Cold water anglers will have a whale of a time
  |  First Published: May 2017

It’s a true season change this month with the last of the mackerel and other warm water pelagics heading north. The first of the whales are migrating in the same direction, so you know the water temperature is dropping. Colder water usually means better fishing, both in the estuary and offshore. Sure, we don’t have the excitement of the summer pelagics, but anglers can consistently catch a feed of fish.

In the estuary there should be great luderick (blackfish). With the heavy rains in March, the river got a good flush out and the coast got a fair slamming. This got rid of all the old weed upstream and most of the cabbage off the rocks (the food for luderick). New fresh weed and cabbage will be there, and all signs are pointing to a bumper luderick season.

Likewise, the bream will be starting to shoal up around the river entrance in anticipation of their winter spawn. Normally you would expect them to spawn on the full moon in June, but some years they have a practice run on the May moon. No doubt there will be good numbers throughout the system from Browns Rocks to the Middle Wall and they will be on the chew.

Flathead had been really good before the fresh in March. I expect they will have moved back upstream this month and spread out a bit. They make easy fishing when they are bunched up to spawn. When you find them this month, stay with them. What I mean is they will hold deep in spots in small groups for several days before moving, so when you find a reasonable fish just keep hammering the same spot, as he will have a few mates with him. I have a theory that if you take one good flatty, two come to his funeral.

Mulloway have been fantastic this year and with the colder weather, mullet shoaling up and nights growing longer than days, this is the time to go and target that big fish. Yamba and Iluka are renowned for their big mulloway. Fishing off the ocean breakwalls is your best chance of a trophy fish. Live baiting is very productive on poddy mullet or yakka.

Soft plastic fishing for them with an extra-large white plastic is good (I like the ZMan 7” jerk shad or 130mm Squidgy Drop Bear). A 1/4oz head is usually enough with a 6/0-7/0 hook. Hardbodies, both diving and wakebaits, will also work well, especially if they are feeding on the surface livies. Make sure you have a good long gaff and preferably don’t fish alone off the stones. It’s nice to have a good fish but nicer to make it home alive.

Crabs have had another really good season this year. They say you should only crab in this area in months that have R in them. I think, just like last year they will just keep going, especially the muddies. We caught blue swimmer crabs right through winter last year (not in great numbers), but I can remember 10 years ago where we hardly caught one all year. Something has changed and the crabs are back, so don’t put the gear away just yet.

Offshore, May is generally a real nice time of the year. Persistent north-northeast winds are usually gone, leaving a cool southwest breeze early in the day and calm seas. As I mentioned earlier, the first of the humpback whales arrive this month. To be exact, for the last five years I have always seen the first whale on 14 May. I’m sure there have been some that came past earlier and I haven’t seen them. I might just be looking a little harder that day, but five years in a row is pretty special.

One of the reasons I like the whales is they have a big dark friend that swims with them. Cobia will travel up with these huge mammals. It’s a bit of a funny time to float livies out the back, because you don’t usually use a wire for cobia – they don’t like it – but the chance of getting decent mackerel, both Spanish and spotted, is good right through to mid-June.

Bite-offs are very commonplace if you just target cobia, and you get less cobia if you use wire. It’s like racing with slicks in the hope it doesn’t rain with a storm on the horizon. Have some livies ready at all times with the whales around. If a whale swims past the boat in casting distance, as they regularly do, dropping a well presented livey behind it can bring an instant hook-up on big fish. It’s almost as if the cobia imitate their look alike (remora) by hanging under the whales.

Reef fishing for snapper and pearl perch really starts to lift this month. Finding fish becomes easier with the fish holding tighter to the reef. I like 30-40m of water early in the month. As the water temperature drops start to head shallower. There is no such thing as too shallow for snapper by the end of May with great fish taken in less than 10m every day.

Those who like the thrill of lure fishing for pink monsters, my advice would be to fish the bommie (Freeburn Rock) just south of Angourie S 29 31 133 E 153 22 155. Be very careful, as this coral bommie is only around 3m under the surface. A wave can break on it without notice even on a calm day. Drift past the outskirts of the rock at first light flicking ahead (the way the boat is drifting) and bounce the lure back to the boat. This is the best technique. The surrounding area is covered in heavy kelp, so expect a few big fish to burn you off in the garden.

Wider ground off Red Cliff to the south and Black Rock to the north will be chockers full of good teraglin (trag) this month. These tasty fish bite really well early in the day, so don’t sleep in. Also, find a very cloudy or rainy day and they won’t stop. Remember, if the trag are there in big numbers, mulloway will be there to. Live bait the trag when you can and the mulloway will be a nice by-catch.

Happy fishing and whale watching. Once again, if you need any more specific advice, please drop into my shop at Yamba Marina. We have all the good gear at the right price. All the staff fish and are more than happy to let you know what’s happening on the days you are there.

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