February is the time when great changes occur in the movements of the fish populations in the Manning River. The big female flathead are still in the lower parts of the estuary and some of them still have to spawn. The smaller fish are spread out in all parts of the river and its tributaries right up to where the freshwater begins.
The bream are beginning to move downriver from the upper reaches and gather in small schools near rocky outcrops and the mouths of small creeks running into the Manning. Schools of small tailor chase baitfish in the middle and upper parts of the river and jewfish follow them around. Whiting have moved upriver from the mouth of the estuary and can be found in great numbers up near Cundle town and around Dumaresq Island.
The prawns are moving downriver and any freshes caused by heavy rain in the headwaters of the Manning will send the prawns to sea to begin a rapid stage of growth and get ready to spawn. All this movement of bait makes fishing more exciting.
At the present time the flathead are fairly hard to find, with catches being only a few fish per outing. The best results have come from upriver from the Taree bridge.
Whiting have also been hard to find, with the best spots yielding only a few fish on poppers. The anglers who fish the river consistently week in week out seem to think that the coldness of the water has put the fish off the bite.
Luderick catches have also been down, with only 3 to 6 fish being taken during a night session.
The water on the beaches has been really cold, and only small chopper tailor have been on the bite. Most of the choppers are undersized with only the occasional fish over 30cm.
The beaches are in really bad shape with no good formations to bring fish in close to the beach. A couple of weeks of northeasterly winds are needed to form the beaches up properly. Fishing from the rocks has not been that exciting, with only small groper taking crab baits.
Results have been much better for the outside anglers, with good catches of snapper to 4.5kg coming from the Old Bar area. Teraglin are also being caught in that area. Bonito are plentiful and can be taken on trolled lures, especially when fishing along the tide lines. There are also plenty of legal sized mahi mahi to be taken from around the wave rider.
During the later summer months the northeasterly winds usually blow strongly in the afternoon so it’s best to get out to sea at daylight and plan to be back by lunchtime to avoid the choppy seas. By sundown the winds have usually dropped and it is quite safe to do a few hours of night-time angling, especially when the moon is up.
By the middle of February the big tailor begin to show up at Mermaid Reef and Diamond Head. Early morning spinning from the rocks with metal lures or big garfish on a ganged hook rig will get the best results. On the beaches the choppers have grown to a decent size and it is easy to score a bag of fish on lures or bait.Reads: 737