Coming in or getting out?
  |  First Published: April 2017

Daylight savings is out for another year, and something tells me there will be no lack of recreation this month. Last year the Easter rush was done and dusted by April. This April is going to be a lot busier around the Coffs region ,with school holidays and Easter spread throughout the month.

That means there’s two things to think about. For those who are visiting the area, the question is where to find the local fish. For the locals, however, it may be a good time to think about where you will escape to.

Fishing local

There’s no shortage of activity around the Coffs Coast at the moment, no matter what type of angling you’re looking for. In the rivers the mangrove jack and trevally are still firing. There are no real secret spots for chasing them. The upper estuary sections are where they’re most active. The Bellinger River is the most accommodating for a larger boat and also the most conducive to a bit of land-based angling too.

The upper reaches of the smaller coastal creeks are mostly surrounded by bush so the land-based fishing is limited. In the lower parts of the estuaries there are a lot more opportunities for those on foot. The Bellinger and Kalang rivers offer extensive breakwalls to hop around, and all of the smaller coastal creeks have great areas of sandy flats and rocky shores to explore.

In these areas anything can be caught, from bread and butter bream, flathead and whiting to mangrove jack, trevally and mulloway. In all areas of the estuaries there has been one lure over the last couple of months that has dominated reports, and that’s the Bassday Sugapen. If you’re going to cast around one lure this month, follow the local form.

Offshore anglers visiting our coastline will be happy to know that the water has been warm and the fishing hot. If it’s your first time launching at the Coffs Harbour Boat Ramp it’s worth warning you that although the extension works completed last year have decreased the wave action in the boat ramp basin, when a decent swell is running there can still be a significant surge on the ramp.

It is also worth reminding visitors and locals alike that there will be days of high congestion at the boat ramp. Please remember that we’re all there for the same thing. Being patient and thoughtful of others will ensure everyone gets out there and back safely.

For many of you, April holidays mean mackerel. The mackerel have been obliging with good numbers from the inshore reefs out to the islands. The spotties outnumbered the Spaniards by a long way this summer, but the numbers of Spaniards have been picking up slowly though the season. This month we normally see the peak of the mackerel action, as well as the longtail tuna.

Besides the mackerel there have been plentiful cobia, mahimahi, kingfish and the ever-present snapper. Live baits have been the preferred offering. We have had a buffet of baitfish off our coast recently. Schools of slimy mackerel, yakkas, pilchards, garfish, herring and bonito have all been madly trying to hide their presence to no avail. It makes it a little hard to ‘match the hatch.’ If you catch something on your bait jig, just go with that.

Sometimes when all your local favourites are too crowded it’s time to get out and have an adventure away from home. Here are three options for escapes that can be an overnighter or a week-long adventure.

Hinterland Escape

Not far from Coffs Harbour is the mighty Nymboida and Mann River system. There is great bass fishing in stunning locations – the type of fishing trip that gets you away from it all. The Clarence Gorge has always been the go-to bass getaway in this area because it’s the place people know. The Nymboida has always been revered as a great fishing river, but it was a bit unknown and harder to find places to camp. This is no longer the case.

The Clarence Valley Council have put together the longest canoe and kayak trail in the country, over 195km. The trail starts on the Nymboida River and runs down through the Mann River and into the Clarence. Each section is described and there are campsites along the whole trail. If you want to get away just for an overnighter or spend a few days in the kayak moving down the river, look up the Clarence Kayak And Canoe Trail and download the guide.

Inland escape

If you want to get further away out west where you can feel the morning chill of winter coming, there are a number of locations west of Coffs that can provide the perfect cod weekend. Copeton Dam is an obvious choice. It’s far enough away to feel very different to home, it’s close enough to be a reasonable weekend trip away and, of course, it has huge cod, as well as its fair share of goldens. The big swimbaits have been a real feature of the fishing at Copeton, in particular the shallow water wakebaits. A surface hit from a big cod alone is worth the drive.

The Coastal Runner

If you want to stick with the salt and only hop out of town a little way, there are plenty of options for a quick coastal getaway. Ducking up north to one of the national parks or coastal villages between Red Rock and Brooms Head is within easy reach of an overnight crowd reliever. You will have to pick your spot though, as some of these little places are more crowded than Coffs in the holidays (*cough* Station Creek *cough*).

Whether you enjoy this crazy month in town, or anywhere around the region, I hope the fish are biting and your lines are tight.

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