What’s hooking, good looking?
  |  First Published: September 2016

With the beginning of September comes the opening of the New South Wales bass fishing season, with longer, warmer days. The closed bass season, newly extended to four months, aims to allow a longer time frame for these fish to spawn.

This spawning took place for most fish in the stretch of river between Kinchela Creek and the Belmore River, which are situated above and below the riverside townships of Smithtown and Gladstone. Up-river migration after spawning has begun and some monster fish have appeared around Kempsey. Most of the structure from Smithtown Bridge up to Belgrave falls is starting to hold fish.

Soft vibe lures have been the most productive and versatile. Samaki Vibelicious Thumper Tails are the stand out variety. Expect hard hits from these fish, as they have been mostly undisturbed for the last few months and can be quite aggressive, especially if baitfish are present. Bream, flathead and whiting are on the cards when fishing the upper tidal reaches of the river using these lures.

The lower Macleay has been loaded with bream and small school mulloway, from the entrance of the river up to Smithtown.

Flathead are less lethargic now and can be found in shallows, around schools of small whiting and baitfish congregating on the flats.

Presenting small to mid sized soft plastics along the drop offs and over the edges of the sand flats is a sure fire way to tangle with a big flathead, as they lay and wait in ambush.

Good sized tailor are around the headlands and along most of the beaches during the afternoon and into dark.

Bream are schooling up around the headlands in big numbers, and these areas have also been supporting a decent population of school mulloway. Many a bream pick has turned into a screaming mulloway run after dark.

Out to sea, snapper are being found out wide and in close shallow reefs. Grassy Head and Point Plomer are yielding equally good fish.

It’s been a cracker winter for kingfish this year, with good numbers of fish around Fish Rock. This fishery will improve as we head towards October and November, when the surface fishing heats up. For now, deep water and micro jigs, or Lucanus and octo-style jigs are doing the trick nicely on deeper holding fish. Find the bait schools and these fish are not going to be far away.

Pearl perch, teraglin, mulloway and pigfish have all been on the deeper reefs. The leatherjacket situation this year didn’t seem to be as full on as in the past, although some days they seemed to turn up everywhere you went. On your sounder, large, tight shows of fish off the bottom are a dead give away these species are present.

The deep drop fishery off our coastline has been reasonable this season. Finding the right weather is more of a challenge than finding the fish. Bar cod, bass groper, John Dory and gemfish are all possibilities, until the currents pick up in the summer months.

So while it still might be a bit chilly, we’re well and truly over the hill of winter.

The next few months should see temperatures increase significantly, bringing on a host of exciting species for anglers to target.

Until next month, stay safe, and happy fishing.


Marty Nicholls with an early season Macleay River bass.


School mulloway, like this one of Sam Redman’s, are a common by-catch when chasing bass at night in the tidal zone.

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