It’s true that fishing, like the weather, is cyclical. Some years are better for one species than another but there always seems to be an opportunity to get stuck into some type of fishing that really fires.
The some is true on a location basis. One coastal area, for whatever reason, will fish better than others and it is a matter of keeping your ear to the fishing grapevine or an eye on the fishing reports.
The past couple of years have been, at best, ordinary for surface-luring for bream but since Christmas the topwater bream popping has been fantastic. The quality of the fish and numbers have been right up there with the 2001 season.
The warm water has set off an explosion of baitfish and butter prawns in the rivers of the Mid North Coast that has attracted everything from big flatties and bream to bronze whalers over two metres long.
There have been more than a few bream and lures lost beside the boat to the aggressive whalers that push right up the rivers chasing mullet and other food. If you want a bit of fun, take a short-stroker game outfit and load up a wire trace with a hook and a mullet.
All you need to do is to set the bait about 10 metres behind the boat under a float and wait. A fair lump of a whaler in a shallow, narrow river is a spectacular fight and a real eye-opener.
Fizzers, poppers and wake-making bibbed lures are the go for the surface bream. Broken oyster racks, river snags and even rock bars are prime locations to target surface action.
In the rivers the run-out tide tends to be better than top of the tide while around rocks and racks, the run in and top of the tide provide better access for the fish and better angling opportunities for us.
Early mornings and last light offer productive and comfortable fishing but through the day you can fish the shadow line of the river banks and tight to structure elsewhere.
The secret to surface fishing is to impart as much action, generally a shaking motion, into the lure without too much forward movement. It is also as much observation as it is lure technique. If you watch your lure carefully through a pair of good polarised sunnies you can often see the silver ghosts materialise under the lure, at which point a dead drift will often prompt a strike.
Other things on offer this month include the plethora of flathead still hunting the sand and mud flats. Two notable catch-and-release flathead of late were a 1.02-metre fish by a mate and a 1.2-metre fish that was caught and photographed next to an Alvey measuring rule prior to a speedy release.
These large females should be treated gently and released if possible to preserve the breeding cycle. There are plenty of plate-sized fish in the channel and weed fringes of the islands if you need a feed.
Whiting in the Tuncurry Channel and around the back of Little Tern Island have been going off on yabbies and beach worms, with some good sand whiting amongst the bags. The Wallamba River has finally cleared sufficiently to work over the snaggy banks for flathead and bream and the intense water skiing that occurs during the holidays tapers off from now.
It is turning out to be a good season for prawns and crabs in the lake with some big blue swimmers mixing it up in traps and witches’ hats. For those with the early inclination to go for a dip – with their scoop nets – the rewards have been reasonable with catches up to 4kg of school prawns during the new moon.
Breckenridge Channel is a very popular prawning area while any areas in the upper lake with weed will produce some crabs.
There seems to be no end to the salmon schools along the coast with rock and beach anglers getting among them. Baits and lures produce the goods and if you want to have some great fun, throw a surface popper across the wash line off the rocks. The crushing strikes are spectacular and I never tire of their aerial efforts to dislodge the lure.
A few bigger bonito are showing up along the wash areas and occasionally snatching bait jigs. It shouldn’t be too long before we get a few cobia, mack tuna and blues sifting down the coast.
Snapper and pearl perch are still around with plenty of sand flathead and mixed reef fish available both north and south of Forster/Tuncurry.
Flathead litter Wallis Lake and are easily caught on bait or lures. This is a kilo model but a few metre-plus fish have put in appearances lately. Paul Albery caught this good plate-sized fish under an oyster rack.
Fizzer fantastic. February is a good month to target surface bream. Big fish like this are suckers for a Koolabung Cicada but are not always easy to land around snags. Expect casualties.
Seamo with a late Chrissy present in the form of a 1.65kg bream from under a floating rack at Mosquito Point in Wallis Lake. A pearl Bass Minnow was its downfall.Reads: 692