Offshore mother lode
  |  First Published: February 2004

OFFSHORE anglers along the Coffs Coast have been enjoying great fishing in recent weeks with kingfish to 12kg, snapper to 7kg, black marlin to 90kg, mahi mahi to 12kg, venus tusk fish, big bonito, samson and pearl perch.

As expected, the mackerel are starting to show up with a constant stream of spotted mackerel to 5kg taking live and dead fish baits. As I write, the larger Spanish mackerel have not yet turned up but it’s only a matter of days before the big fellas make their presence felt on the inshore reefs.

To the north of Coffs, the extensions of Charlesworth, Korora and Moonee headlands make a great trolling run with live slimy mackerel, along with the eastern sides of Split and South Solitary islands. If you’re trolling wide of South Solitary, you can expect anything from mackerel, kingfish, XOS tailor, sailfish, green jobfish, cobia, wahoo and black marlin to hit your baits.

To the south of Coffs, Bundagen down to Third Headland off Urunga are the best spots to drift or slow troll a live bait for mackerel or bluefin tuna. As with marlin, the bigger Spanish mackerel like large live baits such as bug slimies, pike, bonito, and tailor. These can be jigged, lured and baited on the wider bait reefs on the way north or south to the trolling grounds.

The Park Beach Bommie is a popular bait reef with small boat anglers but unless you hit it early it can become crowded and inconsistent. The extension reef just off Macauleys Headland is also worth trying for bigger slimies, as is the reef half-way along Boambee Beach on the run down to Sawtell and Bundagen.


On the beaches there are plenty of whiting, bream and dart on the bite with North Beach, Boambee, Park, Hills, Sapphire, Emerald, Sandy and Woolgoolga beaches producing good catches. Best baits have been yabbies and beach worms sent out on long and light 3kg traces. Jewfish to 14kg have been landed at Sapphire and North Beach, near Repton, with plenty of smaller school fish to 4kg hitting the sand at Hills Beach and Sawtell Rock Pool.

In the estuaries, bream and bass are responding well to surface lures with rubber poppers accounting for plenty of bream to 40cm and bass to 48cm.

Trevally and mangrove jacks have been consistent with some really big fish on the chew at present. On our last two jack trips we landed fish to 51cm with plenty of bust-ups and average fish to 45cm showing interest in our lures.

Flathead have also been feeding quite freely. We fished the downstream section of the Wooli River and had no trouble rustling up a solid catch of duskies using Atomic plastics. Luderick to 1.4kg and whiting to 600g have come from many of the local estuaries with the mouths of Bonville Creek, Moonee Creek, Corindi and Sandon River producing the largest specimens.

Over the holiday period the freshwater creeks and rivers copped an absolute hiding with the occupants of dozens of boats and canoes throwing lures for bass. We fished the Bellinger recently and had to settle on fishing fourth-hand water in a stretch where we normally don’t see another soul.

At this time of the year it can pay to restrict your bass trips to after-dark surface sessions. Fishing from 7pm until 11pm usually beats the heat and the crowds. If you do find yourself casting at lure-shy fish during the day, then going deep with soft plastics is the only way we’ve been able to consistently bend a rod.

As yet rock anglers have not been able to get among the pelagics and have had to settle on throwing lures for jew and tailor and baits for bream and black drummer.

February usually sees the start of the inshore garfish runs and when these occur, live-baiting and lure-casting from the headlands and breakwalls can bring incredible rewards on species such as bluefin tuna and Spanish mackerel. Over this month I’ll be heading down to Hat Head to toss metal lures and up to Iluka to soak a live bait from the breakwall.



Melissa Atkinson with a Wooli River dusky flathead.


The author spinning for flathead in the Wooli estuary.


Central Coast visitor Bob ‘The Bass’ Gordon with a Bellinger River namesake.

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