Estuary fun in the sun
  |  First Published: December 2014

This month marks the beginning of the holiday period. Some would call it the crazy season, which is part and parcel of living in a tourist area. Tourism is the lifeblood of many aspects of our town, and it allows us locals to live in a well-serviced centre on a beautiful part of the coast that we may not otherwise be able to do if it wasn’t for the visitors. In saying that, during summer holidays it can sometimes feel a little claustrophobic and whether you’re a local or a visitor, you’ve just got to get away from crowd sometimes. If you’re in that dilemma this month, here are a few tips that will hopefully get you away from the mob and into the fish.

For offshore anglers the first obvious bottleneck is the boat ramp. With a good forecast you can wait quite some time for your turn on the ramp. The easiest way to dodge this is to launch out of town. If you have a suitable 4WD and the appropriate experience, there are several beach launching options within 20-40 minutes’ drive of town. Sawtell, Wenonah and Woolgoolga headlands are useable in decent weather, but can be tricky depending on tides.

Arrawarra Headland is probably the most weatherproof beach launch and has some great fishing really close by, as well as the islands and deep reefs further out. There are patches of reef surrounding the headland and running south all the way to Woolgoolga. Each of these has been very productive for snapper, pearl perch and kingfish recently. Soft plastics and baits have been working well on these species close to shore, and smaller jigs and deep live baits working very well for bigger fish wider.

If you have to launch at the harbour boat ramp, there’s still some ways to escape the crowd. Try sticking close to shore and heading north along the coast. Most boats either head south or towards the islands. Fishing the inshore reefs and headlands north of Coffs offers great fishing, as well as some distance between you and the other boats. It’s very important to check the marine park zoning map though, as there are some large chunks of sanctuary zone that extend all the way to the beach. Even traveling through with rigged gear is an offence, so make sure you know where you are at all times. There is an app you can get for your phone that’s a cheap and easy way of knowing exactly what activities are allowed within the park.

If you’re restricted to fishing the ocean from land, there are plenty of headlands and beaches out of town you can often have all to yourself. Many of the headlands to the north of Coffs have great platforms for rock fishing, and this time of year there should be plenty on offer. Tailor and mulloway are a staple. Decent size mulloway have been very common recently, with soft plastics and hardbody lures reaping the rewards. Headlands with deepwater access have been holding good populations of rat kings with the odd better specimen, as well as being frequented by schools of bonito. Again, check the marine park maps, as there are portions of some northern headlands that are covered by sanctuary zones.

If you want to get some sand between your toes, Boambee Beach and North Beach are two popular 4WD beaches, so you can drive away from crowded access points to find your own gutter to fish. North Beach is fishing particularly well for mulloway and whiting at the moment, and should continue to do so throughout this month.

When it comes to the estuaries, they can get crowded fast with numbers of boats trying to find a sneaky quiet spot. The whiting have been biting over the last month and should only improve as we move into December. Getting in a kayak or even going on foot along the banks at high tide can get you away from the masses in the main channels and onto some top fish. Small clear poppers are still a favourite method for whiting, and will account for plenty of flathead and bream bycatch too. Anywhere with broken seagrass beds or others forms of structure are the go-to spots.

Another tactic for boating anglers might be to head to the far upper reaches of the estuaries. There has been plenty of action from jacks, trevally and bull sharks up toward the brackish stretches of most local waterways. In some of the small creeks it can be only a matter of a few hundred metres further up-river to find bass water, which can also add to the variety of a trip. We have a glut of bass water in our area, so all I can really suggest is jump on Google Earth, find some legal access to any freshwater section of a creek, and there’s a pretty good chance there’ll be some great bass waiting for a cicada imitation to smash down on the surface.

So whether you’re a visitor to the area or a local with a few more neighbours this month, use this time to get out and explore somewhere new.


After losing a cracking bass and his Megabass Siglett earlier in the trip, Randall Gibb was thankful that another Siglett was on hand to step in and tempt this 57cm bucketmouth into striking.


The snapper have remained inshore throughout spring and proven very eager to snap up a plastic like this Gulp Jerk Shad.


Dayne Taylor with the perfect dinner guest, caught during a great day on the water.

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