Waiting for the mackerel
  |  First Published: December 2006

With water temps around 20° to 21° in early December, we have not seen any numbers of early season mackerel. The best of the warm water has been passing well offshore and only the larger boats have been able to access the fish.

But those after mackerel over the holidays should expect the water to be pushing 23° or 24° and once this water pushes into the coast, so will the bait and mackerel. Top Nob Reef, due north of Woody Head, is the best place to start looking for these fish.

The traditional local methods of catching spotted mackerel are with livebait fished at varying depths or with trolled pink squid lures. I like to use pink squid first to find where the mackerel are schooling up and then change to livebait so I can target the larger fish.

Those quality snapper over the cooler months have slowed down with only skilled anglers still producing results. Fishos using soft plastics have had the best of the snapper this year with the Berkley Gulp 3” Shrimp in nuclear chicken colour doing the damage.

With the snapper now being a bit slow, the average size has been between 1kg and 2kg with not many fish over 5kg. So if you’re planing a trip offshore over the holidays you will find the best of the snapper on the wider grounds with mostly small fish on the inshore reefs.

The headlands and beaches have started producing quality fish. The run of whiting and mullet along the beaches has started with good numbers coming from the rocky corners. The whiting are best caught using beach worms and taking time to move around and find the fish will bring the best results.

Jewfish to 18kg are still on the chew with the beaches and the headlands producing well. Best baits have been live mullet or large hard lures fished at night or on the tide change.

Big tailor and trevally have started moving in, chasing the mullet and whiting. Some of those big tailor have been 5kg and are feeding mainly at night. The protected rocky corners are where the action usually is this time of year for jew, tailor and whiting, with a rising tide best. But if the fish are on the bite they will feed all through the tide.


In the river the action has been heating up with whiting starting schooling up in big numbers. Best action is on the run-out tide on a dark night in the deep channels or the rising tide during the day over the sandy flats. At night Oyster Channel and Goodwood Island are the places to be with the sand flats in the North Arm and around Turkey Island my choice during the day.

School flathead have been on the bite between Harwood and the Broadwater with white pillies producing the best results. Those using live herring and large soft plastics are catching the better fish along the walls at the mouth of the river.

Fishos using large soft plastics for Jew have had a great year with the bridges and the deep holes regularly producing fish to 10kg. The bridges around the slack tide have been the best bet.

Mangrove jacks are on the chew with Yamba boat harbour producing fish to 4kg. Around MacLean the average fish should be around 1.5kg and surface poppers worked on the last and first hours of daylight working well. At night live herring fished on the surface will produce fish, as will a rattling hard lure worked with a hard stop start motion.

Anyone looking for an updated report on these fish should contact Paul Kneller at Big River Bait and Tackle on 02 6645 1834.

This Christmas a good feed of mud crabs is on for those willing to take the time to set their pots up the small creeks and drains. This is where the best of the muddies have been hiding and there have been some crackers.

The sand crabs have been a little harder to find in big numbers but with the water quality improving every tide now, better catches are coming from the lower reaches.

Have a fantastic New Year with lots of good fishing over the holidays.



1. Fish early morning, late afternoon and into the night to avoid the sun and the crowds.

2. Shop til you drop in the middle of the day but don’t forget to have a daytime siesta before the afternoon fishing session.

3. Get good advice from your local tackle shop before you go fishing.

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