Spotties come out to play
  |  First Published: March 2004

THE FISHING at SWR has steadily improved as the water temperature rose from 20° to 24° in most regular haunts.

The sudden rise in water temperature has fired up a few northern visitors offshore, as well as inspiring a few estuary species to come out and play.

On the ocean, the arrival of good-sized spotted mackerel has been the real talking point among the locals, with the reefs close off Grassy Head and Scotts Head producing a few quality fish up to 7kg. It’s always worth exploring the Middle Ground off Grassy as well, as it’s really only a few good tail beats for the mackerel to be in either location. For those who don’t know the area, the Close Ground is about 500 metres off Grassy Head and the Middle Ground is around a kilometre. If there are fish about you should see a few boats on either reef.

The mackerel have fallen to live slimies and pilchards fished at anchor. With a steady berley trail flowing out the back, you increase the odds considerably. However, I prefer to slowly troll live baits or pilchards, but both methods work well when the fish are keen to play.

The blue water has fired up the inshore billfish and the place to be is just off Trial Bay Jail. Many folks are surprised to see just how close the marlin are to the shore, with fish up to 120kg barely a kilometre off the stones. A few years back I saw an estimated 500-pounder free-jump just off Green Island in no more than 20 metres of water!

Most fish caught just off the jail are usually in the 40kg to 60kg class and fall to slow-trolled live slimy mackerel. If you’re keen to try for a billfish by trolling live baits, do the right thing and use circle hooks like the Eagle Claw 2004 in a 9/0 size. This way you’ll greatly reduce the number of gut-hooked fish so they can swim off fit and well to fight another day.

Some nice kingfish are calling Black Rock and Fish Rock home at present, and they love few things more than a slow-trolled live bonito or small mackerel tuna. Fished on 24kg tackle, you stand a reasonable chance of landing a fish over 15kg but you can still expect some momentous bust-ups. If the big lads aren’t playing the game, there usually are plenty of smaller fish to keep you amused if you like throwing poppers and soft plastics around. Live yellowtail are usually the preferred tucker for small to medium kings, so don’t head south without a decent supply in the tank.


The Macleay River has just come clean after a small fresh last month and has fired up nicely, with big flathead biting freely in the lower reaches. Local angler Andrew Trappel snared a ripper going 7.2kg a soft plastic and it was released after being weighed in the landing net.

I’ve run into a few up to 5kg flicking softies for jew, so there are certainly a few around. Up on the tidal flats there are plenty of smaller duskies hunting the shallows. A well-presented fly of lure will usually get a sharp response.

Bream numbers are quite good, especially up the tidal creeks like Clybucca, Belmore and Kinchela. The deep rock walls above Jerseyville are well worth a flick around dawn and dusk. You never know, you may run into a bonus school jew or mega-flathead, so always take a decent-sized landing net.

We’re now heading into my favourite time of year. The sun’s lost a bit of its punch, the water is warming daily and those tropical critters with fins are starting to inundate the inshore reefs. Enjoy it while it lasts, as Winter is really only just around the corner!

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