Easier seas and plenty of species
  |  First Published: June 2017

Cold morning winds and the water temperature dropping don’t sound very inviting, but for fishers it means that things are about to heat up (hungry fish-wise).

I never look forward to the 4:30am starts setting up the charter boats in the winter. I hate the cold. The flipside is I know during this time of the year it’s easier to find a really good feed of quality fish for my customers. You can tuck in close to the headland at One Man and Red Cliff to the south of Yamba and get nice fish in less than 10m of water most mornings, with a little bit of protection from those freezing southwest winds blowing off the frost in Armidale.

To the north I like to get in tight around Black Rocks. Where we fish you can nearly count the black rocks on the beach. Any of these shallow reefs and around the numerous bommies on that north ground hold quality fish early in the day.

Another bonus is that the ocean seems a little kinder at this time of the year. Obviously the offshore breeze every morning flattens it off for you, but those late morning and early afternoons are quite often a beautiful slick sea. We fish close most mornings and wait for the sun to climb high enough to penetrate the water, 9:30am or so then move into the deeper water, as I think the fish do as well. Another reason for this is with that early morning breeze the slop coming from the beach out is absolutely horrible to fish in; waves coming from the land out to sea is not a natural thing.

This is an interesting month as the whales will well and truly be here, and with them the cobia on the surface. Blacktip sharks will be around in really good numbers, and although they can be a nuisance to some with their tangling of every line on the boat, they are great eating and easy to clean. There is still a real chance of catching good numbers of mackerel as they make their way north. Last year we caught good spotties and Spaniards right through until 20 June. This can be a problem as well because you really need a wire to get macs, but you don’t want one for the cobia.

Although I spent a fair bit of my time fishing the South Evans Reef during the year I really prefer the south grounds in winter. Even the closest ground to Yamba just past Angourie can hold a heap of fish at this time of the year. The grounds from Plumbago to Sandon in 25-35m of water are my favourite. Many times you can put an anchor down before 7am and not have to lift it until you go home, where the fish just keep coming to you.

Winter really is the time of the year for float baiting bigger fish, no matter what the depth. Have a good berley trail and big soft baits (mullet fillet or pillies) and just keep feeding line until you’re feeding fish. The other bonus is the shearwaters (mutton birds) should have left for the Northern Hemisphere where they belong and you can actually get a bait down to the fish.

For those wanting to head wide to the 50 fathom line, the current should have backed off making fishing easier. Pearl perch, blue morwong and pigfish should be the trophies of the day. Take a bit of heavier gear as the kingfish, samsonfish and amberjack will all be there. Do as much of this as you can this month. I have just spent some time down on the south coast and the boys there tell me the leatherjackets are as thick as they have ever seen them. They will be on us in July, making the trip out wide a lot more expensive with loss of gear.

In the estuary this month is the spawn of the bream. You can expect places like the middle wall to be covered in predominately male fish waiting for the full moon to run to sea and have their fun. I find night fishing the most fun and productive. Mix up a good berley using either berley pellets or standard chook food with some wheat and soak it for two days in tuna oil. I flick a teaspoon of this over the side with every new bait and they just go crazy.

Luderick (blackfish) are usually a winter target. Signs are pretty good as they never really stopped biting all year and a lot of fish have shown up early. The fresh from all the bad weather before Easter cleaned or killed most of the good river weed they like and the rough seas belted all the cabbage off, but that will be back to normal again this month and fish should be hungry. Once again the Iluka side of the east section of the middle wall should be a real hotspot all day long.

With the run of the sea mullet this month the main breakwalls on both Yamba and Iluka sides will be the places to chase that big mulloway. It’s worth braving the cold to raise these beautiful and very tasty fish from the salt. Try to avoid going alone, not just for the safety factor but also to have a good gaff man to help with the inevitable.

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