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Time for the usual summer suspects
  |  First Published: January 2015



There is no prize for guessing the usual suspects that are making the most of the summer months in the lakes and tributaries of the mid north coast. The bream have filtered into every inch of the Wallis Lake system, including the very ends of the brackish reaches where they will stay until at least April — unless flooded out with autumn rains.

The upper reaches of the rivers have some huge bream hiding out around the fallen timber and snags, often in just enough water to cover their backs. Live prawns or yabbies suspended under floats around the timber would be a great way to prise these big fish out from cover. The alternatives are not too bad either, with early morning or late afternoon on the surface with a cicada pattern, while at midday I’d run a shallow diving lure like a Berkley 3B Fatdog parallel and close to the timber and hang on.

With a bit of cloud cover, the bream are often happy to take surface lures all day, and it is just a matter of swapping from cicada to prawn (popper) styles to tune into what they want more. The most important advice that can be offered is that your casting with lures needs to be as close to the bank and structure as possible to draw strikes from the bigger fish.

Flathead have been a little thin in the traditional areas of the sandflat peppered weed beds, but they are still there, just not in the numbers one would expect at this time of the year. The average size is better though, with heaps of fish in the 60-70cm range. At this size it’s a fair bet that the fish are female, so be guided by your conscience whether you keep or release them. There are still plenty of smaller, legal male fish up the rivers and at the mouths of the tributaries, especially along the edges of the Wallamba River. I have heard of a pair of 1m flathead coming from the Paddock area. One was on a live whiting and the other on a drifted yabby on a whiting rig. The fish were caught at 2 extremes and the respective anglers released both.

Prawn style plastics like the Zerek Shrimp, Berkley Gulp Shrimp and the Squidgy Stealth Prawn are top choices for sheer catching strength. When adding a jighead, just make sure it has enough weight to get right down, but light enough that you can glide the lure over weed and just off the bottom. Most times the line will just go tight as the fish swallows the lure and starts to settle back on the sand. Breckenridge Channel is a great spot for flatties during the new moon period and their focus is on prawns.

The third species in this triad of summer suspects has to be the good old sand whiting. There has been good numbers caught from the channels and bridge area in the lower lake. The Barclay end of Breckenridge Channel has fished well lately with beachworms, and poppers over the weed edge. Many of the big whiting are pretty mobile and it can take a bit of searching to find them, but it’s all in a day’s fishing. Large whiting are easy to catch under the bridge of a night, on the slack tide as usual.

Beachworms, yabbies and prawns are the bait picks, and live prawns drifted behind the boat during the new moon runout tide will almost guarantee some good whiting. Try it, I know you’ll like it. The week starting the February 16 is the buildup to the new and live prawns will be easy to come by then. The prawns should running well too, with a near 2m high around 11pm on the 19th, and a prolonged runout. I for one am looking forward to it.

The crabbing in the lake has settled from the early flurry before Christmas, but a couple of traps will produce swimmers and muddies. These are best targeted close to the islands or up the rivers. Just be mindful to keep them away from the commercial pots or you may lose them…

Remember too, to mark your traps with: CT (for crab trap), your initial and surname, your full date of birth, and your postcode. If it isn’t marked in this way, I can assure you Fisheries will take it because they have been very active — and good on them. There are rules for a reason and if everyone just followed them — including not lifting someone else’s gear — we would all have a wonderful fishing life.

The breakwalls have been fishing well, with mulloway around the 70-80cm mark coming in on plastics, and bigger fish falling to baits. Luderick, bream and some lunker flathead are all a chance along the wall too. Many of the big female flatties are hidden amongst the sand patches between the rocks, with their entourage of smaller males all bidding to spawn with her. It’s like a Sydney nightclub, really! I find it best to fish the slackening waters of the smaller tidal changes around the half moon periods; it is especially handy while bait fishing for the bream and luderick.

The FAD should be fishing well for small mahimahi, and the bonito schools ought to be teasing the kings and marlin in the area. With no reliable offshore reports this month it’s a suck-it-and-see prospect if you can pick a day when the nor’ easter isn’t too heavy.

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Good flathead are a staple this month, whether inshore or offshore.

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Sweet-sized sand whiting are plentiful enough to be able to put a healthy bag together.

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Bream have even penetrated the freshwater reaches of the estuaries, so no matter where you fish, they should be about.

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