With the water temperature dropping rapidly, the Winter species are well and truly on the bite with bream, tailor and jewfish dominating catches around the rocks and beaches.
While luring for bream from the ocean rocks is not the norm, anglers throwing 3” plastics have had success on big sea-run bream with the gutters around many of the northern headlands such as Moonee and Emerald producing good catches of fish on lures and bait.
Andrew McIntyre has been having success on bream where creek entrances meet the ocean. He’s been standing on the rocks and throwing into the deeper, stirred-up areas for big silver bream to a kilo on his estuary spin gear.
Moving farther to the ocean side on these same headlands, there has been no shortage of tailor willing to hit a metal lure or a slowly-retrieved ganged gar or pilchard.
Now's the time that organised anglers who stocked up on sea gars during their Autumn run should be looking to thaw out the odd pack and visit a deepwater headland. Alveys or big threadlines and a long rod will allow you to make long casts with the unweighted bait. Let it sink slowly and slowly retrieve it back to the rocks.
While tailor are your target species, there's always the chance of a king, jewfish or even big snapper slamming your bait. I'd recommend four 4/0 ganged hooks, each individually sharpened, and 30cm trace of 30lb fluorocarbon leader with a swivel.
If you are casting into a headwind, add a small bean sinker directly above the bait. All headlands will produce tailor, with Mutton Bird Island, the Quarry, Charlesworth, Diggers, Woolgoolga and Bundagen good for the bigger fish.
We've had two monster swells in three weeks, which should have cleared away much of the Summer sand build up that has shut down many of the best jew-spinning gutters.
Once there's a bit of water depth at all stages of the tide, the jewfish will pack into the rocky gutters and produce outstanding action for those patient and fit enough to walk all over a headland and introduce 6” soft plastics to every nook and cranny they can safely get a cast into.
While high tide produces the biggest jew on soft plastics, there can still be fish found on the outer fringes at low tide. Low-swell days, offshore winds and low tide can allow anglers to place lures into deep crevices on the seaward side of rocky outcrops – spots that you would not normally be able to reach safely at any other time of the year.
Offshore anglers have been taking excellent catches of samson, snapper, tuskfish and morwong with all the deeper reefs producing outstanding fishing.
The more sporting types have been sending big jigs to the bottom over these same reefs and have been hooking bigger samson as well as kingfish.
The Solitary Islands are still producing pelagics with longtail tuna, yellowfin tuna and cobia taking trolled lures and baits not too far from the island washes. While the mackerel season wasn't anything to rave about, there's still a chance right through Winter of stumbling onto a patch of lost mackerel water so if a lure or bait gets snipped, it might pay to have a wire trace handy.
Enterprising anglers in small boats, kayaks and even canoes have been making the most of flat seas by fishing the inshore islands and reefs with soft plastics. Most are in search of snapper and there have been some big reds to 7kg taken from reefs and washes around Pig Island and Little Mutton Bird Island.
In the creeks there have been plenty of blackfish on the bite around the river entrances and breakwalls.
Large schools of 4cm baitfish have moved into the estuaries and bream and flathead can be found wherever these schools start to congregate. Look out for diving terns and shags if you want to enjoy this uniquely Winter style of luring.
Once the water temp drops another degree or two we should start to see salmon schools which will push upriver in search of bait, a 2kg sambo on light bream gear is a lot of fun and an exciting change for many estuary bream/flathead spinners.
Over the next month I'll exclusively focus on jewfish and tailor from the rocks and beaches, with the odd excursion offshore in search of snapper and kings. I'm off to Adelaide in a couple of days with my eldest son Dane for Rugby League U/15 Nationals and I'm tempted to pack a handline and see if I can catch my first tommy ruff.
Whether you fish from the rocks, the beaches or in the estuaries, Winter is bream time around Coffs.
Dale Graham and Chris Webb with a king and a greenback tailor taken at Pig Island, just outside the Harbour.
Big snapper feed inshore over Winter, becoming more accessible for those in smaller boats and even canoes.Reads: 1977