End of summer, but not summer fishing!
  |  First Published: February 2017

There are two months of the year that I really look forward to: one is November, because it’s the first month that trout season is open, bass season is open and the Nymboida river is open for fishing. The other is February, because all of the above is still true, and the mackerel are also in full swing, and the craziness of the tourist season is mostly over – but it still feels like we’re in holiday mode.

Getting away for an evening bass trip after work is just another part of summer traditions. The bass have been very active in all the local waterways, whether it’s day or night. Surface lures are very effective, particularly anything that imitates the abundant cicadas around this summer. The very top of the larger systems have been producing some big fish, and they tend to be a little more concentrated with the very dry summer we’ve had. However, that may have changed by the time you read this as most of the bigger fish are in the deeper holes with good cover. Don’t waste too much time in between the better holes.

The situation has been much the same for the trout up on the plateau. Very hot conditions and low creek levels have pushed the decent fish into the diminishing deeper holes in each system. This means there have been some very slow sections, with only small fish or none at all, but if you do find the decent sections there can be good fishing for large, hungry fish. Usually it’s the creeks higher up the range that offer cooler conditions, but it has been stinking hot out west with very little rain. The top creeks are very open and exposed to the heat so it’s best to look for sections further from the source. Here there is forest cover and more water, providing easier living conditions for the trout. Don’t discount the larger rivers – it was conditions like this last year that saw trout being caught well down into the Nymboida River system.

The other side of summer means chasing toothy critters in the salt. The estuary anglers are out chasing mangrove jack. The jacks, for the most part, have been obliging, with plenty of decent red fish being landed from the middle stretches of most of our estuary systems. There have been marauding schools of giant trevally roaming these areas and even the odd giant herring being caught up in the dirtier brackish water. Surface lures that mimic baitfish or prawns have been performing the best, with lures such as the OSP Bent Minnow and Bassday Sugapen becoming the favourites. The Sugapen has also been the go-to lure for chasing whiting down in the lower estuaries. There have been plenty of whiting caught on the flats lately, especially on the incoming cycle of the larger tides.

Elsewhere in the saltwater, mackerel fever has set in completely. At this time of year you’d be hard pressed to find an inshore boat not trolling or drifting a live bait or two, hoping for one of these speedsters.

The spotted mackerel have been moving around in very large schools and have sometimes been hard to tempt. A slimy mackerel will seldom be ignored, but casting a stickbait at one of these schools can create some very exciting fishing. The spotties have been sticking closely inshore, so there’s no need to venture too far offshore if you’re after a quick feed. There’s also plenty of snapper inshore for a mixed grill or just some varied fun.

Another sure sign of summer is the arrival of the mahimahi. They are one of my favourite fish, as they’re the whole package – they’re great fun to catch, look awesome, release well if treated properly and taste great when keeping a couple for the table. They have been residing around the structures out wide – whether it’s the FAD, the wave buoy, the fish traps or any other floating debris. If you can find some patches of water above 25°C you may find them in a bit closer to the coast, but they are much less consistent there.

This month is the last month of summer, but the summer fishing should go on for a few months yet. If you’re going to get out there, I hope your fishing is as hot as the weather has been!

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