Mixed action out on the reef
  |  First Published: October 2016

October is one of those funny months for fishing in our area. It can be hard work one year and red-hot the next. The water temperature is rising and fish have had some time to recover from their winter spawn and disperse throughout the system, both in the estuary and offshore.

Inshore and estuary

Last month the river had a far bit of colour in it due to the better than average rainfall in the catchment. This pushed some of the better fish closer to the mouth, which were chasing the clean water on the incoming tide. These small freshes in the river look as if they will continue, so finding the fish may be a challenge.

Mulloway love the fresh due to the food, which is predominately mullet, being pushed out and the break walls are a real hotspot. Some great lures to try are Bills Bugs range of big divers and the new Maria 140 Loaded sinking stickbait.

Flathead are around in good numbers from Middle Wall to Harwood Bridge depending on water clarity, and quite a few fish around the 70cm+ mark are being caught. These are expected to stick around until the end of October.

Luderick or blackfish have been sensational this season, and have given no indication they will slow up as the warmer weather comes. I’ve weighed fish to over 1.6kg lately and heard reports of bigger ones. Even the first timers are getting a bag.

Whiting should be around this month. The entrance to Lake Wooloweyah around Joss Island is a great spot, as well as the eastern side of Turkey Island upstream from Browns rocks. Anchoring on a rising tide at the lake with lightly weighted yabbies or beach worms is very productive. Turkey Island seems to work better drifting on an run-out tide, with a little more weight, again with yabbies as bait. For those not wanting to travel for them, the shortcut between Hickey and Dart islands is always worth a shot, with the ease of being able to pump yabbies right alongside the spot

The last three years have seen the Clarence once again come alive with crabs, both blue swimmer and muddies. Normally you crab in months with a ‘r’ in them, but they never stopped this year and all signs point to another bumper spring. Muddies will be right throughout the system in the usual mud holed spots. Blue swimmers should be in good numbers on the sand channel from the Tavern to Reedy creek and from the boat ramp on Carrs Drive to the entrance to the lake. But honestly, like last season, you should catch them just about anywhere there is water and sand.


Offshore is where I spend an average of 180 days a year running fishing charters. This year the larger snapper arrived about three weeks late, but they just haven’t left. I have had numerous days of multiple 4-8kg fish being caught, and they are mixed with a lot of quality reef fish like venus tuskfish, Moses perch and Maori cod.

For those who like to chase them on plastics, Shelly Headland to Redcliff in the south in around 10m of water for the first and last two hours of daylight is where you want to focus your attention. If you want to head north, north to the break reef off Woody Head, you should be able to fish for them all day.

If lures aren’t for you, then floating a big bait with a couple of fluoro beads above the hook through the same area will be every bit as productive.

Close reef from Angourie to Redcliff holds good fish for those not wanting to travel far. The northeast corner produces some big snapper in about 50m and deeper with good trag and bluespot flathead mixed in.

Around 3 nautical miles south-southwest is a ground I call Texas, which is a great spring spot. This will show easily as you drive over it, with some nice high rocks and fish holding very tight between the rocks. Drifting with a north current can give up a mixed bag of quality fish most days.

The wider ground has been smashed by leatherjacket over the last month or so, but the latest lot are looking poor, meaning they have spawned and I expect them to move on by October. This will mean the reef they took over will quickly fill with trag, snapper and mulloway once more. Drifting the wide grounds off Brooms Head is one of my favourites, as it’s a lottery every day. Anything from cobia, rosy jobfish, pigfish, pearl perch, kingfish, and even early mahimahi can be caught with the normal reef fish in abundance.

Spring brings trag to South Evans Reef in huge numbers mixed with really good mulloway, and the boat drive is always well worth it. It’s also only 10 nautical miles from the bar to the Italian Grounds, and here you’re almost guaranteed a good trag and mulloway. I like to fish in (30-40m) for them, drifting if possible, but if you find a hotspot, you can anchor, as they will hold for you. Usually there will be schools of livies with them. Having one live bait and one flesh bait on a standard rig proves the most productive with the activity of the trag usually attracting the mulloway to the boat.

Enjoy the spring and change of season, and if you are traveling south to Yamba, remember we’re now under daylight savings, giving you an extra hour to get that big one.

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