Talk about a turn around in the weather! From severe drought over much on N.S.W to flash floods in many locations, Australia certainly is a land of extremes!
With the heavy rain in the Macleay catchment area (all 11,000 square kilometres of it) came the inevitable flooding. As far as heavy freshes go, it was quite small, with the river up 3.5 metres in the freshwater reaches, but it sent a steady stream of brown water out into Trail Bay for a week or so.
True to form, mulloway became very active around the river mouth in the brown water. I ventured down there a few times to swim some large minnow lures and was pleased to find the lads nice and co-operative. There were quite a few good fish caught off the southern wall on lures, with most in the 10kg to 17kg class –good fun in anyone’s books.
The brown water couldn't have came at a worse time for the marlin crew, who had been enjoying a steady run just off the jail. Surprisingly, the fish kept biting in brown water, proving once again the key ingredient to successful fishing is usually good schools of bait. And there's been plenty just off the jail, staying a little deeper to avoid the real discoloured water but, nevertheless, in large numbers.
As an indicator of how many billfish have been present, in two days something like 27 fish were caught and released by only two boats. Sailfish turned up late in the piece and over three days, half a dozen sails were caught and released. When you consider how few boats were fishing on the billfish grounds, usually no more than three, it gives you some idea of the number of billfish present. Let's hope the run continues as the water starts to clear. I suspect it will only get more hectic.
Last years run of spotted mackerel was an absolute shocker, with my grand tally for the season a paltry 20 fish. Considering the number of times I (foolishly) ventured up to Grassy Head, it was disappointing, to say the least. But all is forgotten this year with spotties going great guns, particularly on the close grounds. They tend to move around a bit from the close to middle grounds so if all is a little quiet inshore, sneak out a kilometre or so to the middle ground and have a look around.
A few Spanish mackerel have put in an appearance with fish from 9kg to 24kg caught. Macs have come Grassy Head and from Black Rock. Speaking to a local diver who'd just returned from Black Rock, he told me there were good schools of Spaniards working the area. You have to be on the water as much as possible and be geared up for serious fish.
No point trolling around light wire on light outfits – look at 6kg tackle as a starting point (I prefer 8kg to 10kg) and 40kg wire and 8/0 hooks. Put out bigger baits such as tailor, pike, bonito, frigates, mack tuna or big slimy mackerel and hope the macks are there or arrive on the day.
Another very welcome northern speedster to hit SWR is the wahoo. I've had a long-time obsession to catch one of these flighty buggers and a few weeks back I finally did. I had a plan to troll high speed lures all day until I caught one, so I threw in the extra fuel tank and headed off at sunrise, trolling virtually all the way from the river mouth to Black Rock, out to Fish Rock, then over to Rocks In Line.
By the time I got to Rocks In Line it was nearly 11 am and I'd managed only a few bonito, a rat king and a kilo mahi mahi, but I persisted and headed over to the Jail Grounds, finally hooking up a kilometre off Little Bay – about bloody time! There were a few lads there hooking marlin but I was so relieved to finally get that wahoo that I simply headed home.
At the time of writing the Macleay is chocolate coloured but I'm sure it will be back into action by the time you read this. It should be well worth putting some effort in the lower reaches as the water clears up and the fish move back in. I suspect a good run of mulloway along the walls also once it starts to push in clear water.
With the brown water of the late February fresh came the jewfish. Those throwing lures at the very mouth of the Macleay ran into some quality fish to 20kg..
Woohoo! Wahoo! After years of dreaming, the author finally caught a wahoo. At 11kg, it put up a pretty good scrap and fell for a skirted lure trolled at 12 knots.
Spotties, glorious spotties! Vic Levitt with an average Grassy Head spotted mackerel. This year is shaping up as a blinder.Reads: 436