A time of transition
  |  First Published: May 2006

It’s a real transition time here on the Mid North Coast. Those stinking hot nor’-east days are replaced by noticeably cooler southerly airflows, a sign of things to come.

For the fish this means cooling down also, with water temps already dropping a few degrees on last month. The royal blue water from the tropical north will soon be green and cool with many new species calling this part of the coast home.

The first northern species to leave were the inshore billfish. Not that they really hit full swing this season, but if you thought it was slow fishing before, don’t bother trolling out there now. Thankfully that solid run of cobia that swept down the coast has a few remnant schools lingering just off the jail, so a little time spent live-baiting the ‘marlin grounds’ probably isn’t too bad an idea – just don’t pin your hopes on a billfish.

With the water starting to cool, its makes me a little nervous about the mackerel run. So far it’s stopped and started more than school bus, hampered largely by lousy inshore water (primarily due to floods and more locally, floodgates opening), so just as the water comes good again another downpour sends brown water up to the northern reefs.

This discoloured water isn’t a real drama to Spanish mackerel but spotties seem to just hate it. Now it seems just as the rains clear and the inshore grounds are clean, rapidly dropping water temps will send the scattered schools north again. Time will tell I guess but it looks like the spotted mackerel run is on par with the baby blacks…

This transition period has seen some quality bream and tailor sneaking along the ocean rocks and beaches. Hot on their heels have been some nice kings and cobia plus some quality jewfish up to 22kg. Those fishing pilchards around dusk are scoring some good choppers and those flicking smaller cubes baits are finding the bream.

Anglers hurling out sizable tailor heads after dark are running into the big predators that are following the bait schools. All in all, it’s a pretty good time to fish the ocean rocks and beaches.

Kingfish should start to build on a daily basis, peaking at places like Fish Rock and Black Rock. This is a pretty exciting fishery. There are plenty of different ways to target these powerful buggers, ranging from live-baiting to lure fishing, with my favourite being casting surface plugs.

I love hurling great big poppers deep into bad country and trying to wrestle out good-sized kings. You lose plenty of battles, even on pretty heavy gear and with quick reaction times, but the sheer adrenalin of landing a solid kingfish after you’ve seen him grab the lure is pure bliss and well worth the regular floggings.

Snapper should also pick up as the water cools, with the northern reefs of Grassy, Middle and Scotts heads well worth a shot. Soft plastics have been pulling a few nice fish recently but from all reports the action seems to slow down once the sun gets up a little. This is when changing back to bait should keep the action going, ensuring a decent feed plus a little sporting fun in the process.

This Winter I’m pretty keen to jig the reefs a little more often, hopefully finding a few nice snapper in the process. Those in the know are pulling fish daily; it’s just a matter of getting out nice and early and fishing fairly light in good country.


The Macleay River has been bloody tough lately. The last few jew jigging sessions have only produced a few sub-2kg flathead. Hopefully it’s only a short-lived thing and the jewfish come back on the bite but it’s been pretty hard work trying to consistently find co-operative mulloway on bait or lures.

Bream have pretty reliable, especially up-river towards Jerseyville and beyond. Again it’s the deep tidal walls that are housing the greatest number of fish, though there has been some action in the shallows around dawn and dusk.

I guess the key to finding good numbers of bream is fishing bait. Find sections of river with good supplies of herring and whitebait and the chances are you’ll find numbers of bream close by.

As we move into Winter we really have to look at the positives to come. I’m keen to chase the bigger kings on poppers, tailor on surface flies, and berley up some big cranky black and silver drummer to catch on fly gear. Add to this a good run of plastic-munching sliver bream around the headlands and some solid winter jewies that are keen on eating rubber and the chills of Winter won’t seem that bad at all.

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