Reefs still productive
  |  First Published: December 2013

The Macleay River has sprung to life after months of no rain and crystal clear conditions, thanks to a series of afternoon summer storms bringing a high volume of rain to the catchment and a much needed flush through the system.

Anglers chasing jewfish were the first to benefit, with good numbers being caught including plenty of fish up to 10kg. There has been an abundance of pike in the river and back creek. These have by far been the best bait for the bigger fish. Failing this, 5-7” paddle-tail and jerkshad soft plastics have taken a close second.

Decent-sized fish have been caught throughout the lower Macleay, from Belmore River through to the mouth of the river. Large flathead have been lurking in the same haunts and falling for the same baits, as well as live herring and mullet strips.

Another welcome visitor to the river has been schools of large kingfish, with specimens up to 16kg. Most fish have been concentrated in the first few kilometres of the river. However, some have been showing up in some unexpected areas way upstream.

In mid-November the Macleay River will hit its lowest level in 20 years. Recent rain activity has allowed the river to rise about a foot and has allowed the bass migration upstream to proceed. This has resulted in good catches of bass all the way through to Bellbrook. Bullshark numbers are very high in the river at the moment so it is important to be aware when handling fish boat-side. These sharks are in most holes in the river, and they’re ready to snatch your fish or your fingers if you are not careful!


Reef fishing is still productive on the deeper reefs with good catches of large pearl perch and snapper as well as plenty of marauding kingfish. Small knife jigs and octo-style jigs are proving to be the best methods.

To date, mackerel catches have been low but this fishery will be firing any day now. It will not be hard to know when they are on. Simply head north to the grounds off Grassy Head and if you are confronted by a massive crowd of boats, the mackerel are on!

At this time, with so many boats in one area, it is important to show respect to the boats around you. There will be plenty of fish to go around. If you set yourself up with a good berley trail the fish will come to you. Slow trolling live baits around the very outskirts of the groups of boats and their berley trails is also a very successful method of catching mackerel.

Cobia and black marlin will also be thrown into this mix from now through to Easter. These fish will be found from Grassy through to Hat Head in good numbers and in close proximity to the shore. The grounds located out from Trial Bay Gaol are usually a good place to start, with trolled lures and live slimy mackerel being the best methods of capture. It is worth having an outfit rigged with wire, as Spanish mackerel also frequent these grounds at this time of year.

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