Estuary fun in the sun
  |  First Published: December 2015

The month of December typically marks the end of the cooler water conditions. Toward the end of this month we should start to see the East Australian Current kick in towards the coast and the warmer water start to dominate. This summer is going to be a little test as to whether the pattern of the last few years has been a ‘phase,’ or instead a general shift towards more tropical conditions.

Some of the best have declared these last few years as the best mackerel seasons in memory. We’ve had consistent warm water and mackerel catches almost all year round. At present, scientists are still forecasting an El Nino weather pattern until the middle of next year, so we may experience cooler waters than normal off the coast. This could mean not only less rain but also possibly less of the summer visitors that have dominated the last few seasons. Are we going to see the mackerel return in force again this year or will we see it go back to more ‘normal’ numbers and maybe see the end of a warmer ‘phase’ in between the last El Nino and now? Only time will tell but this month will be the decider.

In the last couple of years we have seen the mackerel show up well before Christmas each December, but in the years before, a ‘pre-Christmas’ mackerel was considered quite fortunate. It wouldn’t surprise me if they still show up early but I feel the cooler water pushed over by El Nino will knock around our season a little. Unless you get the word that they’re around, I wouldn’t start wiring up your leaders quite yet. As soon as you do put wire on you will be limiting the number and species of fish that will have a crack at your bait or lure, and those other species are well and truly on the chew.

There have been good numbers of amberjacks and samson fish on the deeper reefs and islands. Slow jigs have been very successful alongside the more traditional mechanical jigging. The kingfish are also around to complete the Seriola trio but are mostly quite undersize at 64.5cm and under. A few anglers have seen proof of larger models around, as it doesn’t take long for undersize kings to magically turn into metre plus hoodlums before their very eyes. Very big live baits and perhaps a decent berley trail around the island washes will give you a shot at a big kingy but will also likely lead to a fight with some big bronze whalers or similar.

Elsewhere in the estuaries, the fishing is already in full summer swing. There are whiting on the surface, flathead everywhere and the jacks and trevally in the upper reaches are all showing form. In the lower end of the estuaries the whiting have been very active on poppers and surface walkers, in particular the trusty Bassday Sugapen. Throw these lures in anywhere around the seagrass beds and drop offs in any creek. From Moonee, Coffs, Boambee, and Bonville to the larger rivers of Bellinger, Kalang and Nambucca. Flathead, too, are very active in all of these systems from the lower ends right up to the brackish stretches. The larger girls though, will be down in the salty lower reaches where you’ll find piles of 40-60cm males hanging around hoping to find ‘favour in her eyes.’

Mangrove jack and GT’s are at full throttle in the upper reaches of these catchments. Surface lures like Bassday Sugapens, Zipbait Skinny Pops and OSP Bent Minnows have claimed their fair share of the catch. You don’t need to use big lures. Smaller bream lures are often plenty big enough to attract a jack out of his snag and a 2” grub worked slowly under some structure has been the undoing of many decent GT’s this season already.

In the freshwater, there has been enough rain to give the bass a few chances to get past the main obstacles in the river systems. If you’re chasing bass this month I would suggest heading higher up in the catchments to look for big pools in between the rapids. Surface crawlers like the Taylor Made Basscada, Koolabung Basswalker and Tiemco Soft Shell Cicada would be my ‘go to’ lures for chasing bass this month.

With almost all fishing environments firing it shouldn’t be too hard to get among the catch. If you do get out I hope the bite is hot and your lines are tight.

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