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Escaping the shark tax
  |  First Published: April 2016



April is the pinnacle of pelagic fishing in the Macleay region. This month may not result in huge numbers of fish however the diversity of pelagic species that the strong southerly currents bring to our area at this time each year is incredible. The water rarely drops below 25°C in April and the ocean is alive with action.

Longtail and yellowfin tuna are absolutely everywhere at present and they hit everything put in front of them from live bait to trolled lures and even cast stickbaits and metals. Wahoo are being commonly caught while trolling out a bit wider. Locate a school of tuna in around 50m to find these fish, I guarantee they are not too far away.

Spanish and spotted mackerel have hit our inshore reefs in a big way this season with some huge spotties boated regularly. Fish over the 10kg mark have been captured on a couple of occasions. All the usual haunts are producing mackerel from Scotts Head in the north right through to Point Plomer in the south. Unfortunately with all this pelagic activity the presence of sharks is huge. Too many prize fish to count have been devoured once hooked, usually boat side when the battle is almost over. Fishing at anchor, especially using a berley trail becomes almost a pointless exercise when there are this many predators around. You make an easy feed for them when fights are drawn out and the fish become tired. Slow trolling baits away from the main reefs and fishing heavier will increase your chance of landing fish however some days it is hopeless. Bull sharks, black tip whalers and hammerheads are the main culprits, although the odd tiger and even great white have been around.

The Macleay River bar is very shallow at present and is extremely dangerous in all but perfect conditions. This area should be avoided on a run-out tide and times of low water no matter how calm it looks. Recently there have been several near misses and a couple of incidents that resulted in boats capsizing, and unfortunately a life has been lost. Visitors to the area and locals alike really need to weigh up their options and be 100% confident if they are going to cross this bar. Any doubt in a skipper’s mind should result in finding another place to access the ocean or better still not go out at all.

Big kingfish and Spanish mackerel have been around Fish Rock. Both species have been hitting trolled bibbed lures and jigs alike in this area.

Land-based fishing has started to heat up now with anglers getting in on plenty of cobia, mackerel and bluefin action regularly, not to mention the ever reliable mulloway and even some good tailor. The beaches are fishing fairly well and this fishery will only improve as the first runs of spawning bream, mullet and blackfish occur along the beaches as we progress towards winter.

Big bream are starting to show up in the river now with the rock walls in the lower reaches of the system holding some solid specimens.

With shorter, cooler days approaching, big river mulloway will become a priority for a lot of anglers in the area. The river is alive with baitfish so it is safe to say that mimicking these fish with soft plastics and hardbody lures or capturing baitfish and using them live will provide the most success on this species over dead baits, which attract way to much attention from other picking species that are present in the river.

Bass fishing in the upper reaches of the river has been firing. Some areas of the river are quite weedy and can be difficult to fish, however there are plenty of deeper holes with good flow that are loaded with big fish.

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