Time to ponder why
  |  First Published: March 2004

IT’S TIME to think about the state of fishing in the Manning area and the reasons for the non-appearance of some of the species that should be around in thousands.

The tailor have not shown up in numbers like they should at this time of the year. There are isolated schools of fish on the beaches but only the occasional fish is up around 43cm – all the rest are only just legal (30cm).

The rock blackfish, drummer or pig, as it is more commonly known around here, has only just started to spawn. Usually they have spawned by the end of the second week in August, so they are almost half a year behind.

In the estuary, the big flathead have been extremely scarce with only the occasional 5kg-plus fish being sighted. As well, the salmon and the school jew have been on and off the bite.

I believe we can account for the unusual behaviour of the fish by considering firstly the changes in the water temperatures on our coastline during the past couple of months. The sea water has been up as high as 26° for a few days, then down to 17° overnight. Obviously these big changes in temperature would have an effect on the fish. They are not going to stay where they are not comfortable and where the bait fish are also not at home.

Secondly, the Manning has not had a fresh since early last year. The bass are still waiting for a bit of a run in the river so they can move into the upper tributaries. The prawns have not moved in significant numbers, due to the lack of a fresh. The rain that has fallen has been very gentle and has all soaked in, rather than creating a run-off that would start a fresh in the river.

So we need some warmer currents on the coast and a bit of a gully-raker to liven up the river.


Despite the lack of a fresh, there are still some fish to catch in the lower parts of the river. Smaller flathead up to 2kg are still being caught on whitebait and pieces of mullet.

Whiting are on the bite and bag limits can be caught with yabby baits. These fish are only 3cm or 4cm over the legal 27cm – there are no big fish. The bream that have been caught in the estuary are only small, too – a fish of 500g is a big one.

Prospects are also fairly poor at present along the beaches and from the rocks. There are some tailor when you can find them and some school jew, but only occasionally. On the headlands there are groper to catch on red crabs but the drummer are not biting well and will remain like that until they have finished spawning.


Lots of boats have been going out but not many have been coming back with quality fish. The inshore waters have been a bit dirty due to the silt stirred up by the big seas. On the days which have been perfect for outside fishing, results have been less than perfect.

We need that decent fresh in the river to bring even the offshore fishing back to its best. March has a lot of floods to its credit around these parts so maybe we are not far off a good fall of rain in the Manning catchment area.

This would start the prawns moving and bring the flathead and bream back down the river. Unless this happens we are in for a very average year of fishing.

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