Fishing in the crazy season
  |  First Published: December 2013

We are smack bang in the middle of crazy season in Coffs Harbour, with a big influx of school holiday visitors. It seems to take twice as long to get anywhere by car, and there’s a line-up in the surf, the chip shop and the boat ramps.

One of the great things about the Coffs area though, is that there’s plenty of space to spread out and get away from the crowds.

If you want to launch your offshore boat without a decent 4WD, unfortunately you will stuck with the morning line-up to launch in the harbour. Once on the water, however, you have a plethora of top marks to go to and hopefully get away from the pack.

The Islands always fish well but they’re often the first place people go. Heading south towards Boambee Headland, Sawtell and Bundagen there is plenty of reef that you can stalk around to find a nice bit to yourself. A lot of boats head that way but there are large tracts of reef, both near shore and out wide, that give you some room to spread out. Inshore around Sawtell and Bundagen are always good for mackerel and snapper at this time of year.

Another option you can take is to reference a map for general reef areas and just go hunting for your own marks on the sounder. Remember to take a Solitary Islands Marine Park map with you to ensure you’re fishing in permitted areas. For $2.99 you can buy the Marine Park app for your phone. It’s well worth it when it could save hundreds of dollars in fines.

If you have a 4WD and you’re happy to launch off the beach (I would only suggest this to those with experience), there are a few other options. Sawtell, Woolgoolga and Arrawarra Headland can be great launches that are close to mackerel and snapper-holding reef. If we have the warm current running right into shore, anywhere from the back of the beach to the islands and wide grounds will hold plenty of mackerel. Trolling hardbody lures or live baits is a great way to cover ground if you have no ‘favourite mark’ that you wish to sit on. If you do find a likely-looking drop-off or pinnacle that’s holding bait, it may be worth anchoring and drifting live baits out the back while flicking a plastic or dropping a bait down to the reef.

Cobia will also be on the cards this month, along with longtail tuna as long as the East Australian Current is running well. Mahi mahi (dolphinfish) can be found around the FAD, fish traps or any other floating objects in the warm current. Trolling lures past these sites can be irresistible to dollies of any size, but a live bait is almost guaranteed to tempt one of these fish if it’s nearby.

A big live bait drifted around the islands will be very tempting for any of the larger predators, including mackerel, kingfish, cobia, wahoo and marlin.

If you’re stuck on land, or you just prefer to keep your feet firmly on it, there are plenty of options other than Muttonbird Island and the break walls around the harbour. Almost every headland north of Coffs Harbour has fishable platforms where mulloway, tailor, snapper, kingfish and other pelagics are all within reach. Most of the better headlands sit to the north of Coffs Harbour, with many headlands south of Sawtell being mostly shallow and sandy.

For the family there are plenty of estuaries out of town that offer great fishing from the bank, kayak or boat. Large flathead will be very active in all the estuaries from the mouths to the upper reaches. Whiting have been all over the flats and are the perfect target of some estuary surface fishing. They have been hitting poppers well throughout spring and summer so far.

Schools of small trevally will be harassing baitfish low down in the estuaries, but upstream there should be some good size GTs and mangrove jack stalking the snags.

The upper catchments are the best option to find some bass away from the crowd. Look at Google Earth and maybe having a casual chat to a local landholder if you want to get onto waterway that’s not heavily pressured. All the eastern flowing creeks hold good bass so it’s a matter of finding the best looking creek you can get access to. Obviously the more accessible the creek, the more likely you’ll be fishing with someone else – or at least fishing water that someone’s fished in very recent history. Surface lures are working well with the cicadas in full song. Medium diving minnows and spinnerbaits in deeper sections will also work well on the big fish.

With so many people around – in, under and on top of the water – please make sure you play safely and consider others around you. Everyone’s here to enjoy the same thing, the great outdoor offerings of the Coffs Coast. Have a great month.

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