Cold, but the fish are enjoying it
  |  First Published: July 2015

I had a customer in the shop say to me that if you can’t catch a fish at the moment you must be doing something wrong. We all know that when it comes to fishing, success is never guaranteed, however, the guy’s remarks definitely generated enthusiasm amongst all within earshot and are probably not too far from the truth. We are blessed with a vast array of winter species in the Macleay Valley, and generally speaking these fish are in good numbers for those anglers keen enough to get out and give it a crack.

The ocean has been up and down like a yo-yo recently, but thankfully there have been plenty of land-based options for when the seas have been too uncooperative to venture offshore. Rock fishermen are getting amongst a solid run of big tailor, with an average catch size of 2kg fish being quite common. If bled and handled properly, they make a great feed when eaten within a day or 2 of capture. If eating tailor is not your thing, they make great bait for just about every saltwater fish known to man. Bigger metal lures, stickbaits and poppers are accounting for the better class of fish. The odd straggling longtail tuna and even a few kingfish are making for exciting bycatch when fishing from the stones using these lures.

Big bream and salmon are inhabiting most of the headlands, and have been especially thick when they are holding up around them at night. Mulloway are present also, however, spinning for them with large minnows and big soft plastics will be more effective, as most baits will not last 2 minutes on the bottom amongst the current population of bream. Drummer and groper catches are becoming more frequent out of the washes when a good berley trail is established.

When the weather has allowed it, the offshore fishing has been pretty good. Cod are coming in from out past the continental shelf, with the current playing along most of the time. Kingfish are out on the deep reefs and wrecks, as are blue eye trevalla and John dory.

The reefs out in the 50-70m zones have been a hive of activity, with a number of big mulloway being caught amongst all the standard winter species like snapper, pearl perch, Venus tusk fish and pigfish. Bait fishing, jigging and soft plastics are all getting results from this region.

Fish Rock has been its typical hit-and-miss self, with plenty of kingfish present, but not always playing the game. Downsizing your jigs is improving catch rates and also brings snapper into the equation whilst fishing this area.

For those chasing shallow water snapper, Black Rock and most of the bait reefs have been holding reds, as well as an abundance of live bait species.

Whiting are on the beaches in fair numbers and are of a quality size. Fish like this are normally found in the river up around Smithtown at this time of year, lurking in the deeper holes. Perhaps recent flood activity has flushed them out of the river and onto the beaches. Hopefully they will be available right through winter.

Big mulloway and flathead are having a field day on the population of spawning fish in the Lower Macleay, as they do every year at this time. Fishing during slack tides and looking for areas where the flow of the river deviates and bait might school up will aid you in catching them. It is hard to go past large live baits when targeting these species in the river, especially if you want to catch a big model.

Blackfish have entered the local creeks and the main river in a way not seen for a while this year — much to the delight of many local anglers and tourists alike. Kilo-plus fish have been quite common from all areas, with the majority of fish seeming to fall for artificial weed flies made from ice dubbing and fished under floats in the traditional manner. Using a paternoster, still under the float, but with synthetic weed on 1 hook and the real thing on the other, is a good way of broadening your chances, as on some days these fish can be very temperamental.

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