Hard to remember better
  |  First Published: December 2008

I don't think I have ever seen the Clarence fish any better at this time of year.

There is an extraordinary amount of large flathead in the system. At the two recent Summer BREAM comps held here, most competitors complained that if their vibration blade or soft plastic hopped across the bottom twice, it would be eaten by a lizard.

Most thinking anglers return large flatties (over 65cm) to the water these days and I am certain that this is why we are seeing a real resurgence of them in the Clarence. I would love to see the Queensland law of every lizard over 70cm returned to the water, implemented in NSW.

The whiting on popper craze is showing no signs of slowing this year. Anglers are reporting good catches from near the mouth up to around the Lawrence spit. If there is a more fun way of catching a feed of these tasty little devils, I don't know it.

This year saw the biggest mulloway spawn take place on the Clarence since I have been here. The river from Grafton to the bar is teeming with small soapies.

It is nothing to release 20 or so in a days fishing, especially if you are using blades. These fish are unsurpassed hunters and use their lateral lines to detect a feed.

With the river prawn trawling season about to resume, it lays heavy on all rec fishers’ hearts on the Clarence as to the fate of these little juvenile mulloway. Will one of the mighty Clarence's icons yet again become trawler trash?


There are two fish species I never seem to tire of catching. The challenge of targeting different types of fish will come and go with the years but mangrove jacks and bass are always at the top of my piscatorial pursuits.

It's jack time right now on the North Coast and I love nothing better than heading up my local sneaky creeks for a shot at them.

Jacks are marginal targets at best on the North Coast but that is what makes them so appealing. We certainly don't get a jack every time we chase them and some seasons we get very few at all.

That is what makes it all the better when the plan comes together and one is lying in the bottom of your Environet with those big eyes swivelling around, watching your every move.

Snapping their jaws at you while you attempt to unhook it without being bitten, they are truly are the pit bulls of the estuary.

By-catch while chasing jacks comes in the form of some very respectable trevally. It is possible to catch brassy, big-eye and GT all in one session, with even a few small Indo-Pacific queenies thrown into the mix.

And the upper reaches of most of our creeks contain small populations of bass, sending me into snag-bashing nirvana! Bass, jacks and trevors in the one session!


January should see good numbers of spotted mackerel off the Clarence coast and anglers from all over plan their annual holidays around the pursuit of these tasty little speedsters.

Last summer, with all the sustained rain, we saw only a small, late run of spotties. We are hopeful this year will turn out to be a beauty.

If you use live bait over some of the inshore reefs at this time of year, you are likely to encounter some cobia around 6kg to 8kg that can be prolific in January, along with a few XOS monsters.

The Clarence River so far has been spared much of the heavy rain that has plagued our neighbours to the north, but a small amount of fresh has been enough to get some mud crabs on the move around Maclean. It certainly is worth tossing out a few dillies.

For more info or advice, call in and see us at Big River bait & tackle, 16 River St Maclean, or call us on 02 6645 1834. City prices, country service.

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