The Macleay at its best
  |  First Published: January 2015

February is here again, and in my opinion it’s the best time of year for fishing the Macleay Valley. The Christmas crowds have started to die down, while the fishing has started to fire up. Offshore we are getting water temperatures of 24° and above, making conditions perfect for the summer speedsters like mackerel, black marlin, wahoo and longtail tuna to hang around on our reefs.

Trolling bibbed minnows at a medium pace is a good way of locating areas that may be holding fish, especially if you want to get away from the crowds. Pay attention to the marks where you find fish and remember to visit them next time out, as you may have stumbled across your own piece of reef that is holding bait and fish that not everyone is aware of. Having a few of these spots in mind can be the difference between having a productive or a quiet day.

Anchoring on those spots and setting up a steady berley trail will draw even more fish from the surrounding area to the back of your boat. Then it is just a matter of floating out some pilchards or a livie or two and waiting for the action to begin. It also pays to have a light setup with a metal lure or small knife jig at hand, as retrieving these at high speed does wonders for attracting fish to your livies and baits, and can also result in some spectacular hookups.

Out wider, the FAD has been holding some cracking mahimahi, so when the conditions are right it is well worth a trip out there. Trolling wide has been accounting for some solid striped marlin and plenty of big bull mahi. The current has been running fairly strong to the south, but when it lets up there has been a decent amount of big kingfish on the deeper reefs and wrecks, with knife jigs in the 400g range being the most successful method of capture.

The beaches have been home to loads of big whiting this summer, with 40cm plus fish being fairly common. Flathead are coming from the same low tide gutters and are all over 5” soft plastics. School mulloway of 5-6kg have been coming in from these same gutters an hour either side of dark, with live beach worms accounting for most of these fish. A few are also being snared on soft plastics aimed at flathead.

Longtail tuna and kingfish have been the main feature off the headlands, with metal lures and stickbaits responsible for some explosive hookups. A few cobia and Spanish mackerel have been taken live baiting from the ledges, but this rate will increase as we head towards Easter. Bream, school mulloway and even tailor have been coming in on a regular basis from the stones of a night-time.

The river system is absolutely loaded with blue swimmer and mud crabs, even up beyond Frederickton. At times, there have been schools of kingfish up around Jerseyville Bridge! These fish, as well as trevally, have been seen terrorising schools of baitfish throughout the lower Macleay.

The sandflats above Jerseyville and up Clybucca Creek are holding some solid whiting on the top of the tide. Surface lures are all the go at this time of year, and as the tide starts to drain, flathead are getting in on the surface action along the edges of the sandbanks and dropoffs.

Bass have been rampant through the middle reaches of the Macleay from Belmore River up to Turners Flat. Surface luring will be at its best throughout February, so if bass fishing is not usually your thing but you want to give it a try, now is the time. The strike on a surface lure is sure to get the heart pumping.

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