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Mackerel Arrive at Coffs
  |  First Published: March 2007



Fishing at Coffs Harbour has continued to improve with the warm water finally arriving and the mackerel beginning to bite, both to the north and south of the harbour.

While most fish are falling to trolled slimy mackerel baits, there have been some fish to 34kg taken on big trolled divers as well as high speed tuna lures. The bait grounds at Park Beach and off Macauleys Headland have plenty of bait schools hovering around them, so catching a dozen or so slimies for a morning's trolling should not prove to be too much of a problem.

The best place to troll for mackerel is around shallow reefs, from a few hundred metres to several kilometres offshore. The best spots seem to be off Sawtell and down near Bundagen Headland; fishing at anchor, over reef and berleying can also improve your chances. Mackerel trollers venturing too close in, or too wide out, have also been hooking longtail tuna, yellowfin tuna, cobia, kingfish and XOS tailor.

Closer to shore there are massive schools of whitebait holding cover along the backs of beaches, in beach corners and around reefy headlands. These bait schools attract tailor, giant trevally (GTs) and jewfish into the beach and rock gutters; those wanting to target tailor and jew on lures will find that the next few months should produce some exciting fishing. All headlands in the Coffs area can be lured for tailor and jewfish, as they have the deeper water and wash that’s needed for tailor, and the long sandy gutters that are needed for jew.

In the estuaries there have been plenty of flathead, whiting and bream in the lower reaches, with trevally and mangrove jacks biting better further upriver. We fished for jacks last week and hooked nine fish – the best landed were between 46cm and 55cm in length. We had a couple of bust-offs using 80lb leader and 30lb braid with several fish pulling the hooks as they were arm wrestled out of the snags.

We fished several times upriver for bass. The best fishing occurred well after dark and my best fish was 51cm and taken at about 10pm on a topwater chugger. Further downstream in the tidal stretches there has been a mixture of bream, bass and flathead taking lures, with small surface lures producing most of the action on bass and bream.

My mate Dave Rae has been doing well on snapper to 5kg using soft plastic lures in water of 12-30m in depth. Dave drifts and casts on low wind days, or anchors over reef, berleys and jigs when it is windy or when the current is overly strong. Small boat anglers dropping livebaits to the bottom around the islands have been hooking good-sized jew, trag and even some XOS mangrove jacks that seem to hang around the jewfish schools. If you're into deepwater jigging, the 50m reefs have been producing yellowtail kingfish and samsonfish to over 20kg. This is back-breaking fishing and only for the fit.

Land-based game anglers should expect to see some longtail tuna and mackerel to hit the rocks this month, with livebaits producing fish around Coffs and lures doing the job at the Hat. If you are planning to go land-based gamefishing then don't expect to catch bait on site, like you may do further south. Yellowtail and garfish can be caught from the wharfs or breakwalls around the harbour and carried to your location.

Further north the breakwalls at Iluka will produce both tuna and mackerel caught on garfish, which can be found on location at the northern side of the wall.

This month is a great time to troll the inshore reefs and headlands for mackerel. Try trolling slimy baits, but if you can get them, add pike and tailor to the bait list. I also recommend heading north and south for some land-based gamefishing, with small southerly blows being the optimum times for LBG fish at the Hat and Iluka.

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