The fishing over the past month has provided a full range of warm-water options with boat- and land-based game fishing for mackerel and tuna hitting full swing.
The water has consistently been over 23° with schools of whitebait, slimy mackerel and garfish encouraging the big pelagics to feed over the shallow reefs, inside bays and along the edges of headlands and breakwalls. Sending out a live slimy from Mutton Bird Island, the South Wall or over an inshore reef such as Macauleys, Whitmores or The Patch will almost guarantee you a hook-up on a spotted mackerel, Spanish mackerel, longtail tuna, yellowfin tuna or cobia.
Mike Colless and Mick Booth were fishing the oyster leases many kilometres up the Kalang River last weekend and got a big surprise when spotted mackerel shadowed their plastics and hooked fish to the boat.
On the beaches and around the headlands there has also been an excellent run of greenback tailor over 3kg. These big fish have almost certainly been tempted from the distant island washes to the inshore waters by the large schools of whitebait casting black shadows over the sand bottom.
We fished for jew from the beach a few nights ago and apart from the massive shark that almost spooled 600 metres of 15kg from my reel in one continuous run, the highlights of the night were the tailor to almost 2kg that were smashing our large squid baits within minutes of them hitting the water. Once darkness fell and the scavenging seagulls went off the job, a constant tide of stunned and half-mangled whitebait started to drift up onto the sand, giving the ghost crab population plenty to chew on until daylight.
Anglers targeting mangrove jack and flathead in the creeks have also been benefiting from the inshore bait run with flathead over 80cm and jacks over 60cm coming from all the popular creeks and rivers such as Bonville, the Bellinger, the Kalang and Nambucca.
It seems that there’s been a resurgence of fishing among the Coffs rugby crew with pacy outside centre Aaron ‘Stinky’ Miller scoring a 60cm-plus jack from Coffs Creek, an often polluted waterway not renowned for jacks of this proportion. Aaron trolled the big fella up near one of the few big snags in the relatively snagless creek on a shallow-running green and yellow hard minnow.
In the bass water, most anglers have been getting good fish to 45cm with all types of lures including surface fizzers and plastics getting the hook-ups. We fished down near Macksville and yet again picked up a mixed bag of bream. flathead and bass with the majority of fish taking 4” soft stickbaits. Many of the smaller southern creeks near Nambucca have been producing good catches of jacks in recent days with bust-ups becoming more common because anglers chasing bass and bream are left undergunned in the trace department as a big red devil has its way with their favourite bass lure.
Anglers chasing jewfish from the rocks and beaches have had some success in recent times with big fish coming from Hills, Sapphire and Woolgoolga beaches. Lure-tossers have not fared as well as bait anglers on jewfish but as the water starts to cool and clear there should be some better opportunities to tempt a big jew into eating an artificial in the wash.
Offshore anglers have been putting together impressive bags of jewfish, trag, snapper, tusk fish and mahi mahi, with pilchard baits producing results. Those targeting bigger mahi mahi have found live slimies to be the gun bait around the fish traps and FADs and anglers dropping big jigs to the bottom have been hooking large kingfish, samson and even the odd jewfish.
Deepwater jigging is becoming more popular in the Coffs area and many anglers are seeing the benefits of this type of selective lure fishing that finally allows them to target big, hard-pulling species in deeper water.
Over the next month I'll be chasing big pelagics from the rocks and from my small boat. LBG spots like Mutton Bird Island, the South Wall, Iluka Wall and Hat Head will be on my visit list. Getting quality live bait will be the key to hooking big fish, with slimy mackerel, tailor, bonito, garfish and pike being the gun baits.
On the rocks I'll probably have to settle on using live garfish or possibly tailor as baits. From past experience longtail tuna love garfish and Spanish mackerel love tailor.
Digis if they come
Aaron Miller with a big 60cm plus Coffs Creek jack.
Michele Renneberg with a solid tusk fish from The Patch off Sawtell.
Roger Oates with solid bass and bream from the river down near Macksville
Roger Oates with a couple of Macksville ‘bass water’ bream caught on 4” soft stickbaits.
Brett Young and Nathan Atkinson with a brackish-water treble of bass, bream and flathead.Reads: 1201