Summer heights
  |  First Published: March 2014

For local offshore anglers, March signifies the height of the summer pelagic season. Water is usually at its warmest and the summer mackerel, wahoo, mahi mahi, tuna and marlin are all in full swing.

There will be plenty of snapper and mulloway around as well, especially in under the bait schools that are being harassed by the mackerel. However, it’s the topwater fish that are the main attraction this time of year.

Spotted and Spanish mackerel have been marauding the inshore reefs for bait, of which there has been plenty. January and the start of February saw a lot of bait milling around the onshore reefs, dreading the arrival of mackerel. This month it may get a little harder to track down the bait schools but they will be a useful commodity once you’ve found them. Drifting or slow trolling a live bait around the inshore reefs and islands could attract the attention of anything from mackerel to marlin this month.

Along with the arrival of the warm water at the end of January there has been a steady flow of black marlin down the coast. It seems that last year’s crop of baby black marlin (20-40kg) have all grown up into 50-70kg specimens. There were a few notable catches that got some attention in January including Tommie Strydom’s capture of a 70kg marlin from his kayak out wide of Diggers Beach. There have been several other hook-ups and captures of inshore marlin in small boats and kayaks over the last month so with a live bait on you never know what you’ll get at this time of year.

Trolling hardbodies will also be a useful approach offshore when the bait gets harder to find. Lures can be trolled faster and so cover more ground, and lures are much easier to find than live bait.

Out in wider ground there has been a host of micro mahi mahi hanging around in the hundreds but there are also some bigger specimens around. Now is a great time to use the mahi mahi (or ‘dollie’) coloured lures as the larger fish will be readily feeding on the baby dolphinfish when they are around.

March is also a great time for a bit of land-based fishing. Mackerel, longtail tuna, cobia and even marlin are all a chance for a well drifted live bait on some of the deeper headlands and rock walls in the area. Muttonbird and the south wall are probably the most popular spots, but most headlands north of Coffs offer great platforms in the right conditions.

The estuaries have been fairly consistent over the last month, although the odd rain event has slowed them down for a few days with dirty water.

There are fantastic whiting being caught on surface lures in the lower estuaries and it’s probably the most efficient way of catching a good feed. The humble yabby will always get results but you can often be plagued by small bream. Fast and straight retrieves around the weed beds with a surface popper will usually result in a few good size whiting, even if you catch the odd small one as well.

The bream have still been active on the surface throughout most estuaries with cicada lures being the most effective. The very slow/no retrieve technique seems to be working the best and a soft shell cicada is probably the weapon of choice, although other small cicada imitations have been working too. The cicada lure will just keep on working no matter how far up the rivers you go, as the bass have been eager to take them as well. They will start to slow after this month as the warm weather fades, so now is the time to get some cicada imitations on the water before they’re packed away for next summer.

At this time of year I often find it very hard to decide what and where to fish as everything seems to be firing. I reckon the two best bets this month are offshore for mackerel and fishing for whiting on poppers in the estuary. No matter what you choose I hope you get some cracking fish and enjoy the height of summer this autumn.

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