Warm water pelagics storming in
  |  First Published: February 2017

The holidays are over and with that, Yamba will start to quieten down somewhat. In the 1970s when I first came here, Yamba was almost a secret except to those who fished it, now it seems that everyone has heard of Yamba and the town and waterways are busier every year.

The big Clarence River seems to have handled the growth well, with most being able to get a feed of fish or crabs on a daily basis, regardless of their local knowledge or ability. This summer I’ve seen guys catch a mulloway on a blade on Middle Wall while someone is screaming past only 10m away on the loudest jet ski ever invented. That’s a healthy system!

Large dusky flathead have been in good numbers this summer, with numerous fish between 2.5-4.5kg being caught daily. These fish are spread throughout the river, with fish being taken at Ashby, Maclean and Harwood all the way to the corner of the south break wall at Whiting Beach. Consistent large flathead usually means live baiting with hearing or poddy mullet, but many of these fish have fallen to trolled hardbody lures like the Zerek Tango Shads, soft plastics like ZMan 2.5” Curly TailZ in motor oil colour, and blades. It seems they will take whatever is on offer when the warm weather comes.

Whiting have also been great this season and are showing no signs of easing up. Live yabbies, if you have the energy to pump them, bring the fish unstuck easily. Beach worms are always handy to have on hand, and for those who like using lures, try popping for them. They hit the popper with such ferocity at times, and then tail walk like a marlin. My only advice on popping for them is to get the popper to imitate a scared showering prawn, pop it fast in short bursts, and don’t stop.

The Clarence is once again experiencing a better than average run of crabs this summer, both blue swimmer and muddies. Crabs have been taken in big numbers all the way up past the Broadwater. Be aware that you cannot use a crab trap upstream from the courthouse at Maclean, only dillies or hoop nets are allowed in this water. Check new regulations on what info must be on the float for both traps and dillies. With four dillies and two traps allowed per person, you should have enough arsenal to take a feed home quickly. Normally, I would suggest where to chase them, but honestly, they have been that good you should be able to get some wherever you go.

Offshore, the warmer water has brought the pelagics with it. Spotted mackerel are a great target fish this time of the year. Shark Bay on the north side of Woody Head is always a good place early in the morning to find a feed of these fast fish. You don’t need a huge boat to fish them either, as the ramp at Woody is very protected and the bay itself has a reef shielding it from the sea.

Lots of anglers fish for spotties in 4m tinnies and do very well. Trolling pink squid pattern lures at a little faster than normal (close to 10 knots) is a fun way to get a few, but float baiting with a whole pilchard on a very light single-strand wire can be bedlam.

Another good spot to try is just off of One Man Headland south of Angourie in about 30m of water. Spotties haunt this spot every February, and there is usually a few less boats to contend with.

This month I like to fish the wider grounds in around 50 fathoms, as it produces a good spattering of quality reef fish. Snapper are out there in good numbers, although they usually aren’t monsters. The average fish is around 40-45cm, but they’re good table fish and when you find them a bag limit can be easily achieved.

Pearl perch are not usually far away from the snapper, just look for a bit of harder and smoother bottom for the pearlies. If you get a snag and pull up a bit of wire weed, (which will look like a red rusty spring, stick around that area. I don’t know why, but pearlies love wire weed.

We regularly get fish to 5kg, which is good for pearl perch, but average fish will still be just over 40cm. The prize when fishing these grounds is the black-spot pigfish. This little beauty is just about my favourite fish to eat. You won’t catch big numbers of them, but 2-3 piggies is heaven on a plate.

The grounds are vast and easy enough to find, NE or SE from the bar, once you get to 19nm, the sounder should read 47-50 fathoms (90-100m), then any show of fish should see you hooked up!

Fisheries have reinstated the FAD about 7nm SE of the bar, and this should start to hold some mahimahi. Trolling past with lures can help you to find fish, or throwing lures at the FAD may also be productive. I prefer to drift past the FAD and throw a handful of old bait at it two to three times before I fish it, just to get them in the mood. A good mate of mine showed me how to do this a couple of years ago, and the results are amazing. By the time you throw your first handful of bait at them, the numbers have doubled and they are in the mood to attack. Remember, these fish are delicious fresh, but only fresh, so just take what you can eat in the next couple of days.

Marina Boat and Tackle are very pleased to announce that we have been appointed the Pro MinnKota and Humminbird agent for the area. If you are in Yamba, call in and see myself or Rob and have a look at the huge range in stock and get the good oil on what’s biting where.
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