Hot days and cool waves
  |  First Published: December 2016

The year begins again, and New Year’s resolutions have likely been made and broken already – but the fishing will go on. This month should see the return of the warm tropical water, via the East Australian Current, and the summer species that come with it. With such warm waters and the extensive coral death on the Great Barrier Reef last year, it’s going to be very interesting to track how this season pans out – will we get a larger run of the northern species chasing more productive waters? Or will the numbers be down because 2016 was so rough for them up north? It’s hard to see it not having some effect on our season this year – but will it be good or bad? We’ll have to wait and see. There have been good signs from slightly further north, with spotty mackerel in good numbers already, but we haven’t quite seen them here in force as of yet. They should thicken up early this month, along with their Spanish cousins and the longtail tuna.

During the holiday period it can get very crowded at the harbour boat ramp.. If you have the ability to beach launch your boat it may be worth the drive to Woolgoolga or Arrawarra, to avoid the queue. Much of the fishing grounds up that way fish very well this time of year, and there are plenty of marks to spread out the crowd. But if you are restricted to launching at Coffs Harbour, it’s a good idea to arrive very early and get in quick, or you may be caught waiting in line. Also remember that there are a lot of people waiting to launch, so have everything ready to make your launch efficient and you’ll be ready to get your vehicle out of the way as soon as possible. Be aware that although there has been further work done to expand the boat ramp basin, there can still be a significant surge on the ramp during large swell. So if you’re unfamiliar with launching there, please take the time to watch others launch, and observe the conditions – this ramp has caught out more than a few boat launchers with an ill-timed surging or withdrawing wave.

For those who are restricted to, or just prefer solid ground, there has been plenty of action. The headlands are still producing good numbers of mulloway, though mostly mid-size fish. There have been some bigger 20kg+ models around as well. This month the live baiting will get very exciting, as the mackerel and longtail tuna move inshore in greater numbers. Last season the very large sinking or floating stickbaits were the weapon of choice if you know the mackerel are around, as the mackerel love them. You can cover a lot of ground and the fishing is incredibly exciting. Even if you’re not quite confident that there are mackerel present, there’s nothing stopping kingfish, tailor or mulloway from hitting a well-worked stickbait as well.

Sometimes in the heat of summer, the last place you want to be is out in the open sun on the salt water – but hot and steamy afternoons are almost meant to be spent on a bass creek somewhere, walking surface crawlers back to your kayak or canoe. All the usual social media channels have been filled with local big bass pictures. The locations, of course, are never mentioned, but if you know the area, you can recognise enough to tell that they’re coming from all over the place. Mostly they’re high in the river systems in the skinny water, but they’re coming from all the local catchments. The Nambucca, Kalang, Bellinger and Orara systems all have very healthy bass populations and are fishing excellently. I say it often enough, but again I’ll mention that it’s hard to go ‘too big’, when it comes to bass lures, especially when fishing on the surface at night, but also in the middle of the day. Big surface crawlers with a nice jangle and loud movement are always my favourite, and come up time and time again as the undoing of big fish in our local systems.

Further from the salt and sand are the trout, which despite having been promised rain in spring, have been battling through another hot and gruelling summer. We have at least seen frequent afternoon storms bringing relieving showers for the plateau. Despite the conditions, the trout fishing has been steady. Some sections are dominated at present by very small fish that tend to spook and spread panic like a wave. When I come across those sections, I usually have a little fun with the small fish, but then move on to look for the prime sections that hopefully hold bigger fish. More times than not, they’ve been there. These prime holes tend to be held by only one or two bigger fish, and therefore, it’s a little easier to spot and monitor fish, so you can get that cast in without spooking the pool. Whether you get out and enjoy the sun, or try and hide away from it like a vampire, I wish you a happy New Year, and hope you’re able to find fish wherever you are.

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