At last the crowds have gone; returned to who knows where to reminisce about the fish caught and the big ones that got away!
There is no doubt that some really big flathead over a metre in length were hooked and lost or hooked and released over January when the holidaymakers were here. There have been plenty of sightings of large flathead in the shallow water near the weed beds and along the river wall, but they are spawning much later than in years past. Some 20 years ago the big breeders would turn up in the corner of the wall by the second week of December. Now it is early January before they arrive in numbers.
There are always big flatties caught upriver in December, but not down at the mouth. Last year though, some big fish, full of spawn, were caught as late as the middle of April. The same will no doubt happen this year. The fish are appearing later each year, as are drummer, tailor, luderick and bream.
Small flathead have been providing plenty of sport for those anglers fishing soft plastics and hardbodies along the edges of the weed beds and rock walls. These fish are from legal size to 55cm in length. Live bait fished under a bobby cork rig has been the most successful way of catching bigger fish of 4-7kg. Good catches of flathead have been made up stream as far as Coopernook, Cundletown and Taree.
The luderick have moved up-river and are being caught in the deep water along rocky edges, and in the holes at the ends and sides of the many wharves that line the banks of the Manning River. Whiting are taking surface poppers spun around the sandbanks at the mouth. Most of the bream have moved upstream and it will take a good sized ‘fresh’ to flush them back down to the mouth. Mulloway have been scarce for a few weeks and only undersized fish have been caught in the river and on the beaches.
Salmon, bream, tailor, along with the occasional whiting, have provided the action on the beaches. The salmon have been the most numerous, with catches of 4-5 fish being common. The bream have fallen to baits of worms and mullet strips. The best spots being the southern end of Crowdy Beach and the end of the sea wall at the mouth of the river. Tailor have been harder to track down. Good catches of 20 or so fish have come in from groups of 3-4 anglers, but the fish move about and are usually gone the next day. Most tailor are 33-35cms in length, with the next size up being from 38-41cm.
Outside anglers have been scoring good catches from the northern grounds and out around the FAD and the Waverider buoy. Snapper, trag and pearl perch have come from the northern grounds up around Mermaid Reef, while the mahimahi have been taking live baits. Bonito have made an appearance on the shoals and may be caught by trolling lures.
February is a great month to fish Harrington, especially as the crowds have gone and the serious retiree anglers move in for a month to spend some quality time on the river and the beaches. Flathead and luderick will be the main species targeted in the river, while tailor from the beaches and rocks will be in good supply. Outside anglers should concentrate on snapper and trag, as well as surface fish like mahimahi.Reads: 535