Coffs still seeing summer creatures
  |  First Published: May 2016

One criticism of the Coffs Coast climate from more southern residents is that the four seasons are not very well defined. I have to say that it feels a little like the fishing in this area is starting to lose some of its definition between seasons too. There are a few species that still follow strict historical seasons, but many of the warmer season visitors are starting to look a little like residents.

The mackerel are here for much of the year, the whiting are hitting surface lures all year round and the giant trevally and jacks seem to be on the bite even in winter. Perhaps it’s just anglers discovering that they’re still here and targeting them more in the off season, or perhaps it’s just me hearing about more of the off-season oddities, but it certainly feels like fish are showing up where and when you least expect it.

Where the cool water flows

May signifies the wrapping up of trout season for another year. For the cold loving, foreign trout it has been one of the driest and hottest seasons for a very long time. Even the top of the range has not been spared from the scorching heat. There have still been fish around to catch, but the action has been a little slower than recent years.

Possibly one of the reasons it’s been quiet on the tablelands is the fact that a few weeks ago, I met someone out on the river who had just caught three quality rainbows (I saw evidence), the kicker is, it was almost down in bass country and well and truly off the highlands. This was not an angler targeting trout, but rather a kayaker relatively crudely trolling a bass hardbody in a deep hole near where he was camping. I have never seen trout downriver this far and I suspect it is a sign that they are chasing deeper holes for the cool water and a bit more flow.

The only place those conditions exist at present is much further down in the river systems. This month may be a good chance to get into some areas that you wouldn’t normally fish for trout. We’re very used to fishing tiny streams for trout in this area. It might be nice to get out and fish some bigger rivers for a change, and going on the calibre of trout I saw that weekend, I’d say it could be a really fun end to the season.

In the deeper pools it can be quite hard to raise the fish on the fly, especially using your typical New England stream arsenal. In these bigger rivers, it may be best to move to New Zealand style wet flies. Bead-headed streamers like Dirty Harry Woolly Buggers are capable of getting down in the strike zone even in the deeper pools and present a bigger profile, attracting attention in the large spaces. Alternatively, throwing hardbodies around on spin gear will be a very effective way of covering the water column.

One thing to remember if you’re around the bass water this month is that the ‘no take’ season commences at the start of May. As of last year, the bass closed season has been extended to include this month to protect those fish that migrate and spawn early. If you do catch any bass, ensure that you return them as quickly as possible. Also, think about ways to avoid capturing them in the first place, as that’s always going to be the best way to ensure they’re unharmed during their spawning season.

Where the warm water flows

Although we are coming into winter, the Coffs Coast will still be operating a little like summer this month. The warm current is showing no sign of slowing down significantly or moving too far offshore, so we should enjoy the warm water predators for at least the next month or so. Mackerel, longtail tuna, yellowfin and mahimahi should all be on the cards as long as that warm water is present.

For the later two especially, you want to find temperatures upwards of 24°C, which will mostly be found from the outer islands and further offshore. The mackerel and longtail tuna will continue to be found around the inshore reefs, islands and headlands. The tailor are also present in numbers and are welcome fun around the washes. They make a great feed when fresh and also, when above legal size, make a great live bait for targeting bigger mackerel and kingfish.

Where warm and cold mix

In my opinion it doesn’t get any better along our beaches than this time of year. Crisp evenings and clear autumn days are the norm. You don’t freeze at night, but you also won’t fry during the day. Catching your own beachworms and setting up the rod on your own personal gutter on a secluded beach out of town is hard to beat as a relaxing escape from the rat race. There are plenty of whiting, bream and mulloway that are happy to participate and you can probably convince a mate or two to tag along if you’re after some company.

Inside the estuaries the winter transition is a little further along. The water is cooling slightly and some of the enthusiasm for topwater strikes is beginning to dwindle. The whiting are still active, but will be more likely to eat sub-surface lures over the next few months.

If last winter is anything to go by, the GTs and jacks will remain a target all winter, although they maybe a little harder to find than over summer.

No matter where you’re chasing your fish this month, it’s always fun knowing that a surprise catch could be right around the corner.
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