Winter is done and dusted for another year! It certainly was a bizarre winter here on the mid north coast. We’ve never seen such consistent catches of Spanish and spotted mackerel, mahi mahi and black marlin, and the action continued right through to the middle of July. With a wealth of bait and water temperatures as high as 24°C at times, I guess it made sense that the fish stayed for so long. Bad weather towards the end of July brought us back to reality, making us wait a couple of months before it all starts happening again.
The beginning of September brings with it the opening of the bass season. Throughout winter in the lower Macleay there weren’t many accidental captures, leading a lot of people to believe that most fish were unable to migrate downstream to spawn due to low water levels. Over the next couple of weeks as people actually start targeting these iconic fish, we’ll get a better idea of where the fish are in the river, as well as the stage of the cycle they’re in. The Macleay River has an amazing bass fishery and the majority of anglers have a vast respect for the species, with a lot of care taken to release these fish in good shape to fight another day.
The bigger, deeper holes will be the best places to start exploring with deep diving lures or spinnerbaits. Working these lures close to structure and along the edges of weed beds should put you in the game. A lot of these fish have not seen a lure in a few months and will respond aggressively to these strangers in their area. To access the best areas a canoe, kayak or small boat is almost a necessity and will provide a fun and healthy day out for all involved.
Frederickton through to Smithtown are producing good numbers of flathead at present. The new bypass bridge at Freddo has been producing plenty of bream and no doubt there would be some bass there. Also, the new refurbished boat ramp provides easy access to the bridge, making it fishable to a wide variety of watercraft.
The lower Macleay has been fishing quite well of a night time but has been hit-and-miss by day. Bream and mulloway have been fairly reliable, with tailor and salmon showing up from time to time. Blackfish numbers have not been as high as usual in the river, although there have been plenty in the smaller creeks throughout the valley. Artificial weed flies tied up out of fluorescent green ice dubbing and fished under a float in the traditional method have been deadly on blackfish in these small water systems. This method saves the time it usually takes to gather bait, and these flies can be reused over and over again so there is less time re-baiting and more time catching fish!
The southern headlands from Port Macquarie through to Crescent Head have been the best for tailor this season, with Hungry also firing occasionally. Big bream and mulloway are also frequently caught in the region. There have been huge congregations of whitebait all along our coastline and on occasions into the river. These schools have mostly been accompanied by Australian salmon. Few fish in the ocean do not eat these baitfish, so finding the whitebait schools will almost certainly result in success.
Snapper are really starting to come on the chew now with best results coming from the shallower water during lowlight hours. Leatherjackets are still in droves out in the deeper stuff.
Cod have been a bit slow out wide. However, a trip out when the conditions allow will not be wasted as kingfish well over 10kg are frequenting just about every piece of structure out there. Just make sure you get out wider than the leatherjackets, or your day could be an expensive one. I’ve found that 300g knife jigs will do the job nicely on these kings. Fish Rock has reasonable numbers of kingfish and when the current has been running they have been playing the game. For visitors to the area, it is worth noting that only artificials can be used within 200m of the rock. Smaller knife jigs, soft plastics and stickbaits will account for just as many fish in this region as used to be caught on bait. It is definitely worth a bit of experimentation out there as some days these fish will be triggered only by certain methods.
Yellowfin tuna of various sizes have been popping up randomly, with Hat Head being the most consistent area. However, they are on one day and nowhere to found the next!
Smoky Beach has plenty of good water along it, and has been a hive of activity of late. Bream, tailor, flathead, school mulloway and Australian salmon are all about in good numbers, with tide changes and lowlight periods of the day being the most productive. Small to medium bladed lures and mid-sized soft plastics are an awesome method for fishing the beach when the conditions allow. Any wind with west in it will allow for longer casts and allow lures or jigheads to be lighter for greater finesse. This should increase your catch rate.