Beach fishing the Macleay
  |  First Published: May 2015

Beach fishing is arguably the most popular way of participating in our sport on the NSW mid north coast. The very young to the very old and everyone in between can get in on the action, whether it be soaking a bait, spinning lures or flicking soft plastics from the sandy shores. A 4WD vehicle may be required to access some of the more remote areas, however, plenty of quality fish are located on the doorstep of the villages and populated areas of the Macleay Valley.

Beach fishing can be kept extremely simple or made as technical as anglers desire for their own level of satisfaction. Bait is generally available adjacent to the areas you are fishing, with beachworms in abundance, and pipis making a solid return to our shores. There are few species that inhabit our beaches that can resist a live beachworm, from your bread and butter targets like whiting and bream, through to larger predators like Australian salmon and mulloway.Long, soft rods loaded with stretchy mono lines and a simple running sinker or paternoster rig have done the job for decades and always will, however, there is definitely a shift towards shorter threadline outfits loaded with braided lines and an arsenal of soft plastic and hardbody lures taking place on the beaches.

From Grassy Head through to Crescent Head, there is approximately 60km of extremely fishable beach, which have varying degrees of protection depending on what direction the weather is coming from.

The beach at Grassy Head sweeps down to the Macleay River and can be accessed by 4WD from the north end. A pedestrian bridge across the river also provides access to the beach at Stuarts Point. The landscape here changes regularly, due to the fact it is quite open to swells from the north and south. Heavy erosion can occur, making access difficult at times. The beach produces good amounts of whiting and flathead in the warmer months, and bream when it is cooler. When a deep hole forms alongside the breakwall at the southern end, big mulloway can be caught.

Back Beach is located at South West Rocks between South Wall and Back Creek. This stretch fishes well for school mulloway and particularly flathead, especially at the mouth of Back Creek on a runout tide. Pike live baits can also be gathered at the mouth at times.

Horseshoe Bay, located in the middle of the South West Rocks town centre, and the boulders to the south of the surf club, can be home to some big bream as well as whiting. Ultra light gear is required to extract fish from these areas due to low swell activity.

Front Beach runs from South West Rocks Surf Club to Laggers Point at the southern end of Trial Bay. Old wreckage is located in the surf at the centre of this beach. School mulloway can be taken from this area when holes develop around it. Front Beach is a popular location for flathead on soft plastics, especially through the mid section where washes form in the surf break.

Gap Beach and Little Smoky Beach are 2 of the more secluded beaches in the area. Gap is accessible via an unsealed road off the back road to Arakoon, and Little Smoky via the Jack Perkin walking trail from the car park for Smoky Cape Lighthouse. These beaches change shape frequently, as they get pounded by southerly swells. When deep gutters form along them, mulloway, Australian salmon and tailor become the main targets. Bream, whiting and dart frequent the shallow washes when there are no gutters.

Smoky Beach stretches from Smoky Cape in the north 15km to Korogoro Creek on the north side of Hat Head Mountain. There’s 4WD access at the north end via the campground, and to the south through the breakout at the northern end of Hat Head village. Being such a long beach, there is always somewhere fishable, although the northern two thirds is generally the most productive.

Black Rock is located just offshore and the beach kinks in the protected area behind this island. Good gutters form to the south of this bend in the beach. It fishes well of an evening and into the night for school mulloway, bream and tailor. The tight bend in the middle of Smoky Beach narrows up considerably, sometimes becoming unpassable at high tide.

Always plan your passage through this area around a low tide or you could be up for a long trip home via South West Rocks Road, or worse still, stuck and at the mercy of the ocean. All the species that you would expect to find at the beach are present here through their respective seasons.

The waters along Smoky Beach become quite calm along the village stretch from The Breakout to the creek. The calm waters aren’t usually productive, with the exception of shovelnose sharks, or, as they are affectionately known — Hat Head flathead. This area can become more productive when there is a bit of north in the swell — especially for whiting and flathead.

From the south of Hat Head to Hungry Headland, there are 3 small beaches that fish very well when sand is present. The first beach, The Gap, is generally very rocky, but when a deep gutter forms close to the centre rocks, it can fire for salmon, tailor, bream and mulloway. Caution should be taken if fishing off the rocks though, as the deep hole will make waves reform and smash up against the platform. There is a car park located above The Gap and you are fishing basically within eyesight of your vehicle.

Connors Beach is the second one along and is accessed by a short walk along the trail after the headland to the south of the car park. Third Beach is the next south and is a similar distance to walk in from either The Gap or Hungry Headland.

When decent gutters are present, Connors and Third Beach fish well for tailor, mulloway, bream and whiting. These beaches are very exposed to southerly swells and at times may have no sand on them at all.

Killick Beach runs for 11km from Hungry down to Crescent Head. Some 10.5km of this beach is accessible to 4WD vehicles from Hungry camping area down to Richardson Crossing. The sand can be quite soft and erosion can also be a problem at times. The fishing is generally good year round, and the northern half is usually deserted. Good numbers of spawning bream run along here through the winter months.

The footbridge easily accesses Front Beach at Crescent Head over the creek. It is a great place to teach kids to fish, as it is a fairly calm area, however, do not be deceived by this, as plenty of big flathead and mulloway come from the surf where the creek meets the sea.

All beach driving in the region requires a permit, which can be purchased from the tourist parks in each of the coastal towns.

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