Waiting for spots
  |  First Published: February 2003

Offshore anglers along the Coffs Coast have been having a bonanza with snapper to 8kg, cobia to 18kg, venus tusk fish, samson, kingfish and pearl perch.

As I write, the mackerel have not yet turned up but it’s only a matter of days before the first spotties and Spanish mackerel make their presence felt on the inshore reefs. To the north of Coffs, the Forty Acres Reef, just off Moonee Headland, is a great spot to troll a live slimy mackerel around, as are the eastern sides of Split and South Solitary islands.

You’ll have to make sure you avoid the new sanctuary zones in these areas and beware the big kingfish, which will smash you up as you pass by the washes at the ends of the islands.

To the south of Coffs, you can’t go past Bundagen Headland to drift or slow troll a live bait. It’s probably the most consistent spotted mackerel ground in the region.

As with marlin, the bigger Spanish mackerel like large live baits and these can be jigged up on the wider bait reefs on the way north or south to the trolling grounds. In general, the Park Beach Bommie is the most popular bait reef but it can become quite crowded and inconsistent. Another reef close to the harbour also worth trying for bigger slimies is just off Macauleys Headland.

Beaches producing

On the beaches there are plenty of whiting and dart on the chew with Boambee, Emerald, Sandy and Woolgoolga Beaches producing good catches of these tasty fish. Best baits have been yabbies and beach worms. Unfortunately, bream and flathead have been slow over the sand. This is pretty normal when the water temps get over 21°, making the estuaries the best place to target these popular species.

Some excellent jewfish to 22kg were landed recently with dozens of smaller school fish to 6kg hitting the sand at Sapphire, Hills, Boambee and North Beach. Boambee Beach had an excellent series of low-tide gutters while the other locations were best near high water.

A jew pushing 30kg was lost from Sapphire beach when the leader wore through via an accidental half-hitch around the eye of the hook. The bait was a slab of slimey mackerel. My back is still sore after going 10 rounds with a massive stingray the other night – my penalty for fishing for jew with slab bait when the seas are too flat.

My brother, Trevor, and I canoed up a northern creek and landed three good mangrove jacks to 49cm. This was some sort of payback for the four fishless trips and three wipe-outs in recent days. With three of my favourite divers gone, the 30lb braid, 50cm double and three metres of 36kg leader I’m using doesn’t seem as heavy-handed as it first did. There may not be large numbers of jacks around this year but the average size of fish is the biggest I’ve experienced. I’m not exaggerating when I say there are plenty of 2kg, 3kg and 4kg monsters seething under the worm wood.

Urunga crabs

Dave Rae has been doing battle with the Urunga blue swimmer crabs and flathead, with the high tide turning on the crabs and his Atomic plastics doing the trick on the lizards. He caught half a dozen swimmers in his dilly nets and got five keeper flathead from over a dozen caught. fishing from his Scanoe.

Dave said the ‘wobbegong shark’ that ate one of his kilo flathead turned out to be the world’s biggest lizard. When he dragged it up to the side of the canoe it had the smaller, lured, lizard sideways across it gob with no chance for the little lure to connect to a second victim. naturally, it eventually let go.

The biggest lizard landed within my earshot in recent times was a 5kg breeder from Boambee Creek, with a similar sized mangrove jack caught on live bait from a road bridge crossing the same creek. There’s no doubt live bait will get you the big fish.

Also in the estuaries there have been plenty of bream hitting thong poppers, with all rivers that have overhanging trees producing quality bream feasting on cicadas and other terrestrial insects. Mick Booth landed eight bream from 10 strikes on poppers in Bonville Creek. This is a great strike rate on these super-buoyant surface lures.

Mick backed this trip up with two 39cm bass, also on thong poppers, in a brackish stretch of the Kalang River. Other bass anglers are reporting similar successes with more conventional bass crawlers, fizzers and chuggers.

This month I recommend targeting mackerel or black marlin on live slimies around the offshore reefs and islands. Or you could get yourself a supply of beach worms to use from the rocks and beaches for jew – or break out the barra gear and gold divers for jacks. Whichever you choose, you won’t be disappointed.



Macauley Rae nets a flathead in the Urunga shallows.


Take a river, add a light spin outfit and a handful of soft plastics and you have an ideal recipe for bream and flathead.


The author with a nice bass caught in the brackish section of a creek around Coffs.


A 4WD allows you to cover the most likely water along Boambee Beach.

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