Last of the warmth
  |  First Published: May 2014

Yes, May is the last month before winter, but we’ve still got time before the fishing cools down.

The mackerel are still around, but it’s been an unusual season with the presence of ciguatera in bigger fish causing a few bouts of poisoning. This is not unusual north of the border but it’s certainly a rare occurrence this far south. To reduce the risk of poisoning, many anglers have stopped targeting large Spanish in favour of targeting larger spotties and smaller Spanish. For the most part the fish have obliged, and there have been plenty of mixed bags where the spotty mackerel have outweighed their Spanish counterparts. This has meant good, safe eating all round.

The only slow part of mackerel fishing this year has been the time taken to catch bait. Almost every slimy mackerel will spontaneously turn itself into a spotty or Spanish, but the slimies have been very hard to find. There have been stories of bait collecting from sunrise until 9:30am to get livies in the well, and then bagging out on mackerel by 10:30am. It does make sense though that one of the most prolific mackerel seasons would result in a shortage of the macks’ favourite bait. This month if you can get out there and find a slimy you will be more than halfway to landing some quality fish.

As we come into the cooler months there should better numbers of larger kingfish as well as the warmer predators that haven’t left us yet. To go with the mackerel and longtail, there have also been numbers of mahi mahi and even yellowfin tuna venturing in around the inshore reefs, especially up around the northern launch spots on the Coffs Coast such as Arrawarra and Wooli. A hardbody lure will be worth a shot if you haven’t got live bait, but offshore the motto has certainly been “1 livebait = 1 fish”.

The snapper are already congregating closer to the coast in preparation for the winter. As long as the rain events we’ve been having don’t become too intense, you should be able to catch decent snapper from the headland washes, inshore reefs and islands all the way out to the deeper reefs and rubble beds this month.

The rock fishing has produced quality results in recent weeks. Heaps of bonito, striped tuna and tailor have been caught and there have also been longtail captures and many more hook-ups.

The rain events over the last month or so have produced some fantastic mulloway fishing around the creek and river mouths and also the lower estuaries. There haven’t been too many exceptionally large captures but good size schoolies up to 15kg have been fairly regular.

The estuary fishing has been stop and start this last month, with flushes of rain turning everything brown for a few days and then the tidal flow kicking everything into gear again. There are still plenty of whiting willing to hit poppers retrieved over yabby banks, even in the coloured water. The bream are also in good numbers throughout the estuaries, with particularly large specimens in the lower sections around rocky outcrops.

Although on the Coffs Coast we don’t get a very harsh winter, I do think of May as one of the last real family-friendly months for fishing. When I take my son (aged 4) fishing, a big part of it is playing around in the sand and the water, so when winter comes the fishing is more subdued. Even if your family doesn’t literally sit in the water like mine, it does get a little harder getting the family out for a fish when it’s cool and windy.

May is a great month to get out and take the kids fishing. The water is still warm, the sun is less harsh so there’s a lower risk of sunburn and the fishing has been great in the estuaries. There are some great spots to take the kids like Mylestom on the Bellinger River where there’s plenty of waterfront and sand to hang around and cast a line.

Other great family fishing locations are in the Urunga Lagoon, Boambee Bay on Boambee Creek and Coffs Creek near the Orlando Road bridge. All these spots have easy car access right near the water and sandy beach sections to fish on. The humble frozen prawn is the typical bait of choice for many but for us the choice is usually bread fishing. A small hook under a simple bubble float and plenty of mushed bread and sand berley is a recipe for plenty of fish, heaps of actions and a multitude of species. Although most of the fish are undersize, I find this technique to be the best for kids, especially the real youngsters, as the action is fast and constant.

Whether you’re getting out there with the family or just fishing with mates, make sure you get out there this month and enjoy the last of the warmth.

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