The reefs fire up
  |  First Published: March 2003

The inshore reefs, such as Fidos, Kingscliff and the Nine Mile have had plenty of Spanish mackerel, kingfish and billfish of late and the fishing should continue to improve.

Trolled bibless minnows are deadly on the mackerel. Those made by Lively Lures on the Sunshine Coast are as good as any I have tried. Trolling a small a rigged bonito, alive or dead, is also an outstanding method for catching big Spaniards. Fidos Reef and the Nine Mile have extensive gravel patches between the reefs and this is where I would concentrate my efforts this month.

Small billfish should also be about in good numbers. Small skirted lures such as those in the Pakula range are the best with lumo colours on the bright days and purples on dark days my favourite colours. When the wind gets up and the sea becomes choppy is a good time for hex-head lures – they are tried and proven in the area over many years.

Big fish can enter the river, especially after a big blow. The deeper holes are the places to look after dark or when the water is dirty. Periods before and after tide changes will be the opportune times to target the bigger fish. Cobia, kingfish, trevally, jew and big jacks are on the cards on large jigs, and live baits.

Shore-based anglers are also able to get in on the action from the walls along the first kilometre of the river and around the bigger bridges. Frequency of captures in the areas over the past few months means you should give these areas the once-over.

Bream fishing with soft plastics has also continued to produce good numbers of fish. Best locations are the southern rock wall along the Fingal Reach of the river. The Dry Dock Road walls and the walls above and just below the Tumbulgum bridge have also been very effective.

The mangrove jack season has continued to improve since the holidays. Many bream anglers throwing smaller lures are experiencing good bust-ups or are landing the occasional jack. All areas are producing quality fish with the early mornings and sunset coinciding with a tide change the peak periods to try.

Flathead are also still relatively abundant with most of the shallow banks where sea grasses are prevalent ideal for hunting lizards. Jigs around 1/4oz with chartreuse tail or one with a metallic fleck are producing enough fish to keep people happy.

The best whiting seem to be coming from the top reaches of the river around Dinseys Creek. Best baits are definitely be squirt worms with blood worms a close second. Small live herring are well worth putting out when fishing for whiting – large flathead are often found close to the beds that whiting feed on.

The best thing about North Coast estuaries is that you can always find fish somewhere. Move to another location until you do.

The Brunswick River is also fishing well. Plenty of big whiting are about but stealth is the key. Accessing the upper reaches of the North or South arms can mean pulling the boat across sandbars but to come back with some mid-30cm whiting is worth it.

Many of the deeper holes are holding good flathead, the occasional trevally or tarpon. Jacks inhabit the river in many locations.

This is a great month for bream on surface lures – small fizzers and poppers are excellent. Don’t be afraid to cast them into the timber as far as you can, many of my best captures have come this way.

The new Bubble Pop 45s are taking up position in my tackle box for catching bream.


One of my new customers grew up in New Zealand fly-fishing for trout. He’s lived here for 10 years and had not fished here since he arrived, although not through lack of offers from friends. Last Christmas, he was given a fishing rod and has fished every week since. He has now rekindled his love of getting out and enjoying his ‘fushing’ again, now with his four-year-old son.

It’s a great place that we live in and over the many years I have been here, half of the enjoyment of fishing is the location. If you don’t have a boat, hire a canoe or a tinny or hire a guide. Life is too short to just sit here and read this article. Go fishing!

Clarrie Hall

I have just returned from Clarrie Hall Dam after fishing during the first decent rains of the year. Conditions were very ordinary, to say the least with temperatures down, wind blowing, rain and drizzle.

The dam has been dropping a centimetre a day over Summer and is now down to 35%. The ramp organised last May and expected to provide access through drought periods, is now 20 metres from the water. I drove along the original access road for at least a third of the way down the dam before I attempted putting the boat in.

Much of the original river bed is all that carries water at the top end. It is a strange sensation to look at the bases of trees over six metres tall that once had only their tips poking through the surface. Now they’re high and dry.

Considering the poor conditions the dam fished well. Small minnows that got down to three were consistent fish-takers. Spinnerbaits slow-rolled from the edge down the banks received solid strikes. The ever-reliable Ecogear Grass Minnows on a lift-and-draw retrieve along the bottom also produced a few hook-ups. The best colours were natural or plain. Darker greens, gold and browns with a hint of red or black seemed to be the pick in the overcast conditions.

The two anglers aboard had rods with each of these lures and constantly switched outfits. The rocky areas of the dam held fish, as did the sheltered points. The timber also fished well though at the time most of best timbered areas were exposed to thirty five knots of wind making life difficult. We had a lot of strikes hard up against the banks in very shallow water but couldn’t induce any fish to take a lure of the surface. Along some of the shoreline there were old collapsed sections of the banks that provided deeper holes hard against the shoreline and most of these held fish

A week is a long time in fishing, particularly if a flood occurs between writing this and its publication.. The foreshores are covered with grasses that hold lots of food. If they flood, the dam will fire up, especially in the shallows. On a hot March afternoon these shallows will be great for surface lures.

What I love most about the dam is that its an excellent casting location. Working along the edges slowly under electric power, there is plenty of structure like old stumps, tree limbs, rocks and some lily pads here and there. With this low water, any cover should hold one or more fish.

The fish are hitting lures hard and are in good shape. Sizes range from 20cm to 40cm with most fish at the upper end of this range. Plenty of schools are to be found so this month should see good fishing continue.

Launching a trailer boat may be difficult over coming weeks unless we receive a deluge or you own a 4WD. I would be especially careful after any prolonged rain. The road in is firm enough and runs parallel to the water. The problem lies with the last metre or so to the water, where fine silty mud will trap you and suck the trailer down.

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