All my fishing trips in recent weeks have had a distinct surface-fishing flavour with bass, bream, flathead, jacks, tailor and even jewfish hitting my lures on or very near the surface in shallow water.
Mike Colless and I fished one of the last rarely-fished stretches of North Coast bass water today and the surface action we encountered was sensational with bass to 45cm hitting all the lures we threw at them.
Lures ranging from cod sized chuggers through to small fizzers caught fish from sunup to lunchtime and it was clear that the heavy tree canopy and lack of human activity made for day-long surface luring.
In the tidal zones there are plenty of bass, bream and jacks on the chew with smaller surface fizzers and rubber poppers accounting for bream and bass, with larger gold divers and live baits doing the job on the jacks.
The three biggest rivers in our region, the Nambucca, Kalang and Bellinger, have been fishing very well for flathead and bream, with soft plastic lures and live bait accounting for both species.
The biggest flathead have been coming from the V-Wall area close to the shared sea mouth of the Bellinger/Kalang system. Live poddies and white bait fished on the drift or under a float have been doing the job on flathead. Nippers and fresh fish baits are working well on bream.
If you're a keen bream fisho who likes to use bait rather than soft plastics you'll have most success during the day farther up river around the Newry Island oyster leases and at night on the incoming tide along the rocky V-Wall at Urunga.
Best baits up-river are lightly weighted nippers, prawns or pilchard fillets while at night around the V-Wall it's hard to go past a mixture of mullet gut, nippers or fresh prawns.
When night fishing with bait I recommend you fill up a bucket with a mixture of chook pellets, water and tuna oil. Throwing handfuls of this into the area where your baits are landing will pay big dividends.
Lure-tossers searching for bream should be pushing well up-river into the brackish zones with fish holding cover under the overhanging trees and along the steeper banks. The oyster leases closer to the salt will still produce fish with hard crank baits and 1/16oz-weighted 3” Bass Minnows accounting for the bulk of the fish.
The best bream leases can be found next to the Pacific Highway on the Nambucca system and around the back of Newry Island on the Kalang system.
On the Bellinger, bream can be targeted under overhanging trees from the Pacific Highway bridge through to Fernmount.
Flathead will also hit your lures in these areas. When you're in this stretch of the river don't be afraid to throw bigger 5” and 6” plastics for jewfish, which like to hold up in deeper water near the twin highway bridges and on the run-out tide in the deep brackish holes at Fernmount.
Beach anglers have been catching plenty of whiting and flathead at Nambucca, Myleston and Boambee with beach worms, pipis and nippers the most successful baits.
The areas where coastal creeks meet the ocean at the ends of beaches are good places to start your beach fishing with plenty of big jew, bream, flathead and whiting frequenting these areas, particularly on the second half of the run-out tide.
The Bonville Creek mouth at Sawtell is excellent for school jewfish, with most fish biting on dark and for the two hours after sunset. Best bait is undoubtedly beach worm and the best conditions are a one- to two-metre easterly swell and rising tide.
On the deeper beaches to the north of Coffs there have been reports of school jew to 11kg taking baits and soft plastics. Tailor have been pretty hard to find at most beaches with the deeper water around the Quarry and South Wall yet again producing the best choppers on ganged baits and metals.
Professional trap fishermen have been trolling up spotted and Spanish mackerel since early December and this is a good indicator that the mackerel and bluefin tuna will be around in numbers early in 2006.
The early Summer rainfall has done wonders for the freshwater and estuary scene and I'm expecting this to also impact positively on the inshore pelagic fishery.
LBG fishermen are already on the job with kingfish and cobia being the only significant captures to date but by the time this mag hits the stands I'm expecting plenty of tuna and quite a few mackerel to have hit the rocks at Emerald, Muttonbird, the Quarry and Hat Head.
Although hard to come by over the sand bottoms where we do most of our live-baiting, the slimy mackerel is the gun live bait on the North Coast with garfish, yellowtail, tailor and pike not far behind.
Unfortunately most of the LBG ledges up here don't have reliable bait supplies on site so you'll have to be creative and do the hard yards carrying buckets of bait over headlands if you want to be sure you're prepared for a long day on the rocks. The alternative to carrying in livies is to spend your mornings and afternoons high-speed spinning, which offers its own form of thousand-cast punishment.
Offshore there have been snapper aplenty with pearl perch, teraglin, kingfish and jewfish making great mixed bags. The reefs to the north and south of the harbour are the most consistent big snapper producers, with boats fishing inshore near Corindi picking up snapper to 7kg.
Bundagen and Whitmores reefs, south of the harbour, should have been big mackerel producers of late with boats anchoring or trolling with live slimies sure to find the spotties and Spaniards willing.
The inshore reef about 2km east of Macauleys Headland is also a consistent mackerel ground with small-boat anglers like myself enjoying its proximity to the safety of the harbour breakwalls. Live slimy baits can be caught at the Park Beach Bommie, which is a small reef in line with the inshore end of Mutton Bird Island to the south and Little Mutton Bird Island to the west.
Brett Young and Kurt Atkinson with a nice catch of duskies from around the pacific Highway bridge on the Bellinger River.
A nice jewie taken from the rocks on a soft plastic.Reads: 1612