Over the past fortnight my fishing schedule has been fast and furious with freshwater, rock, beach and offshore all making it onto my radar.
With a few mackerel starting to show up I ventured offshore in my 4m V-nosed punt a few days ago and although the water looked a reasonable colour, the baitfish and mackerel proved very elusive. In the end we resorted to trolling lures in close with only kingfish and tailor showing any interest in our offerings.
With the mackerel playing hard to get there are plenty of just legal kings around the island washes with well-cast lures, live and whole fish baits proving the undoing of many a baby hoodlum. Further offshore on the reefs to 50m there have been bigger kings and samson fish to 15kg that are taking a real interest in jigs and live baits.
I flew down to Sydney with marlin guru John Ashley a few weeks back and he told me of the great blue marlin fishing to be had along the continental shelf at Coffs Harbour. John also said that the snapper fishing had been really poor during early Summer with a cold green current shutting the fishing down to a trickle of pan-sized fish.
Jewfish and big tailor have been patrolling the deeper beach gutters with the period either side of high tide producing the most consistent fishing. The best tailor I've heard of has been just over 4kg and there have been plenty of jew from 4kg to 10kg taking worm and cut fish baits such as mullet and tailor.
Most of the best beach fishing has been taking place from Sapphire through to Woolgoolga with the sheer numbers of people fishing over the holiday period guaranteeing that some quality fish were caught.
Around the ocean rocks there have been black drummer and bream taking prawn, bread and cunje baits with the broken headland area around Diggers Beach and Charlesworth Bay proving popular and successful.
I saw a nice 1.5kg snapper caught by a rock fisherman a few days ago while fishing the rocks at Korora with crab for groper.
I just walked out onto Charlesworth Headland and saw a massive school of frog-mouthed pilchards had moved into the beach gutters with several big bronze whalers working the edges. Last Summer these big pilchard schools brought yellowfin tuna to 20kg inshore, so LBG and small boat sport fishos might find themselves on the end of a sizzling ’fin hook-up over the next month.
In the estuaries we've been targeting flathead downstream on soft plastics and bream upstream on surface poppers. We came home with eight keeper flathead to 1.5kg and three keeper bream to 32cm from the Mylestom stretch of the Bellinger River. Patient casting to the bankside structure and bridge pylons produced the fish.
Farther upstream, anglers throwing small poppers under the overhanging trees have been having a ball catching and releasing dozens of bream and some trevally. Mangrove jacks and trevally have been harder to find on lures with livebait being the most productive method for this specialist form of estuary fishing.
In the freshwater there have been plenty of anglers chasing bass with dozens of canoes daily fishing small creeks that I would normally not see anyone on outside the holiday period. Given the amount of fishing pressure during the day we've restricted our fishing to after dark, with bass to 51cm hitting our surface lures with plenty of aggression.
Given the distinct lack of mackerel during January, February should see the start of the mackerel season with small-boat fishos concentrating their efforts on towing live slimy mackerel around the inshore reefs at Macauleys, Sawtell and Bundagen.
In the creeks, the bass will continue to hit surface lures with soft plastics and hard-bodied divers making it onto the menu in the tidal stretches.
LBG fishos should get an early run of longtail tuna with the odd Spanish mackerel also taking an interest in quality livebaits such as tailor or pike set on the edge of the wash line.
I'll probably head south to do some lure fishing at Hat Head for mackerel and then head north to do some livebaiting for longtails. If the seas are too big I'll go bass or jack fishing instead.
No matter what the weather's like, there's always something to catch around Coffs in February.
Kurt Atkinson with a brace of keeper flathead from the Bellinger River at Mylestrom.
Tailor should continue to bite on lures this month with some bigger fish chasing the bait schools in close.
There are plenty of kings around the coastal washes if the mackerel aren’t playing the game.Reads: 1650