Salmon schools show up
  |  First Published: September 2006

Standing on one of my favourite jewie ledges casting soft plastics for no reward, my eyes were constantly scanning the horizon for something that looked fishy.

In the hour I'd been casting I’d seen whales, dive-bombing gannets, mack tuna and a small shark. Focused on things much farther out to sea, I almost didn't notice the black shadow that was moving along the beach to the south and coming directly my way.

As is the case this time of year, when the water temps drop below 18° and whitebait schools arrive, it doesn’t take long for large schools of salmon to show up from down south, providing great sporting enjoyment for North Coast anglers.

The school I was looking at was travelling at a fast walking pace and covered an area of about 50 metres square, with the inner edge of the school moving along the edge of the shore dump. Although I couldn't see any singular black shadows, I'm sure there would have been a shark or two moving along with the biggest school of salmon I'd seen this Winter.

A few days before, closer to the harbour and a popular surfing spot, there were some big sharks attacking a salmon school, whether they were big whalers or white pointers I'm not sure. If you're in the water and a sambo school shows up, I'd be getting out of the water real quick – salmon and seals are top tucker for great whites.

On the day I started telling you about, the half-dozen swimmers and bodyboarders just wide of the shore dump were completely unaware of the massive school of fish that had descended on them. As regular fishermen, we develop an understanding of the ocean that the non-fishing masses never acquire. If you're a rock or offshore fisho, it's this understanding that ultimately keeps you alive.

On the lead-up to the last full moon the beaches and broken headlands around Coffs came alive with jewfish from 2kg to 22kg. Fishing the northern beaches from Korora to Sapphire, we landed four 5kg fish over three trips with three fish taking squid baits after dark and the others hitting 6” plastics on a mid-afternoon tide change.

Around the headlands there have been salmon to 3kg and tailor to 2 kg taking metal spinners and weighted plastics. My son Kurt and I fished north of Red Rock and landed three tailor to almost 2.5kg on our 6” jew plastics.

Down near Repton, 4WD beach anglers have been getting salmon on lures and baits during the day in the first big gutter north of the Bellinger River mouth. After dark, anglers chasing greenback tailor and jew have also been doing well with tailor to 3 kg and jew to 11kg just after high tide in the same gutter system. From what I've been told, live beach worms have been the gun bait on school jew to 6kg with garfish and pilchards the best tailor/salmon baits.


In the estuaries there are luderick just about everywhere, with the breakwalls at Urunga and Nambucca proving to be the most accessible and popular spots.

Anglers chasing flathead have been catching good fish on soft plastics, with most of the better fish coming from the edges of weed beds.

Bream anglers haven't been faring too well in recent weeks with large populations of fish still very hard to pinpoint. Provided it's not too windy, the fixed and floating leases on the Nambucca River should produce the best fishing with the Kalang a better option in bad weather.

I'm not too sure about killing every jack you catch, though. It makes more sense to do your food fishing on the rocks, beaches and ocean, not in the fragile confines of our small creeks and estuaries.

Bass are particularly hard to find at present with clear, cool water ruling out every fishing option except deep and slow with plastics during the day and possibly surface lures over the deep weed beds at night. I've fished for bass three times during the past month for the grand total of five fish to 42cm. All fish took 3” plastics in deep, shadowy areas.

Offshore there have been plenty of big snapper to 106kg hitting the cleaning tables with the really big fish coming from the less-fished reefs off Urunga to the south and Woolgoolga/Arrawara to the north. Anglers fishing the deeper reefs have reported large pearl perch, tusk fish and samson fish.

The washes around the inshore and offshore islands have been thick with big tailor, salmon and just-legal kingfish. Over the next month I'll continue to target jewfish with lures, I'll have a few more tries for bass in the brackish water and I might go and collect some cunje to chase black drummer around the headland washes.


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