PHIL BENNETT sings the praises of this lovely riverside venue
Nestled half-way between Coffs Harbour and South West Rocks on the NSW Mid North Coast is the pretty little town of Nambucca Heads. A popular destination for travelling anglers, Nambucca boasts all the appealing attributes that make this part of the coast such a popular destination.
Like most rivers on the North Coast, the Nambucca system holds good numbers of bream, flathead, whiting, and luderick, plus a reasonable number of jewfish if you know where to look.
While not an overly difficult river system to fish, you still need to put in a little forethought and effort to get the best results. Hopefully this article will give you a few helpful pointers and make your visit to the Nambucca region even more enjoyable.
Let’s start way up-river and look at some of the great bass water, then slowly wind our way down into the saltwater reaches before finally hitting the open sea.
For keen bass anglers the small rivers feeding the Nambucca are well worth a throw as they hold healthy numbers of fish in most freshwater sections above Macksville.
In the river proper, head up towards Taylors Arm and start looking around Congarini and Utungan. This is real canoe water so don’t head too far upstream with a sizable bass boat. A few spin rods and a one- or two-man canoe are ideal. Take a good mate and you should get to explore some very fishy water during your stay.
There’s a junction in the river system just above Macksville. The northern arm, heading up towards Bowraville, is also well worth exploring for a few bass. Again, access is from the adjacent road so a canoe is the ideal craft.
Like most North Coast systems, prime time is Spring through to late Summer, with the best months November to March. There’s still good fishing to be had when the weather cools again but you’ll have to head down towards Macksville to enjoy the Winter bass action.
Once you hit the saltwater reaches around Macksville, you can expect bream numbers to steadily build. These sections of the river usually produce better fishing during the warmer months as many bream head upstream seeking prawns and other tasty morsels at this time of year.
Small soft plastics and minnow lures will score fish, especially if you work the ample bankside timber around dawn and dusk.
Below Macksville is the start of more traditional bream and flathead country with bankside casuarinas giving way to mangroves and muddy tidal flats. The mangrove-lined banks prove ideal habitat for both species, providing plenty of cover and bait-holding ability.
These midsections of the river are often best fished during the warmer months because clear, cold water can be a problem during the Winter. There’s a good boat ramp on the northern side of the Macksville highway bridge (turn left 50m past the bridge) and start looking for bream around the bridge pylons and mangrove fringes. Flick a few larger soft plastics or whitebait around the tidal flats on the run-out tide for flathead.
At night you can expect a few school jewfish to be sneaking around the bridge pylons.
Heading down-river a few kilometres, you come to the first of many oyster leases. As most anglers are aware, there’s some pretty exciting bream, blackfish and flathead fishing to be had around these structures.
On the Nambucca River there’s an equal mix of fixed and floating leases, with both fishing well all year round. Exactly when to fish the leases will depend on bait supplies and water clarity.
If you’re encountering clear water devoid of bait start, looking elsewhere. Nice greenish water with visible bait schools indicate you’re very likely to score some nice fish on lures and bait.
Closer towards the river mouth, the Nambucca system broadens and becomes more complex with weed beds and sweeping tidal sand flats all the way to the river mouth. Not surprisingly, this is prime flathead and whiting county with many local and visiting anglers enjoying the tranquil surrounds while drifting for a feed of these tasty fish.
Wide open sand flats slowly give way to more rock-lined foreshores. The bottom kilometre or so of river will be of great interest to anglers keen to chase bream, luderick and big flathead. These rocky bays can hold some quality fish and fish equality well at high or low tide.
Jewfish anglers also have reason to smile over these deeper, more rugged zones.
From here on, rocky breakwalls line the northern bank, with a few small tidal bays that offer good places to flick for whiting and bream at night. During the heat of the day they also make great places to cool off, looking particularly inviting around the top of the tide.
The breakwall at the river mouth is a very popular place for local and visiting anglers alike. Here you can expect good numbers of bream and blackfish during the cooler months and some seriously big flathead and tasty whiting when the weather and water warm up
. Jewfish can bite at any time of the year, with conditions often deciding the best time to fish. If you want a jewie, head down around dawn or dusk and cast out a live mullet or tailor.
If there’s a good swell running and little colour in the river from recent rain, break out sizable hard-bodied lures and spend a few hours casting at the very end of the wall. Some terrific jewies have come off the Nambucca wall over the years; it’s all a matter of putting in the time when the conditions are right.
There are some great beaches and rocks to explore in the Nambucca Shire, with good runs of tailor, bream and blackfish coming in during the cooler months. Summer is prime time for smaller tailor, whiting and flathead.
I haven’t actually fished offshore from Nambucca, but words of praise from reliable sources suggest there’s some pretty good fun to be had. No doubt part of the reason the offshore fishing is good is due to the river bar. The Nambucca bar is not the most friendly of spots to access the open sea and as such there’s little pressure put on the close grounds.
That bar deserves absolute caution and if you’re in any doubt as to the ability of you or your vessel to negotiate it, don’t.
There’s plenty of reef heading south towards Scotts Head and some good country in fairly close in to the north. Good numbers of snapper, mackerel and pearl perch frequent the inshore grounds in season and bar cod, kings and snapper are the main fare out wider.