up to the north.

The past month has been a shocker and the only real joy has been for the guys throwing big lures off the end off the breakwall.

Between the last solid fresh in early February and the one just past (it's hard to keep up with them all!) we had a highly welcomed and unexpected inshore on marlin and cobia.

The Jail Grounds turned blue again and the bait returned. Only a few anglers thought to try for game fish and those very few got some great cobia around 25kg and some fun-sized black marlin pushing 70kg.

The cobia usually take up residence around the 11-fathom reef about 200m east of the Jail Breakwall, and down at Green Island. This short but torrid run was no different.

Whilst this latest stream of brown water pouring out of the Macleay is sure to upset the marlin, it’s fair to say the cobia should be back in numbers as soon as it clears a tad. At this stage I’d say early May –as long as it doesn't bloody rain again!

For many boat crews, the thought of more brown-water fishing sent them out wide and, thankfully, some solid mahi mahi have called the Fisheries FAD home.

Most of them were female, which I guess isn't that unusual, but an average size of 10kg had many anglers smiling. Usually we have to sift through the kilo-sized rat females to find a rare solid male, so the run of bigger mahi was most welcomed.


So here we have brown water pouring out off the Macleay again, so many locals and a few holidaymakers have broken out the big gear and are throwing big hardbodies off the walls.

While this is certainly a great time to target sizable mulloway, there's no guarantee the fish will play the game, or even be waiting at the end of the wall. During some floods they simply don't show in numbers, although usually there’s a few fish around to justify the effort.

There are keys to successful jew spinning during these flood periods.

Hope that there's bait at the end of the wall and fish around the tide changes.

Be persistent and use good-quality tackle and lures.

It's amazing how even when the river appears to have no tide change due to the endless brown water pouring out, somehow the jewfish seem to know when the tidal change is, even in a torrent that doesn't stop flowing out for days.

We've had sessions where you arrive too early, due to wanting to get pole position on the wall and being over anxious. Then you put in three hours for squat.

All of a sudden, you get a bump on the lure and then next throw, whomp! and you're on.

The next hour is all action, with hooked and dropped fish and a few landed.

Then you go home and check the tide chart and that first bump was within 20 minutes of the tide change.

I’ve always had the theory that you'd catch jew on either the first, third or 33rd cast while breakwall spinning during floods. The reasoning was they were either there waiting (first cast) or you had to put in a few hours and hope they showed (33rd cast).

The importance of good tackle can't be underplayed. I've seen plenty of anglers head down to the wall during a flood with floppy surf rods, rusty old reels with hardly any line and a lure that's either falling apart or soon will be.

Flood mulloway seem to run around 10kg-25kg and soon sort out the crap gear from the good stuff.

While you don't need a $2000 outfit to consistently pull fish, you certainly can't expect to go home with quality fish with rubbish gear from the local pawn shop or a cheap holiday combo from the tackle store. If you want any hope, buy good gear (rods, reels, line and lures) and listen to what any seasoned local wall spinner has to tell you.


So the flood killed off the mackerel run, the inshore marlin and even pushed the quite tolerant cobia farther afield. The bright news is that once the water clears, it will be game on.

The marlin might be all over bar the shouting but I'd put money on the cobia and the odd Spanish mackerel reappearing.

Add some good snapper coming in to check out the bait over the inshore reefs and you can still expect some fun ocean fishing.

The headlands will also be alive with the many fish pushed out of the river.

As for the river, well, fish the lower reaches on the high tides and eventually you will see some return of the bream, blackfish, whiting and flathead.

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