Settling down for fun
  |  First Published: February 2006

After a month battling crowds, variable currents and fluctuating water temperatures, things should start to settle on an even keel this month.

While the water has been warm for some months there’s been no real current to speak of, although when it’s been there the results have come. The other day one boat caught five baby black marlin off Trial Bay Jail but there was very little activity before that and only pulses afterwards with no real consistency.

Red weed has been a menace on the beaches and even in the river. For the first time in 13 years, the Macleay River up to the ramp and beyond has been red with the stuff and lure fishing has been out of the question. The good news is that with more stable conditions it should be gone by the time this issue comes out.

At the time of writing the water was royal blue and pushing south hard at a very pleasant 24° and carrying all sorts of promise. But I wouldn’t be too surprised if it soon turned green and started running uphill again.

It can be a very frustrating time for offshore anglers. The East Australian Current is trying its best to push the good water south but cold southern water and upwellings create huge back eddies that see cool, pea soup-coloured water push the good blue stuff further to sea.

But when the water has been pushing south and warm (last week it was 25.1° inshore), there have been a few marlin, wahoo, mahi mahi and cobia.

Eventually even those horrible reverse flows will be warm and blue. A few years back I was horrified to see the current pushing hard to the north at Fish Rock. I persisted because there was plenty of bait and ended up pinning some small yellowfin tuna and a 40kg sailfish.

So just because the current is running the wrong way doesn’t always sound a death knell for good game fishing. But if it’s green, cool and has no bait, failure is imminent.

When the water has been good, there have been good fish caught. Most of the fish trap buoys and the Fishery FAD have held good numbers of quality mahi mahi with most averaging 4kg to 8kg. There have been some bigger fish with some trap buoys housing 8kg to 12kg models.

At this size they’re terrific fun and put up a very spirited battle. Bled and put on ice right away, mahi are pretty good table fare. Not bled, not put on ice, frozen and consumed later, mahi are average indeed. Keep what you need for meal and let the rest go.

There was even one confirmed report of a spotted mackerel caught off Grassy Head in early December, about two months before they really kick into gear. It was a hopefully a pretty good indication the fish are on their way south. Fingers crossed for another bumper season and let’s hope the Spanish mackerel are as frequent as last season’s exceptional run.

Those heading down to Fish Rock have found kingfish keen to play but the average size is pretty small. Some days you’ll run into a class of slightly bigger fish but most have been 2kg to 3kg. There’s a lot of sifting through the just undersized fish to find the legal sized ones, but they’re still fun to catch and worth heading south as part of the day’s travels.


In the Macleay a good run of school jewfish took place around the full moon. It’s getting pretty predictable: A week before the full moon the jewfish fire up.

Unfortunately there are a few greedy anglers keeping more than their limit but rumour is that DPI Fisheries know the main local offenders and are keeping a good eye on them. There have been a few bigger fish, with one 17kg model a standout lately.

With the warm water flathead and whiting are starting to bite freely. Most of the action is taking place up on the tidal flats, particularly those with a good sprinkling of ribbon weed.

Some bigger fish are along the walls, with Shane Van Dyk landing and releasing a solid ripper of 110cm. That would put the big lizard over 10kg and Shane’s call of 23lb and was probably close to the mark. To Shane’s credit, it’s still swimming, no doubt putting the fear of God into the resident baitfish.

Bass anglers are starting to smile again with more consistent action above Kempsey. It was a shaky start but it seems the bronze battlers are enjoying the rapidly rising water temps.

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