Despite the deluge, it’s fish on
  |  First Published: April 2015

We have had nearly 1000mm of rain so far this year, and more is falling as I type. It feels like there isn’t much more to write about other than it has rained... and rained... oh yeah, then it rained some more, but despite all the precipitation in recent months, there has still been a reasonable amount of action on some fronts.

Through all but the very peak of the ex-cyclone Marcia rain event, our estuaries remained fishable on the incoming tide despite the days of precipitation. There has still been plenty of whiting and flathead about, particularly as the clearer ocean water pushes up into the estuaries. Surface lures are great when the water’s a bit dirty, as they make noise to attract attention and the fish are less wary of being spotted, so are more confident in hitting a well-worked popper.

Further upstream and the trevally and jacks have no qualms about their environment being a little fresher than usual. The action continued once the heavier rain had settled down, although the middle sections of the estuaries can still be very on and off at the moment. Some days there are bustups everywhere as schools of trevs smash the surface, while other days it feels like there is nothing alive in the river and it’s all been washed out to sea.

Further upstream again, and the bass are in feeding mode. I love bass fishing when there is a bit more flow in the rivers, as it narrows down the target areas. Bass will never sit out in the full flow, as it takes a lot of energy that they’d rather save. When the main river channels area running hard, you can rule them out. The fish will be sitting in slower water or in the eddies.

Targeting the slower sections of water at the bottom end of the pools or the eddies at bottom of the rapids are almost guaranteed haunts of bass waiting for some kind of prey item to flow past. Get you lure in these spots and you’re in with a great chance at a fish. If a hooked bass gets out into the current, it’s game on for a good fight. Surface lures are working well, so too are bibbed minnows that can get down and grab the attentions of a bass or 2 within the constrains of a smaller work area.

Please remember though, that even shallow water, when flowing fast, can easily pin your kayak, yourself or both against objects like logs and rocks. If you’re unsure, just check each rapid before running them and walk around if there are fallen logs or branches in the water.

Up on the plateau, the rain came as a relief from the sun. Trout fishing in faster water can be similar to bass fishing, in that it narrows down focus areas for fishing. Now is the time to be chasing larger rainbows and browns in those flat ditch-like creeks around Ebor. Normally devoid of much flow, the extra water allows good solid eddies and gravel banks to form, giving you defined areas for targeting larger fish holding there.

Back down at sea level, the beach and rock fishing options have been limited due to the wind and swell, but when the conditions are suitable there has been great mulloway fishing around the river and creek mouths. Large and loud hardbody lures work well in dirty floodwaters, and have regularly accounted for mulloway up to 10kg this last month. Tailor can still be found on most headlands, and when the seas are right, this month is your best chance at a land based mackerel or longtail tuna.

There has been limited opportunity to get offshore due to the weather, but when that chance arrives, get out there as there has been plenty of action. Even in the rough green to brown inshore waters, there have been plenty of mackerel keen for any kind of live bait; bonito and slimieys are always the pick though. Either of these species will work well as a dead bait if you run out of live ones. Last year was one of the best mackerel seasons in ages and it looks like this year will be a great one too, especially given that we haven’t been able to have a good crack at it yet.

Just a word of warning for those trolling live and dead baits; be willing to put up with being in a high tax bracket with the taxman shark around in large numbers. Many trips have reported at 10-1 ratios for shark capture/hookup versus mackerel.

For those up for the Easter break, please be aware that the boat ramp entrance gets dangerously shallow on the low tide and most of you may have heard about the infamous surge present there. If you haven’t launched at Coffs before, watch a few others do so before you have a crack. I urge everyone to play safe and be patient with each other. Everyone’s keen to do the same thing — getting out there and into some fish. Some have more experience than others, and some will do a better job than others, but as long as everyone’s sensible, a few minutes waiting for or helping a tourist isn’t going to wreck your day.

Visitors and locals may also want to brush up on the Solitary Islands Marine Park and its zones, rules and regulations. This is relevant for anyone fishing from Coffs Harbour northwards and up to Sandon River, and includes those fishing land based and estuary locations. All the details can be found at the following link: http://www.mpa.nsw.gov.au/simp.html

With everything firing on all cylinders, offshore, inshore and in the rivers, I don’t think it will matter what the weather does — there will be some cracking fishing to be had this month so get out there.


‘Ace angler’ Matt McEwan with a lure-caught Spanish mackerel of about the typical size we’ve seen this year.


Bass fishing doesn’t get any better than a fast water surface strike right next to the kayak.

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