Finding fighting whiting
  |  First Published: December 2003

IF YOU LOVE whiting there are a number of Tweed estuary locations where reasonable fish may be found.

The area around the golf club is part of the Tweed River recreational fishing zone and has provided some good fishing close to shore. The piggery is also worth a fish, as are the reaches up around Tumbulgum, below the bridge. At Dinseys Creek, well up-river, there is an expansive flat opposite to the old highway clearly marked with buoys. This is a favoured whiting location in a fairly dry season.

Best baits for whiting are bloodworms, while nippers and beach worms are good stand-bys. The best outfit for whiting is a long rod with 2kg to 3kg line, a light running lead and a long leader. Be patient with whiting, as the schools tend to move a fair bit. Once they come on the bite, you may get only half an hour at most before they move off.

Bream are one of my favourites this month. They readily take small surface lures, minnows and soft plastics. For mine they are best targeted on a 2kg outfit with 4kg trace. Look for areas with lots of overhanging trees, rock walls and shallow seagrass. Small lures are the key to success, whether they be soft or hard. Mangrove jack, trevally, tarpon and flathead are common by-catch, so it pays to treat every fish hooked with strong-arm tactics.

Flathead will be the mainstay for many holidaymakers. They are fun to catch and fine table fish if care is taken with the fillets. Whether bait fishing or lure casting, I usually run a minimum 10kg trace. Always run your fingers over the trace after every capture to check for damaged line.

Best areas to target are those where there is a little discolouration in the water, rather than crystal-clear. The rule of thumb is to target the shallows on the flood tide and the deeper water as the tide falls. Flathead are stealthy hunters and require an area where they can blend into the bottom and surrounding features.

The best lures for flathead are those that will reach the fish on the bottom. Soft plastics in double, single or shad tails all have their day, as do hard-bodied minnows. Flathead will take just about every colour in the rainbow.

On bright days, use a bright colour such as pink or chartreuse, while on the darker days motor oil or even black will work well. The key is to make sure whatever you’re using is on or near the bottom. Big lizards are our brood stock, so let those big fish go. There are plenty of fish in the system and wherever you catch a big female, chances are there will be smaller males close by.


Blue swimmers and mud crabs will be about. Areas like Terranora Inlet are great for deploying witches’ hats for blue swimmers. While you’re waiting, you can throw a soft plastic for a lizard or two. Targeting muddies is best done in deeper water close to the banks, where they tend to be better quality and in big numbers.

Don’t go lifting other people’s pots or, worse, stealing them. I recently heard a story about a bloke took things into his own hands after discovering a pot thief and the culprit’s brand-new BMW now has ‘I like crabs too’ scratched across its bonnet. There are big fines attached to crab pot theft, so keep your hands on what’s yours.

Offshore, the current will be raging, bringing the nutrients down from the north. Billfish appear in small sizes but in good numbers. Small skirted trolling lures or trolled live slimy mackerel work well, as do swimming rigged mullet and gar.

Lots of anglers are talking up this mackerel season after some early fish in November and December on the inshore reefs. Let’s hope this is the case. These fish are best targeted on small chrome lures or live slimy mackerel. Keep your wire as fine and as short as possible.

The local charter fleet is changing for the better with newer and faster boats. Kyle Cush has a new Steber 38 fully equipped for game and reef fishing, while John Eade from Kingscliff Fishing Charters has also bought a new boat.

Here are some tips for people heading here for a fishing holiday. Make sure you ice down your fish, wear lots of sunscreen and suitable clothing to protect your skin and eyes. Be patient on the water. If you’re taking kids fishing, don’t expect to do a lot yourself – it makes for a much better day when they’re looked after and they catch more fish than Mum or Dad. Last of all, make sure you know the fishing regulations and have a licence. There is no explanation good enough for plain ignorance; it’s your responsibility. Above all, have fun these holidays.


The action has hotted up over recent times with the bulk of the bass schools in the top half of the dam. Most of the banks with shallow water have been producing excellent fishing and this should continue this month. Small crankbaits in gold and/or greens, or in natural colours, have performed very well. Bibless crankbaits burned back at speed have also caught good numbers of fish. The deeper water has also fished well as the sun gets higher in the day. Slow-rolled spinnerbaits and small jigs in the darker colours have also caught their fare share of fish.

The dam also has another tournament in its calendar with the ABT electric round in February. This is going to provide the whole field a real chance at the prizes. The average fish are relatively small this year due to the floods in May 2003 so if you manage to catch ‘legal’ fish, you’re in with a show. It’s simply a case of getting yourself into contention; so if you’re a young budding bass angler in the area, give Clarrie Hall dam a go.

One of the great aspects of impoundment fishing is that it never stays the same. A hot method this month may not necessarily be the gun technique next month.

For many years soft plastics dominated the way in which we caught fish at Clarrie Hall dam. A 1/4oz jig head fished with a chartreuse paddle tail assured a good bag of fish on most of the points in the dam.

Some years it’s been crankbaits or flies, while spinnerbaits and surface lures have been outstanding at different times. All of these methods would work at the dam tomorrow with varying success. To plan a trip to this waterway would require a range of lures in the box if you are to succeed.

I have been guiding Japanese anglers at the dam for nearly 10 years. These guys tote some very expensive outfits and trays of interesting lures. As you would imagine, rifling through their tackle is an experience in itself.

Most of the time the trip starts with choices made by me or based on information the angler obtains from me. Then it gets interesting: Most Australians, including myself, would settle on a pattern and stick to it if it is successful. Why change if it is working, right? Not so the Japanese. They are happiest when they can use as many different lures in their tackle box as possible and still catch fish.

The first time I saw a hot lure get taken off an outfit and exchanged for something different was an experience. I don’t wish to take anything away from the Japanese anglers’ skill levels; they are highly adaptable to our conditions and have advanced casting ability matched to some of the best gear available.

As a spectator, occasionally something comes along that rocks the socks off anything else. This has been the case in more recent years with the quality of Japanese imitations becoming more and more refined. Some lures look good enough to cook up and present on a plate of chips and salad. Everything from colour finishes to ingenious rattle chambers has a great attention to detail and a high standard of finish. The proof, however, is in their ability to catch fish and many of them do that exceptionally well.

The downside for us, however, is the cost of many of these lures. For example, a lure from the Mega Bass range may cost between $40 and $120. The first time I checked out some small surface lures on a US website, they were on a sell-out special for $US75 each.

We are still able to buy at reasonable prices lures from the Daiwa range; Eco Gear is now importing a range of hard bodies; C’ultiva have some great lures available here and guides such as Harry Watson have brought to Australia the Jackal, a bibless crankbait that has proved to be a great bass taker.

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