Blue and black
  |  First Published: February 2003

Finally it seems some good blue water has hit South West Rocks and the first northern visitors – black marlin and even the odd spotted mackerel – have arrived.

At the time of writing there is 23° water just off the jail and I had the good fortune to be on the welcoming committee for four lively marlin within a few days. Even on 24kg tackle the biggest fish, around 90kg, kept me going hard for quite a while.

I suspect that by the time you read this, they’ll be more prevalent and, from reports to the north, we may be in for a good inshore billfish run.

While they’re still short on numbers, there have been some occasionally good catches of spotted mackerel to around 6kg up off Grassy Heads. Fingers crossed for more of them.

Snapper came good as the moon built to full with the fish closer to shore, with most of the action on the wider spotted mackerel grounds. This area is in roughly 120 feet of water 3km off Grassy Head. There should be some good fish even closer to shore, like just off the headland, especially during the wee hours of the morning.

A few kings have turned up at Fish Rock and Black Rock, some around 10kg, most falling to slow-trolled live baits and jigged lures. Just remember, new laws have been put in place at Green Island and Fish Rock in regards to live baiting and anchoring, so check with Fisheries before venturing down that way.

The Macleay River is producing some nice mulloway as well as some big lizards. The jew were pretty active as the moon built to full, and the same big tides, combined with warmer water, had the mega-flathead on the chew. Fish to 6kg have been caught almost daily. Thankfully, a few are returned after a happy snap. Most of the big lizards are along the deep rock walls close to the mouth and are falling to live herring and yakkas as well as some bigger soft plastics, such as those produced by Storm.

Fair go

As many anglers are aware, part of the money raised from fishing licence revenue has been used to buy out a considerable number of professional estuary fishermen up and down the coast, effectively creating 30 new saltwater fishing havens. This is a great step forward and one that should be applauded. But what about the poor old Macleay River?

I was recently handed some interesting facts compiled by Bass Kempsey on behalf of all concerned for the current plight of the mighty Macleay. The letter, containing info obtained from N.S.W Fisheries Region 3 issue papers, was aimed at ultimately seeing the Macleay closed to pro fishing.

Some of the points made need some answers. Like why the Hastings River was closed to netting with 77 votes and the Macleay, with its smaller population and 95 votes in favour, remains open?

NSW Fisheries lists 77 effective commercial fishers in Region 3 (Camden Haven to Wooli) and has bought out 32 pro licences. As the report points out, that leaves 45 pro fishers to potentially fish just two rivers, the Macleay and the Nambucca. That’s a hell of a lot of pressure for a system that was already struggling with only 12 pro fishermen.

Also interesting was the commercial catch for 1998/99 for the Macleay River – 91,498kg for a return of $298,725 – or $3.30 per kilo. In 1996/97, tourism in the Macleay Valley was valued at a staggering $99 million. It seems many visiting anglers are prepared to spend far more than $3.30 per kilo for their catch.

To help put things in perspective, the total catch from the Macleay River represents just 0.06% of total seafood consumption in NSW so it seems a terrible waste to plunder the rapidly dwindling fish stocks for such a small percentage of consumers.

This area should be promoted as a fishing Mecca, a jewel in the crown of the Mid North Coast, not plundered by every pro fisherman from Camden Haven to Wooli. So please write about the current plight of the Macleay River to Fisheries Minister Eddie Obeid, Level 34 Governor Macquarie Tower, 1 Farrer Place, Sydney N.S.W 2000. Those on the internet can find a letter that can be downloaded, printed, signed and sent off to the above address. The web site is www.basskempsey.com.au. The more response the better.



It’s spotted mackerel time at The Rocks and there already have been a few off Grassy Head.


With the moon building to full, the local mulloway population began to feed freely. This 8kg model was taken on the South Wall on a live pike.

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