Cracking the ‘Coota code
  |  First Published: May 2016

For many anglers, bream anglers in particular, a fishing trip to a place such as Mallacoota is as good as it gets. Unfortunately for many of us, it is a very long trip to get there so it’s just not practical to fish it as often as I would like. I am hoping that by reading this article, you can get a little insight to help prepare for your own trip to Mallacoota and hopefully, I can provide some useful info and tips that allow you to make the most of your time there and hit the ground running. It really is one of those places where a month of fishing it would still leave most of it untapped.

The thing I love about Mallacoota (‘Coota) is that not only can the fishing be fantastic, but the scenery is just mind blowing. It really is such a pretty waterway to navigate around. There are ample small arms that branch off the main body of water and the entire place is lined with snaggy banks that just scream ‘big black bream’. I think it’s best to break the place down into four main areas. There is the bottom lake, which is a large volume of water between the ‘Narrows’ and the outlet to the ocean. The Narrows, as the name suggests, is a short, narrow section linking the bottom lake to the top lake. Then there’s the top lake, which is slightly smaller than the bottom lake but no less productive. Lastly is the section of river that runs from the top lake up past Gypsy Point.

All four locations can really turn it on at times, but just as is the case with any waterway, certain areas fire better at different times of the year. ‘Coota is a special kind of place that can produce both black and yellowfin bream in huge sizes.

The bottom lake

The bottom lake is the pick of the spots if you’re wanting to try your luck at some solid yellowfin. You will certainly still get into plenty of blacks in the bottom lake, but it really is a great spot for large yellowfin bream as well, which are far less common in the upper reaches.

The bottom lake offers some great options. It is home to the largest and most popular flats area known as Goodwyn Flats. It also has the main boat ramp, so launching your rig and getting to the fishing grounds quickly is as easy as it gets.

There are a couple of options with fishing these flats. You can work the slightly deeper waters around the flats or you can fish over the flats themselves, and working topwater lures during summer months is another great option. Working shallow diving small hardbody lures is also very effective.

The bottom lake (like the entire lake) has a huge amount of snag lined banks that are prime bream haunts. I like to fish those banks that have the breeze blowing onto them, as this really stirs things up and brings the bream on the chew. Peppering the banks with hardbodied lures is a great method for fishing ‘Coota. There are literally hundreds of different lures around these days.

The narrows

The Narrows can be a productive spot but it does suffer a little too much from boat traffic for my liking. It does have some great deep water leading up to the banks of this stretch of waterway and at the right time of year, when boat traffic is at a minimum, it’s certainly worth a throw.

The Top Lake

We then head up into the Top Lake, which is also my favourite part of the Mallacoota system. This part of the system is just littered with small fingers or arms of water that branch off all around the lake. It has ample snaggy banks to pepper your lures at, it has some really good flats throughout it, and it can be fished any number of ways, so if you like soft plastics or blades or your hardbodies then you’re in luck. It’s all on offer here.

You will find some very productive open grounds here that vary in depth. It’s a good idea to ensure you have multiple rods rigged and ready to go to minimise time spent re-rigging as you hit different locations. As a minimum I would suggest that you have at least three rods rigged and ready to go, but four or five is preferable if you can.

I have the following rods rigged. I have three with hardbodied lures. I like one shallow hardbody that runs around 0.5m, then a second that is around 1-1.5m and I like a third deep diving hardbody that will run to around 2-3m deep. I also like one rod rigged with a lightweight jighead for soft plastics, and a fifth rod rigged with a small blade lure. This way, regardless of what area of the system I choose to fish, I’m rigged and ready to go.

This section (along with all parts of this system) can produce some cracking black bream. I find some days the fish numbers are down but the size can be unreal and other days you find you’re just getting a very constant run of fish with most loads of fish generally in that 30-35cm range.

Up to Gypsy Point and beyond

We then head up into the stretch of water that heads from the upper section of the top lake up all the way past Gypsy Point and beyond. Again, a very pretty section of water to fish.

It is always important to keep your noise to the lowest levels possible, but for me I really try extra hard in this section to keep the noise down. It is a very calm, peaceful stretch of water and working it as quietly as possible will do your results no harm at all.

This section of waterway is not really home to sand flats as such, and it is more about fishing the edges. You’ll find kilometre after kilometre of tree lined banks with snags and old fallen trees littering this place. Many areas here offer very deep water leading up to the edges and will often hold good numbers of schooling fish down deep at certain times throughout the year.

Soft plastics and blades come into their own during these periods and you will mark these schooling fish very clearly on your sounder, so keep an eye on things down deep and persist with these schools of deeper fish.

You will also score some very good fish throwing hardbodied lures around the edges. I like to mix it up a little with shallow and deep diving hardbody offerings, until I find a pattern and generally work that option while it continues to produce.

other species?

‘Coota is also a very productive place for flathead anglers looking to nail that trophy fish. There is no shortage of table size flathead in this system, for those chasing a feed, but it is also home to some very large flathead for those anglers who love chasing big fish in the estuaries.

It’s also a place that offers some nice mulloway throughout the year. Generally, I fish larger soft plastics if chasing these big flathead and mulloway, and be sure to use adequate leader as your 3lb fluoro is not the gear for chasing these solid fish that ‘Coota offers.

It’s no different to any other waterway, so make sure you do the right thing by the system and release those fish that are big breeders and just keep a few eating size fish for the table.

Tackle suggestions

For those anglers chasing bream, I suggest rods with a rating of 1-3kg around 6’10-7ft is generally a good bet. I use reels from 1000-2000 size as a rule. The most important thing is to ensure your reel has a very smooth clean drag, as this is what will cost you fish if you don’t have one. I generally have two options with my line. I use 3lb straight through fluoro on some of my outfits and 2-4lb braid with 4-8lb fluoro leader on the others.

If I’m chasing mulloway and large flathead, I run rods that are around 7ft, 2-5kg rating and usually a reel size around 2500. I like 4-6lb braid and leader of around 10lb.

There are no hard and fast rules with your tackle, and these are just a guide and insight into what I use and find effective. All anglers have their preference.

Make the trip!

Well there it is, my quick guide to fishing Mallacoota. As with all forms of fishing, there are many different techniques and methods that will work.

The one piece of advice that I’d like to finish off with is if you don’t have an electric motor on your boat, then get one. It is a must if you want to fish this place to its full potential.

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