Just too many options!
  |  First Published: February 2005

Versatile anglers are finding that they have too many choices in the range of species and locations they can target along the Coffs Coast this month.

Options include heading west for trout at Dorrigo and Ebor or possibly out to the Namoi or Gwydir in search of western cod.

Closer to the coast, there are bass biting in the Nymboida, Mann, Clarence, Orara, Bellinger, Kalang and Nambucca rivers. In the brackish waters you can still target bass along with bream, flathead, giant herring and mangrove jacks in the aforementioned rivers with smaller creeks such as Deep, Oyster, Bonville, Boambee, Moonee and Corindi also popular.

The choice is really up to you, although the ability to switch between a canoe and small punt will allow you to access the complete range of snag and structure options available on many rivers and creeks.

On the rocks, you can spin up big tailor and jew around many of the shallow and deep washes that skirt nearly all major headlands from Sawtell through to Station Creek. At this time of the year it can be worth chucking big metal lures or possibly sending a live slimy mackerel, yellowtail, garfish, pike or tailor seaward in search of the Spanish mackerel and bluefin tuna that feed inside the wash line. Mutton Bird Island, Charlesworth, Moonee, Emerald, Sawtell and the Southern Breakwall are the pic of the local pelagic ledges.

Offshore, mackerel have become the focus of most boaties along with jewfish and squire, while in deeper water samson fish, pearl perch, teraglin and tusk fish are the popular species.

Reefs from one to five kilometres off Coffs will produce all these species, although many anglers like to travel north and fish the reefs near the South Solitary Lighthouse, while others prefer the myriad reefs from Bundagen down to Nambucca.


At this time of year most prefer to fish at anchor within a few kilometres of the coast and split their chances between bottom dwellers and the spotted mackerel that like to feed on the bait schools on reef drop offs. Berleying at anchor and sending lightly-weighted cut baits to the bottom will produce jew and snapper, while floating pilchards or live slimies (drifted out under balloons) will see some sizzling strikes on spotted and Spanish mackerel.

If you're chasing spotties, keep single strand wire trace to under 30lb and use a stinger rig of two or three 3/0 or 4/0 double-strength suicides to lift your strike and hook-up rates. For Spanish mackerel 60lb wire and two or three 6/0 or 7/0 live-bait patterns will do the job nicely.

If you're targeting only mackerel then slow trolling with a live slimy will produce exciting fishing on spotties and bluefin tuna, while pulling a pike or tailor closer to the coast will increase your chances of hooking the prized Spanish mackerel which prefer to feed, along with the tailor and kingfish, on the backs of beaches and behind bommies.

This month will also see the start of the inshore black marlin and sailfish run which occurs just east of South Solitary Island. Unfortunately the fishing is nowhere near as consistent or easy to access as it has been in recent years at Trial Bay and for this reason, many Coffs anglers prefer to drive 90 minutes to South West Rocks.

Speaking of heading south to fish, I'll also be hitting Hat Head this month, which is often time for big mackerel on the sloping stones of Korogoro Point. Early morning sessions with a tide change can produce the most exciting and challenging fishing imaginable as 20kg-plus of mackerel slams your 125g metal and almost melts 15kg line as it heads towards the horizon. Mixed in with the mackerel will be mack tuna, bluefin tuna, kingfish, tailor and cobia. All these fish love hitting fast-retrieved lures along the edge of the wash.

Recently I fished the Kalang River for bream and the Macleay River for bass. Both trips produced some memorable fishing with a variety of plastics and surface poppers working on the bream, and plastics, spinnerbaits and hard bodied lures doing the job on the bass. I’ve also had another unsuccessful jack trip with two lure swipes and a hook pulled next to the boat for six hours in the canoe.

North Coast jack fishing is hard on gear and hard on anglers, with freshwater fishing from the canoe and bream fishing from the punt being much easier options. What keeps me coming back to jacks is the severity of the strike and the sheer aggression of this lurking lutjanid which seems to laugh at anything but the heaviest leaders and equally aggressive rod work.

The beaches should hit their straps for jew this month with Valla, North Beach, Hills, Sapphire and Corindi the pick of the spots. Best baits are beach worms, tailor fillets and whole squid.



Danny Vanharen caught this 2.8kg rainbow trout in the Dorrigo area.


Interesting body piercing: Wayne Ferguson caught himself at Copmanhurst but fished on for bass for a day and a night before seeking medical attention.


A mixed bag taken casting high-speed lures at Hat Head – kings, a GT, tailor and bonito.


Double-hook-up Murray cod action on the Gwydir.

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