Mulloway save summer bags
  |  First Published: December 2016

December is here with the promise of warmer water and pelagic fish offshore. Expect mackerel, both spotted and Spanish to have made their normal early run to Shark Bay on the north side of Woody Head, as well as Freeburn Rock to Shelly Headland to the south.

Normally, there’s an early arrival around the last week of November to the first week of December. Then they disappear for two weeks and come back in good numbers the week before Christmas. It’s not hard to see when mackerel are on the bite in Shark Bay – the amount of boats trolling around is a dead giveaway. This area is really well protected from the weather and many can get out and chase big fish in boats as small as 3m long.

The FAD off Yamba was reinstalled in September in the same spot for the fourth year. It should have enough growth now for the first of the mahimahi to show. Small live baits are by far the most productive way to fish the FAD early in the season. It can get a bit busy out there at times, so a bit of etiquette will go a long way to giving everyone a fair crack at the fish.

Offshore, the south Evans area has produced lovely mulloway even when other fish are hard to find. Mixed with them have been the odd fantastic snapper to 8kg, but as the water warms these grounds will fill with fish that have been hanging on the wider grounds. Look for the bait shoals deep and close to the reef as the trag and snapper will sit just down current of these, usually south.

Southern grounds from Red Cliff to Sandon River will be holding nice tuskfish and pearlies in 30-40m of water. Drifting this beautiful piece of reef is the most productive. These fish rarely shoal up, so the need to cover a lot of ground is essential. An average day on this reef can produce up to a dozen different species of fish, and with the warmer water, we quite often encounter the odd visitor from the north. In the past, we’ve caught large-mouth nannigai, red emperor, coral trout and red throat emperor in this area, so you really never know what’s going to hit the icebox.

For those who like to venture further offshore, the 50 fathom line is home to some nice pearl perch this time of year. The real drama is the current – check the forecast water temperature charts before you go, as they’ll indicate if the current is boiling down from the north. There are times when you travel 20nm to the grounds and the current is so hard you can’t reach the bottom using a fridge as a sinker – a long drive for no fish. When it’s good, there are yellowtail kingfish, amberjack, samsonfish, pigfish, morwong and snapper to be had in good numbers.

The river has fished well lately and signs are it’s going to be a great start to summer. I have fished the entrance to the lake lately for beautiful sand whiting – all great fish with very few throwbacks. These will just get better throughout December. Blue swimmer crabs were thick enough up there for us to catch them on worms while fishing for the whiting. Don’t forget to throw some dillies in and check them regularly. Try the western end of Whiting Beach in the river for whiting on poppers. It’s great fun if you’ve never tried it before, and very productive once you get it right.

Browns Rocks area upstream is always a good spot in December. The reef is only 3m deep on top, but drops to almost 12m on the south side. Top of the reef is a good bream spot, but I like the drop off. If you can anchor the boat right, you can sometimes drop a nice live bait just over the lip. This is big flathead and mulloway ground. You will only have limited time to fish this area, as the tides really boil here, so planning is a must.

Local tide times are for the mouth of the river, but Browns Rocks can change up to an hour and a half later. Just south of this reef in the river, before you get to the caravan park, is a good spot for small mulloway. I usually anchor the boat and flick white plastics just on the start of the run out working them back to the boat. It’s heaps of fun on light gear. For those who only want to catch a feed this may be a waste of time, as most of these fish don’t make 70cm.

Flathead have been good lately with a lot of fish around the Broadwater and Harwood areas. The river has a lot of school prawns and these bigger fish are holding in the deeper areas on the run-out tide waiting for the prawn feast. My biggest selling lures for these have been the ZMan StreakZ Curly TailZ in motor oil and the Zerek tango shad in dark brown. Trolling the tango shads in about 1.5-2m of water has really taken a lot of fish.

The shallows from the Big4 Holiday Park boat ramp to the gun club opposite Browns Rocks will not be a waste of time this month. Just slow troll amongst the weed beds and hang on. If you don’t want to travel that far, then trolling the area we call Yamba Bay from the Calypso Caravan Park to the end of the Gantry Wall is an easy fish and worth the effort.

If you’re travelling to Yamba for the holidays, call into the shop and say g’day. We’ll be able to give you the latest advice on what’s happening here as well as any bait or gear you may need. Have a safe and happy holiday season.


April from Inverell with a huge snapper.


Matt from Inverell caught this great mulloway.


Mason, eight years old, from Mildura with gummy shark.

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