Estuary ecstasy
  |  First Published: February 2003

February is one of the top months on the North Coast estuaries.

Mangrove jacks are at their cranky best this month and even the small ones will bust up the best of anglers – giving them the wood is what it’s all about.

Live bait will catch the bulk of fish, with mullet and herring schools taking up residence around the jacks’ favoured locations. Fish your drags tight and make sure that the knots are spot-on.

Great lures for this month are the Ecogear Grass Minnows with a suitable size of head for the current. The larger PowerShads are my favourites at the moment – they’ve caught jacks, cobia, yellowtail kings and big trevally. I’ve used these lures mostly around the turn of the tides when the water slows. Lightly weighted, they drop like a real fish. Casting them into rock walls, such as those around Chinderah, has produced fish where I once lost many lures to fish and rocks.

With any full tide after dark, the deeper water from the mouth of the river up to the hospital has been producing some excellent fish, including mulloway, cobia, kingfish and some big trevally. Anglers have been scoring on live baits and by casting big jigs, larger crankbaits like shallow-diving Bombers, and soft plastics. I recommend doing this only on the run-in tides. When you fish from a boat you have the advantage of putting yourself downstream from the fish and being able to drive into the river –safer than chasing a fish in the dark around the bar.

From the shore, heavy tackle is the order of the day. Most locals use Alveys, overheads, or big egg-beaters handling a minimum of 15kg over a stick that has a bit of length. Don’t forget the gaff – it’s difficult to land big fish without one. Most of the fishable water is on the northern side of the river. Three of the best locations are the mouth, the rescue boat and the Jack Evans boat harbour.

The whiting are copping some pressure from the nets, and catches been intermittent. Best to use bloodworms, yabbies or beach worms after dark. Long, fine leaders on soft rods seem to catch more fish. Terranora Inlet, Cobaki and the RFA are the places to go.

There are some cracker bream getting around. The bigger fish seem to come from deep water adjacent to shaded banks with bait close by. Heavier jig heads fished on the tide changes have worked best for us and 1/8oz and lighter heads have also been hooking good numbers of small to medium fish. White, green and natural colours have been producing.

You’ll find flathead in any spot with deeper gutters close to shallow flats. The best lures are soft plastics. Twin tails, single tails, T-tails – they eat them all! The trick is fish a light main line with an 8kg trace and to move the lure in short, sharp hops with pauses in between.

Hard bodies are also fishing well over the shallow banks. Small Attacks, Predatek Min Mins and crawdad patterns all catch fish.


The mackerel have arrived, and good spots include Kingscliff Reef, Little Wommin, Fidos and the gravel between and including the Nine Mile. Trolling small bonito, dead or alive, will raise a mackerel quicker than anything else. Small bibless lures are great, as are larger bibbed lures.

We had a mediocre start to the billfish season, with the highlight a few sailfish on the inshore reefs. The current this month should be absolutely howling south, which is why I like the inshore stuff. All gamefish venture close to shore at some stage, and there should still be billfish around.

Work the inshore reefs early with berley and you can score quality fish before the light forces them back into deep water. Good spots to try include Pottsville, Cabarita, Fingal and Kingscliff. If your boat has the legs, fish the 24- and 36-fathom reefs for snapper, pearlies, blue-throat wrasse and trag. Fresh squid over a lumo soft plastic comes to life as the boat lifts and drops on the swell.


The weather-watchers say we’re in for a deluge and everyone is hoping they’re right. Clarrie Hall Dam’s grassy foreshores hold all forms of insect life and if the water covers them in a rush the fishing will be red-hot in the shallows. Small shallow diving crankbaits, 1/4oz spinnerbaits and surface lures will be the order of the day.

Even if we don’t get rain, the dam is still fishing well. The timber remains the place to fish and the shaded areas are also productive. The best shady areas are in steep-sided inlets such as Ugly Gully, Rainforest Gully and the Eagle’s Nest. I prefer to use crawdads in natural colours or in hot fluoro, such as red. Throw your lures into heavy cover to get the best results. Reduce the chance of snagging by removing the middle treble.

The pick of the popular spinnerbaits are 3/8oz and 1/4oz. The 3/8 has a little extra weight, which offers a faster presentation. The bass also like a much slower presentation from the 1/4oz lure. I use white, green, and red and black.

The points are always worth fishing, and a few fish will be caught on T-tail and shad-style soft plastics, with 1/4oz the best all-rounder. My favourite colour is green with a fleck of gold or silver.

When surface fishing, target the points, timber and shaded areas early and late in the day. The cicadas have been almost deafening and strong winds have been blowing some into the water. A afternoon storm is ideal for dislodging cicadas and then fizzers do the job well. Use a short, slow retrieve with pauses to imitate a cicada struggling on the surface. There’s nothing better than seeing a bass crash a surface lure.

At the time of writing the ramp is still providing good access, but it can be slippery. If it looks wet near the water’s edge, get out and check to be on the safe side. Remember to have your fishing licence, stick to the bag limit, and use paddle or electric power only.

The facilities at Cram’s Farm (where the ramp is) are excellent, with toilets and barbecues and the grassed area is big enough to accommodate a couple of cricket matches.

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