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School’s out — the running of the mullet
  |  First Published: April 2015



The Easter break is traditionally the start of the mullet run, and a refocus on species that spill out of the estuary with them. The long, dark clouds of mullet pump out along the breakwalls like a steady pulse, and gather under the waves of nearby beaches. Commercial fishermen hauling the sandy strip interest the visitors and locals that care to stroll the wall, and I’m sure there’ll be plenty of fish caught.

The mullet are not only a bounty for the netters; they are also a bonus for the larger predators like mulloway and sharks. The walls should fish well this month for the former on live baits and plastics, but be prepared for those howling runs that result in bite offs or a whaler. It will be the price paid for the abundance of bait and the natural berley it becomes, but there may be a big ghost reward too.

Over the next couple of months, the breakwalls will see a lot of aquatic traffic drifting out of the lake. Shoals of blackfish, king prawns and the beginning of the winter bream run will provide opportunities for land based anglers along the Tuncurry side from the bridge to the end of the wall. Lightly weighted yabbies drifted with the first of the runout tide and in the evening will produce blackfish, bream and even school mulloway throughout the autumn months.

Fishing deeper during the morning or through the day will produce less, but is well worth the effort. The beauty of the fish filtering out onto the coast is that many of the bream hold up on the leases in the paddock area, or around the bridge waiting for the right time to move.

While a lot of bream head to the coast, there is still good fish in the lake and leases around the Wallamba River and Bandicoot Island. At the bottom end of the lake around Pacific Palms, there has been more than just a couple of pan-sized snapper taken on plastics while fishing for bream. Some fish have been caught in less than 1m of water and go like stink on light line. The lake is, as most estuaries are, a nursery for growing snapper, and I guess these guys just didn’t want to leave home! Spending enough time fishing for the resident bream and flathead in the lower lake, there is a fair chance of catching these well-conditioned and fit pinkies.

Another species that seems plentiful in the lower lake are sand whiting. Reports of whiting on surface lures are still coming through, and the fish are studs, some pushing the 40cm mark. It would be interesting to know what sort of bag would be possible with a few worms and live yabbies as bait.

The blue swimmer and mud crabs continue to produce what I think is the best season for them in the past decade. The number of crabs spawning during the prawn runs is certainly more than I’ve seen in the past, and that has to be a good thing for future stocks. With the number of crabs around at the moment, I have been releasing all the females in my pots. Generally outnumbered by males anyway, it’s a no brainer to release the females and just keep the males. It’s a personal choice, but why kill your cow when you have too many bulls.

Those hunting trophy flathead should concentrate their efforts around the weed fringe of Miles (Sandy) Island or Tern and Little Tern Islands. I saw 3 fish over 90cm free swimming the other day, and in spite of my efforts with lures, they remained tight lipped. A live mullet may be required to prise their mouths open.

The offshore scene has been hot and cold, a bit like the ocean currents. If you find the warm water you’ll find the fish and there has been plenty of small black marlin entertaining the seasoned and newcomers alike. Trolling skirted lures and switch baiting with live baits is a great way to cover the miles; tease the fish in and present a lively offering.Trag, snapper and flathead have been the targets for many anglers, and the settled weather should provide ample opportunity to get out and enjoy a day or 2. One of Shane Crockett’s clients managed a decent Spanish mackerel off Forster last month, which is a good indication of the hot currents that have pushed down from the north — or perhaps it is climate change, but either way it’s a bonus.

Bass fishing this month should be as comfortable as it gets. The mild days lend themselves to prolonged hours on the water without the fatigue of the summer heat, while the fish are still actively smashing lures. Recent rain has also helped stem the excessive debris buildup in the slower moving pools, with higher water flows and flushes. For a good breeding cycle this year, we need a significant drop in water temperature and a moderate rise in water levels around May-June. The low water levels last year meant many of the breeders didn’t get an opportunity to travel.

All in all, the Easter break signals the change of season and a whole lot of promise for the coming cooler months. I for 1 am looking forward to the cooler weather, settled seas and a change of species.

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The mullet run is like a natural berley trail to the mulloway on the beaches and along the rock walls.

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A school mulloway on a wall drift. It’s amazing how effective small vibes are on these fish.

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A lake snapper? Sure, and there are more in the lake than many anglers realise.

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