Winter? time on the Coffs Coast.
  |  First Published: July 2014

Over May and June this year you could have been forgiven for thinking we were in the northern hemisphere spring/summer. The Coffs region is known for having clear and mild winter days but the last couple of months have been much warmer than ‘mild’. The water temperature has also been warm, holding at 23°C+.

The mackerel and longtail tuna have continued to fire throughout autumn and, at the time of writing, it feels like they’re settling in for the winter. Some anglers who have been around longer than most have called this year for one of the best mackerel seasons in living memory, and it’s possible that it could continue this month. It’s going to be a fair bet that as long as the water stays warm the mackerel will stay. Live slimy mackerel will be the bait of choice if you want a crack at a mid-winter mackerel, and the inshore reefs will be the place until the warm water finally leaves the coast.

Two major factors have made this year’s mackerel season different from the norm (besides the abundance of fish). One was the ciguatera poisoning scares that led to anglers releasing most mackerel larger than 10kg. The second was the average size and numbers of the spotty mackerel this year. Spotties up around 8kg have been commonplace and it has been unusual to catch anything under 6kg. It will certainly be a season to remember.

Despite the persistence of the summer fishing, the winter season fish have not been slow to kick into gear. The snapper have congregated closer to the coast on the shallow reefs and will be one of the main targets for offshore anglers this month. You can really save time and fuel while the fish are in close. Most days drifting over shallow inshore reefs flicking plastics or bumping a bait along the bottom will get you a nice feed of snapper, although on some of calmer days recently it has been almost impossible to get a drift going at any speed. At these times it may be best to just anchor the boat, berley up and drift some cut baits into the trail. This type of fishing will also tempt the kingies and mulloway that are just as likely to turn up in the berley trail at this time of year. A live bait drifted in a berley trail would be even better.

Speaking of live bait, the squid have been hassling anglers offshore by turning everyone’s live baits into dead baits. The squid are a welcome hassle for most, especially those who love a good feed of calamari or one of the best live baits going around.

The squid are being caught wherever there are bait grounds. They are great to catch and to eat, and we’re not the only ones who think that. On the beaches and headlands the larger mulloway have been showing up regularly over the last month. Squid baits have been one of their favourites and if it’s freshly caught that’s even better. Any fresh baits like beach worms and fresh caught tailor slabs are also excellent baits at the moment. With any of the smaller baits be prepared to donate a few to the smaller fish as there are plenty of schoolies in the gutters as well.

Tailor have been a feature of the headlands and beaches over the last two months but will likely be swamped by large schools of salmon this month. Metals, stickbaits and quickly retrieved plastics will be the best way to get onto either of these hard-fighting fish.

In the estuaries the bream have been finicky by most reports but a bit of finesse and patience has seen some large specimens captured. Small, slowly worked plastics and hardbody lures are the best performers, along with the ever popular live yabby or worm off the edge of a sandbank.

Higher up in the rivers and creeks the snags are holding plenty of bream and also the winter influx of spawning bass. Remember that we are currently in the ‘no take’ season for bass in NSW so if you do catch a bass please ensure it’s not harmed and release it as healthy as possible.

Whether this month turns out to be an extension of the mild autumn/winter, an actual real winter month (not likely) or the start of the warm spring to come, enjoy your fishing when you can. I’ll leave you with quick a note to make sure you check out the pictures and results of the recent Dave Irvine Snapper Memorial Challenge that are also in this issue of NSW Fishing Monthly.

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