Minimal rain, so the fishing remains sound
  |  First Published: April 2015

The rainy season sure lived up to its reputation once again. The Macleay River dodged a bullet just recently, as ex-tropical cyclone Marcia hit central Queensland and moved south along the coast and out to sea, rather than along the range. This led to heavy localised coastal rainfall along our coastline and into Kempsey, but not too much in the higher catchment areas.

Unfortunately, this heavy localised rainfall did lead to another fish kill in the lower Macleay. Fish kills are generally caused when highly acidic, deoxygenated water drains off the floodplains into the river system, killing the fish. It is heartbreaking seeing fish of all shapes and sizes floating belly up in the tide.

Studies are currently being undertaken to rectify this problem through a joint team made up of representatives from the University of New South Wales, Kempsey Shire Council, and other key government agencies. Looking now though, you would not even know this tragedy had occurred, except for maybe a few hundred extra pelicans that have stayed on in the area after coming in for an easy feed.

Bream, whiting, flathead and school mulloway are all present in good numbers from Jerseyville through to the entrance of the river. The crab population of the Macleay is still booming. Smithtown through to Jerseyville is holding the most, as well as a few areas up Clybucca Creek.

Easter brings cooler days and the end of Daylight Savings, which usually marks the time to start targeting larger Macleay mulloway. These larger predators will be patrolling the first few kilometres of the river, stalking the schools of winter spawning fish entering the mouth of the river. Imitating them with large lures and soft plastics, or using live baits, are sure-fire ways to snare one of these monster mulloway.

Australian bass have started to move downstream, prompted by the high flowing water from the latest rises. A lot of fish will reside around the railway and traffic bridges in Kempsey throughout April. The closed season for bass has been extended by a month from this year on, and will now start on May 1, meaning that all fish captured after this date need to be released unharmed or, better still, left alone to breed as unmolested as possible.

The beaches are still producing good numbers of whiting and flathead, along with unusually high catches of big tailor for this time of year. Spawning runs of bream will occur from now as we head towards winter. If bream fishing is your thing, get in early as there will be a heavy commercial presence on the beaches once these spawning runs are in full swing, as there is every year at this time.

When I think of rock fishing in our region, Easter is the time that springs into my mind. There is nothing better than walking onto your favourite ledge before sunrise, with images in your head of cobia, Spanish mackerel, marlin and longtail tuna, all of which are a distinct possibility at this time of year. Alternatively, heading out after work armed with some soft plastics, fresh mullet or squid, chasing mulloway from these same ledges is also a good option. You definitely don’t need a boat to catch a big fish at Easter.

Offshore fishing is still mostly concentrated around the inshore reefs. Spanish mackerel sizes seem to be increasing, with Hat Head and Point Plomer being hot spots as the schools progress south.

With water temperatures well over 25 degrees, wahoo are now getting in on the act as well. Spotted mackerel are still in good concentrations up at Grassy Head, but a more finessed approach may be required, as these fish get a bit finicky, especially with the Easter crowds.

Live bait supplies have not been red hot, however, there always seems to be something available whenever you go out. Bonito have been the most reliable bait source, as well as some small mac tuna and frigates. Scad, slimies and yakkas have been a bit spasmodic of late.

Cobia are another great species to target and will be found from the gaol grounds through to Point Plomer. Setting up near a good source of bait with livies at different levels throughout the water column should result in 1 of these prized fish if they are around. Downriggers are another great tool for targeting them with. Simply set your live bait at the depth that the bait is holding and work methodically over the bait grounds until you find where the larger predators are located.

It definitely pays to fish heavy at this time of year, as sharks can be a problem and will almost definitely be flanking any area holding pelagics. These are all too happy to turn your prize catch into a head that will only be good for the crab trap.

The current generally slows down after Easter, making bottom fishing and deep dropping out wide a possibility, allowing access to a whole range of species that have generally been untouched for the last few months.


There are still plenty of spotted mackerel around Grassy Head.


The author with a small Spanish taken at Hat Head.


If only bait was this easy to come by every day.

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