Good catches abound
  |  First Published: December 2003

ANGLERS along the Coffs Coast are enjoying a good run of fish offshore, on the beaches and in the estuaries.

Small-boat anglers have reported large catches of snapper and samson fish, with most of the reefs from 30 to 100 metres producing a range of hard-pulling species. The start of the mackerel and marlin season is looking like a winner, with massive schools of rippling slimy mackerel feeding on tiny baitfish over the inshore and offshore reefs. From all reports to the north, particularly around Moreton Bay, it seems that the spotted mackerel and the bait schools they feed on should hit the North Coast of NSW in numbers from January onwards. Anglers around Urunga have been reporting catches of spotted mackerel since late October and are predicting a bumper mackerel season.

Farther out, we’ve had one of the best runs of mahi mahi to more than 20kg that many long-term locals can recall. Most fish are caught near trap floats or the Coffs FAD using live slimy mackerel baits. Steve Cooper from Orara Charters tells me that anglers chasing the bull mahi mahi on light threadline and overhead tackle are also hooking striped marlin to more than 100kg and most fish are proving too powerful for their tackle. There have been few reports of black marlin but with the large schools of slimies in residence it should only be a matter of weeks before the blacks and sailfish move onto the bait grounds.


On the beaches, the dozens of jewfish to 18kg have hit the sand over the past month. Dark of the moon, high tide and some fresh cut baits like tailor, slimy mackerel, mullet, yellowtail or live beach worms have been doing the trick. Top spots have been Hills and Sapphire beaches, while Sawtell headland traditionally fishes well this month. Best conditions are a run-out tide, just after dark and with a bit of whitewater running over the top of the blue water. Cast where the breakers first meet the creek run-out with live beach worms.

Don’t expect big jew in these stirred-up areas but there should be plenty of fish from 3kg to 5kg. Rig up with a good-sized ball sinker, swivel, 10kg or 15kg leader and a 6/0 suicide hook. Remember, if the seas are dead flat, don’t waste your worms. And if the seas are too big, don’t risk your life.

In the saltwater estuaries there are enough bream, flathead and whiting to keep most anglers occupied with jewfish and mangrove jacks on the prowl around the rocky drop offs, breakwalls and bridge pylons.

For jew and jacks, try the rock walls at Urunga and Nambucca and for bream on racks, try the Pacific Highway run along the Nambucca. The oyster racks, floating and fixed, are producing bream, flathead, trevally and the odd school jew on soft plastics.

The cicadas have hit full swing so bream and bass will be looking up for a meal. Cast foam or rubber poppers along the deeper, tree-lined banks for terrific action, particularly in the brackish creeks that pass through bushland.

Recent good rain has gone a long way towards turning around what was looking like a very average bass and jack season. It seems that the bass have finally started to bite. A couple of young fellas I teach caught and released 18 bass to 50cm in the full fresh on a variety of lures from divers to locally-made thong poppers. As yet the jacks have failed to produce but given the rainfall and baitfish activity, I’d be very surprised if they don’t move into the deeper creeks just in time to cause havoc amongst holiday anglers who stray too far upstream. If you’re chasing jacks, bring your gold lures and please practise catch and release – they’re too special to kill.



Trevally make great sport on lures over the holiday period.


The Atkinson boys live baiting with mullet for sharks up in the bass water.


Big beach worms like these are the gun jew bait over summer.


Natural-coloured shallow divers are great for bass over Summer, particularly around the lilies and rushes.

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