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Best in years
  |  First Published: March 2005



This season is shaping up to be one of the best in recent years.

The strong push of tropical water down the coast has brought a good showing of baitfish closely followed by the torpedoes of the sea, the northern bluefin or longtail tuna.

The northern breakwall of the Clarence River is one of the best LBG ledges around these parts. Large schools of baitfish congregating on the northern side of the wall gives large pelagic fish like the bluefin the perfect feeding ground. The wall has a north-facing fishing area that extends about 400 metres. The river side has 500 metres of southern-facing fishable ground.

So many lure fishos visit the wall in the hope of sight-casting to a bluefin as it speeds down the wall in search of its next meal. That’s if it does not find your live bait first and you end up battling an 18kg brute, which is what happened to Phil Woolaston from Byron Bay.

Remember to keep those poppers ready when fishing the Iluka breakwall as it can be battle stations at short notice. One thing I can guarantee is that sight-casting to longtails is the biggest land-based adrenaline rush you can get around here, especially if you like surface lure action.

MACKEREL

Early in the year the spotted mackerel were playing games with one morning producing bag-limit catches in the first hour of the day and the next morning producing nothing. The one common factor for these fish disappearing overnight has been the water temperature.

Each day when the bite was hot, so was the water – as high as 26°. On the days when it was quiet the water was as low as 22°.

But most fishos have not been complaining as the good mornings well and truly made up for the quiet ones. Some quality mackerel have been caught with the best fish around 7kg, while there were some fish around 2kg.

Now the water temperature has settled around 25° so has the feeding pattern of the mackerel, with catches becoming more consistent. Along with the mackerel some good by-catches have been taken with big cobia, snapper and small marlin all getting into the action. All we need now is some good offshore weather and Easter will be looking good.

JACK TAPER OFF

Those elusive mangrove jacks have certainly been active this year with many lure fishos doing battle. Fish around a kilo have been most common with the Esk River, Sandon River and Mangrove Creek all producing.

But the best jacks have come from Oyster Channel, Yamba boat harbour, Romiaka Channel and Maclean, with some red devils up to 3kg. These areas have all been fishing best with a low tide on or just after dark so plan your trip and use good live bait or quality lures. There is no substitute for the best.

With Winter approaching we have only a few more good weeks left to fish so don’t delay.

BREAM ARE BACK

After spending the past five months up-river, bream are now moving back to the lower reaches. At last the fuel bill will be reduced with no more 40- to 50-minute runs. With good rain on the horizon an early start to the season, around Easter, is a possibility.

Many large schools of baitfish, such as herring, have appeared in the lower reaches and it won’t take the bream long to find them.

Here’s a hint for this season: If you’re lure fishing try the Berkeley Gulp 3” minnow stickbait in pumpkinseed – it’s the best I have used over the Summer. If you prefer bait, you can’t go past a live herring.

WHITING UP AND DOWN

What a year for whiting! The river was fishing very poorly through the day with many struggling to land a legal fish. But after dark, history was in the making with a good run of fish between 300g and 500g.

If you missed out, you weren’t alone, with only nocturnal fishos reporting big whiting.

The secret to success was to fish the run out tide on the dark moon and use the best live bloodworms or yabbies.

Sea gar: Do you eat them or are they bait?

It’s that time when the sea gar return to the weed bed at the mouth of the Clarence. When you are chasing that 40cm sea gar to eat, remember the fishos who’ll pay an arm and a leg to use one as bait. I am one of those who spends most of the day chasing good bait so I can fish for mackerel, tuna, tailor and the like, so please leave some for me.

For the best chance you’ll need quality quill floats, 4lb line, No 12 long-shanked hooks, a very light rod and fresh prawns.

SCHOOL JEW BACK

After some much-needed rain the school jew have made a good return to the lower reaches of the river with fish to 7kg common around most of the bridges and walls. Those wishing to chase big jew in the river need to get their gear ready now, with the start of the season only a few weeks away.

Spots like the T-piece on Yamba Wall, Collis Wall, the Turkeys Nest and Middle Wall will all produce fish between 12kg and 25kg. Live bait and hard-body diving lures worked over the top of the tide will produce the best results.

1

Whiting have been great at night, while daytime fishos have struggled.

2

Chris Riggs put a Berkley Gulp 3” Minnow to good use on this bream.

3

The author with a 1kg mangrove jack caught on a 4” Swim Minnow – make the most of the jack season as it tapers down.

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