The sweet spot
  |  First Published: March 2015

March is certainly a time of year many anglers look forward to here in Coffs Harbour. It marks the height of the summer fishing action, but without the craziness of the beginning of the year and the increased crowds of the holidays. We’ve all had time to settle into 2015 now, and there’s plenty of fish around to keep us occupied.

The start of 2015 has been highlighted by the run of small black marlin. The average size has been between 25-60kg, so they make great fun and don’t require kitting up with dedicated marlin gear just to have a go. Many captures have occurred while anglers are targeting mackerel with live baits. Most fish are either lost or subdued in 10-20 minutes, so they can easily be released in good health if that is your plan.

The mode of attack has mostly required finding a decent bait ball on the sounder and staying on top of it with live baits out. Fish that are found cruising away from the bait balls have been a bit picky when taking a bait. Having a surface bait and a deep bait out will increase your chances.

Trolling live baits around bait balls should also give you a good chance of some mackerel and longtail tuna. The mackerel have been a little on and off over the first part of this year, but should thicken up during March. The longtails have been showing up around the inshore reefs and will increase in numbers throughout this month. They are great fun on light gear, especially when targeted on small metals and plastics.

Land based anglers have been quite active over the last month, with multiple rain events giving the local rivers and creeks a good flush out. Numbers of mulloway have been caught on hardbody lures around the dirty outflows. When fishing a flooding river mouth, a large hardbody will send out a lot of vibrations and give mulloway a good size profile to hit in the murky water.

The rocks continue to produce tailor and the occasional tuna. Going by the season so far, a live bait floated off the rocks could see you hook anything from tuna and cobia to mackerel, with every chance of a marlin.

On the beaches, some very large swells during February have moved the sand around a bit, so that favourite gutter may have shifted address for the time being. Mulloway are the big reward in the right gutter, but there are also plenty of whiting and tailor for those targeting smaller fish.

The whiting are still firing in the estuaries, with large specimens as well as really good numbers being caught in most creeks and rivers. Surface poppers remain the most effective method for bagging the bigger fish, with live nippers coming in a close second.

February saw some good flushing of our local estuaries by major rain events, which slowed down the fishing for some and took a bit of readjusting to work out what the fish were doing once it all settled down. Most of the local estuaries are only very short, so flatties, jacks, trevally, bream and whiting should spread right through to the brackish stretches again very quickly. The bream continue to go nuts on cicada lures, and throughout the systems you’ll struggle to find any species that’s not willing to have a go at something struggling on the surface.

High up in the freshwater reaches, despite the rainfall, the rivers have been running pretty clean. The water levels have been higher than average, but just the right amount for increased activity without dirty water. I particularly like bass fishing when there’s a bit more flow in the river, as it narrows down the locations where the fish are likely to be. Fish will not spend any length of time out in the hard flowing current. They will rest in eddies and along the banks where the water flow is slow and/or uphill. They will want to be near the flowing water though, as that’s the source of their food. This makes the tops of the pools and the eddies behind rocks a great target area, as the fish will sit in them waiting to pounce on anything that flows past or into the eddy.

Surface lures, particularly cicada styles, have worked best and are always my first port of call when bass fishing, but dark coloured medium diving minnows will also work and can get a little more in the face of bass when they’re not that eager.


At this time of year snapper can be a forgotten species, but there’s still plenty around even if you can’t see past the mackerel.


Craig and Ash got this fella not too wide and had him swimming around the boat for 10 minutes before he eventually found their live bait.
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