Rain fires up the creeks
  |  First Published: March 2004

THE CREEKS have been fishing really well since the rains of February, with bream, flathead, mangrove jack and trevally taking lures and baits with gusto.

Dave Rae, Graham Todd from G.Loomis and I fished the Kalang River recently and caught and released more than 30 bream and flathead on soft plastics. Graham lost an ‘unstoppable’ (probably a jack) near some floating leases and Dave went back a few days later and had a ball fighting trevally over 50cm on his bream gear.

I managed to take a dip, fully clothed, on a recent jack trip to save an Ian Miller Boomer Bass rod and Daiwa Millionaire baitcaster which were heading for the bottom in deep water. Graham was up the pointy end of the canoe at the time and did well to keep his balance as I slid over into the sharky depths. Swimming with wet-weather gear and wetsuit booties is never easy, but I managed to save the outfit, although I did spook the snag we were on at the time. It was a lump of a tree that minutes earlier had produced a 42cm jack on a Reidy’s lure.

Offshore, the mackerel are starting to become more consistent with South Solitary and Bundagen producing the greatest catches for Coffs-based boaties. This year the run of black marlin has been consistent, with boats trolling for mackerel with live slimies and lures reporting marlin hook-ups around the inshore reefs. If you’re after a wahoo then try the washes around Black Rock, near South Solitary, and North West Solitary Island. The free divers spear a lot of wahoo and big mackerel in these waters.

I fished the Bellinger River for bass recently with some friends from Sydney and although we caught only a dozen average fish, the great scenery and one 44cm fish made the trip memorable.

On the beaches, the jewfish have become more consistent, with a tide change at any time of day giving a one-hour window for anglers using worms or fresh cut baits. There have also been jew to 7kg taking soft plastic lures around the wash-filled boulders areas at the ends of many beaches. Milky water with a bit of depth is the scenario to look for when plastics fishing for jew.

Catching tailor at present has never been easier, with bag limits of fish possible when using metal lures from the headlands to the north of town.

Last weekend I headed up to the Iluka breakwall and was able to spin up half a dozen small bonito, one of which was eaten after being sent out live on a wire trace. After a screaming run which had ‘mackerel’ written all over it, I attempted to set the twin hooks, only to come up with nothing more than the mangled bait. Such is LBG fishing!

Over the next month I’ll be targeting mackerel and bluefin from the rocks and from my small boat. The garfish started to arrive last week and that’s the best sign of all that the big inshore pelagics of Autumn will soon be on the bite.


I’ve just spent the best part of two hours in the garage preparing for an assault on Korogoro Point – Hat Head – at 4am tomorrow.

Making sure your reels are filled with line, lures are attached to single-strand wire traces and rods are bundled is one of the time-consuming, but necessary, parts of the preparation vital if you’re going to make the most of sunrise to mid morning for lure-fishing on North Coast rocks.

The target fish we’re after are big Spanish mackerel, most of which are from 17kg to 25kg, but we’ll gratefully accept any northern bluefin tuna, cobia, kingfish, rainbow runners, tailor or even small black marlin that might take an interest in our big metal lures and surface poppers.

For this sort of fishing we use 6.2:1 retrieve Daiwa SL50HS overheads that cast 10kg and 15kg line and 85g to 125g lures all day. These big reels rip our artificial baits through the water at the sort of speed that pelagics find irresistible. The rods we use are a combination of three-metre, fast-taper sticks from G.Loomis, Wilson and Sabre. All are capable of casting 80 to 100 metres and then having enough low-down grunt to put the wood on a big fish that decides the down-current side of a distant point is where it would prefer to do its fighting.

Mackerel are, by nature, inquisitive and easily-spooked fish and, unlike tuna which hits a bait or lure at speed, big Spaniards are very hard to interest in calm conditions and are only a realistic lure target when there is a strong current or plenty of wash around. Along the NSW coastline there are very few rock ledges that really pick up the amount of current required for consistent land-based mackerel luring and the only two ledges that spring to mind are Hat Head and Seal Rocks.

At The Hat, a long, north-facing point which catches the north- south current is the launching pad for some memorable hook-ups. On our last trip schools of solid kingfish and bonito kept all rods bent as we achieved hook-up after hook-up using a variety of metal lures and pencil poppers. When fishing coastal headlands with lures it can pay big dividends to direct your casting at areas of wash or turbulent water. At The Hat, a long finger of reef to the west seems to produce consistent hook-ups, particularly when a lure is cast in the deep water to the east and then retrieved back across the pinnacle.

Inshore baitfish schools are fairly predictable in their movements and casting to spots where they are taking refuge and then ripping the lure back out into open water is usually the recipe for strikes on the surface and down below. When high-speed spinning, it’s best to start by letting the lure reach the sandy bottom with the reel in free spool, then ripping it to the surface at breakneck speed to excite a passing predator.

High-speed spinning is a game of averages; if you find the bait schools and keep casting then eventually something of significance will find your lure. I’ve hooked big mackerel and tuna on the first few casts of the morning and have also spun for three hours before registering my first strike – such is sportfishing.



Mike Colless with a bream from one of the many creeks around Coffs Harbour.


Bream willingly attack surface poppers during the warmer months, especially in shallow, rocky areas or around overhanging trees..


The author with a bream that ate a surface popper.


Atkinson with a 46cm mangrove jack.

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