Fishing is better when it’s colder
  |  First Published: July 2017

With winter truly underway most fishers in this part of the world are excited about the prospects of good fish in good numbers. As nice as it is to be out on a summer’s day in the boat, off the beach or the stones, you just know the fishing is better when it’s colder.

In the estuary and off the beach the bream are here in huge numbers. Yamba’s famous Middle Wall is always one of the mainstays for chasing a bag limit of these better-than-average-size fish. Many will top the 1kg mark. I find the Iluka side of the eastern section of the Middle Wall to be the best. Anchor as close as possible to the wall on the slack tide with as little weight as you can get away with. The obvious bait is the local school prawn or mullet fillets, and live yabbies are hard to beat.

If you can brave the cold, night fishing out here is far more productive. I berley heavily at night but never during the day, as it just brings all the small nuisance fish around. Berley can be as simple as plain wheat or chicken pellets. Just toss a teaspoon of it over the side with every new bait. It might surprise you how many mulloway can be taken on your bream gear on these winter nights.

The luderick (blackfish) look like they will be full-on again this winter, as they have been on the chew all year. They also spawn around the same time as the bream and with huge schools running up the coast to join the fish already in our system, we are looking at a red-hot bite.

For those chasing these tasty, hard-fighting fish from the shore, the main breakwall on the river side is always worth a try. This is a real challenge, as you are well above the water. You might want to consider using a heavier outfit. I use a Wilson 4144 with a 15lb leader here so I can lift the fish from the water, rather than trying to use a 4m long net.

There will be fish spread throughout the system in easier spots like the corner of the bay near Calypso Caravan Park, the stones at the bottom of Shores Drive and under Oyster Channel Bridge. If you’re fishing from a boat, the tide mark on the last section of the Middle Wall, Turkeys Nest and Collis Wall on Iluka side will all be fishing well.

Offshore the water should have dropped below 20°C. This means fish are in real close early. For those wanting to bag a nice snapper on lure or plastics, this is one of the best times. Fish seem to like the water around 18-20°C. The area from the kelp beds at Freeburn Rock (the Bommie) to the south of Woody Head Reef makes an easy target for those even in the smallest of boats.

Drifting in 8-10m of water and casting ahead of the boat with the lure and working it back to the boat with a hard, sharp jerking action will bring the big pink fish unstuck. I like white and pink plastics while the light is poor, then brown and dark green as the sun gets higher. This really is an early in the day fish; you can catch a few later, but I don’t persist much after 8am.

If lure fishing isn’t for you then the same ground anchored up and float baiting with a good berley trail will produce dinner in no time. Leave the reel unengaged and let the fish run before gently setting the hook on a light drag. You will have some big fish run through the kelp and you will think they are lost. If this happens, release the line and let the fish free. Nine times out of ten the fish will swim up out of the kelp and bring the slack line up with it. Trying to bully the fish out of the kelp is an almost certain bust-off and with that an almost certain temper tantrum.

On the southern reef from Red Cliff to Sandon the pearl perch have been in really good numbers. There is a fair spattering of undersize fish mixed with them and the odd 3kg+ fish as well. I like to drift in around 40m for these fish after leaving the shallows. They really are a good mid-morning feeder and the company they keep like Venus tuskfish, Moses perch and Maori cod are welcome in my boat.

I don’t look for major structure when chasing these fish. They don’t seem to need a pinnacle or a deep gutter; they seem happy on the flat bottom on broken rock and gravel. This also has the benefit of less snags and lost gear.

For those venturing north of the bar, the bommies close in near Black Rock south of Evans Reef will be great for early morning snapper. Some of the year’s biggest fish are caught here.

Then east of there into the Italian Grounds in 30-40m of water should be trag city. This area of reef is the most productive place for trag and mulloway I have found. On a calm day you won’t need to find them. Just go for a drift and you will stumble over fish everywhere. If you can target them and anchor over them, you’ll have no trouble bagging out. Trag show really well on your sounder, as they have enormous swim bladders like the mulloway, giving a good hard show. I look for high bait shoals with dark shadows under them. These shadows are quite often larger mulloway with trag closer to the bait. Always have at least one live bait on the bottom when at anchor.

My new charter boats are up and running giving us the capacity to handle group bookings of up to 30, if needed. I have a full time whale watching boat running twice a day this season, if you’re looking for a refreshing change. Call into my shop Marina Boat & Tackle when you arrive and we will, as always, let you know what’s happening and where.

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