Starting to come good
  |  First Published: April 2007

While the fishing over the past four weeks has been quite a challenge, with patchy ocean, estuary and very quiet beach and rock fishing, things are starting to come good.

Traditionally this one of the best months of the year. Good, stable weather and equally reliable runs of fish are the norm but several of the main players – bream and flathead in the river and spotted mackerel and kingfish offshore – just haven’t fired up, leaving many anglers a little perplexed.

I must admit it’s been a very frustrating month with sporadic catches of all the popular targets but I sense change in the wind. Bait schools have thickened up offshore and the river is now inundated with plenty of white bait in the lower reaches and good schools of mullet further up-river.

If history is anything to go by, you can’t have bait everywhere without some sort of predatory action. My guess for this month, with the increased bait offshore and far more stable water temps, is that some good spotties will hit the northern reefs and some quality snapper will move in underneath.

If the mackerel don’t show soon this will go down as the worst season I’ve seen since moving here in the early 90s. Fingers crossed the pelagics follow the bait and we’ll see some long-awaited action very shortly.

There have been improving signs for the inshore snapper with reasonable numbers of fish caught on the northern reefs by bait anglers. With the new bait schools (predominantly slimy mackerel), it’s fair to assume the reds will become even more active.

While Winter is certainly the most reliable time of year to chase snapper, from now right through Autumn you can reasonably expect to find fish most outings.

This year’s run of inshore baby black marlin was a bit of a fizzer. Last year was much the same, though more fish were caught around December and early January.

While there were fish caught most days, though usually only a handful spread among a fair crew chasing them, the general consensus was the fishing was below par.

As we edge towards the cooler months we can reasonably expect the fish numbers to drop even more.

With a bit of luck the billfish may be replaced by cobia. There have been cobia caught every month of the year since December 2005 and the next few months are usually considered the peak times for these enigmatic fish. It will be interesting to see if they come on in force as they did last season.

The kingfish again have been very slow with just a few reports of fish of 2kg to 4kg caught. I did see one fellow land a decent one around 8kg at Fish Rock but, all in all, the kings have been a bit of a no-show.

Kingfish around here are certainly more of a cold-water species, building in numbers through Autumn and peaking in late Winter. Their run is nearly identical to that of the snapper, with smaller numbers of reasonable fish early in the season and finishing up with a burst of trophy fish before going quiet again.

With each day passing it’s reasonable to expect both the kings and snapper numbers to build steadily.


Just like the ocean, the river fishing has been patchy at best with sporadic bursts of action by flathead, bream and jewfish. But, like the ocean, you can expect fish numbers to increase as Autumn kicks into gear.

Although there’s been a noticeable absence of bream in the lower reaches and clear, blue water pushing many fish up-river, now is the time large schools of quality silver bream start to head to the lower estuary.

Flathead numbers have been quite low with very few of those big breeding fish taking up residence along the rock walls in the lower river. Although they usually don’t build up in numbers during the cooler months, it’s fair to say you can nearly always score a few pan-sized fish if you go looking around tidal flats and weed beds.

A trickle of jewfish has kept the punters happy with a reasonable run of school fish up to 5kg caught after dark below Jerseyville bridge. The bigger fish are certainly more active during the cooler months, with schools of mullet, bream and blackfish giving them good incentive to hunt the deep rock walls.

For now, it’s small numbers of school jew but once the mullet, bream and luderick numbers build, expect a few bigger fish to be around.

Those heading up-river looking for bass have scored on most occasions. Pick the right day (stable weather with a steady or rising barometer) and you should score a few nice fish.

There have been fish pretty well everywhere from Kempsey bridge up, so you can travel miles up-river and expect bass in virtually al the pools all the way into the headwaters. As the weather cools, start to concentrate your efforts a little lower in the system, say the first 10km above Kempsey, and progressively edge your way down as we get closer to Winter.

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