Changing currents and fortunes
  |  First Published: April 2004

INCREDIBLY hot and still conditions have dominated the Coffs coast to the time of writing, with billiard table-flat seas day after day, almost zero current and very slow fishing offshore.

Mick Booth and I trolled live pike from the harbour breakwall to Korora and back without any sign of a hungry mackerel – or any sort of pelagic – behind our baits. So slow has the mackerel fishing been that quite a few locals have been towing their boats to South West Rocks to enjoy the more predictable run of inshore black marlin that feed freely on the slimy mackerel schools just off the Jail breakwall.

Although the odd black gets hooked off Coffs, the numbers of fish we see cannot compare with the stories of up to a dozen fish hooked from a single boat at The Rocks. I know of one local angler who, while Mick and I trolled in vain off Coffs, managed to hook six blacks, bringing three to the boat. All were released, with the biggest fish estimated around 100kg.

For those heading wide from Coffs, there are still plenty of mahi mahi around the FAD and the dozens of fish trap buoys just inside the continental shelf. Most fish are around 3kg, with lures and live bait accounting for the bigger specimens.

Having said earlier that the mackerel have been lousy, the last few days has seen an increase in activity with fish to 12kg taken off Woolgoolga to the north and Bundagen to the south. A few mackerel chasers have been bending their backs over good-sized samson fish and kingfish, which have been taking live and dead baits over the deeper reefs.

On the rocks we’re starting to see the start of a garfish run that should bring mackerel tuna, northern bluefin tuna and the odd Spanish mackerel within casting distance of the headlands and breakwalls. My last two rock outings have yielded good catches of bonito, kingfish and tailor, all of which are a precursor to the larger inshore pelagics. The incredibly calm seas have allowed spearfishers access to normally sand-filled and stirred-up gutters around Gallows and Sawtell. These spots are full of hundreds of school jew to 5kg or 6kg. There has also been the odd bigger specimen speared in the rock gutters; I heard of one fish over 24kg speared around a rocky island just off the tip of Macauleys Headland. Once the wash conditions get back to their normal stirred-up state, we should see quite a few jew falling to worm and cut fish baits from the rocks.


Beach fishing has been really tough of late due to the flat conditions, but I did venture out on the last moon with a couple of friends and we managed a nice school jew, a few tailor, tarwhine and lost a really big jew that busted the main line over an inshore bommie after a spirited 15-minute fight on threadline tackle.

The next three months should see the beach fishing for big jew and tailor go from strength to strength. If you’re after schoolies, you can’t go past beach worms or long, thin cut baits. If you’re after bigger fellas, you’d be best sitting it out with a live tailor or big slab bait.

Any tide change on the deeper beaches to the north of town is worth fishing and the first two hours after the top of the tide on the shallower beaches is also worthwhile. I still reckon the dark of the moon is the go for big fish, while the full moon will provide a greater mix of species, with tailor and bream making it into most bags.

In the estuaries the bream spinners have had variable success with a range of lures including soft plastics, hard bodies and surface poppers. Dave Rae, Graham Todd from G.Loomis and I fished the Magic Mile on the Kalang recently and accounted for about 40 bream which took a range of lures. Graham managed to hook the biggest unstoppable for the trip with a solid mangrove jack being the probable villain.

There have been plenty of good jacks on the chew with fish to 52cm coming from many of the usual haunts in the upstream stretches of the rivers and creeks. The last decent rainfall we had saw a run of solid trevally in a couple of the creeks that had light-tackle lure-casters locked up continuously on GTs over 50cm. These fish were taking anything that was dragged, bounced, blooped or fizzed through the water.

The best trevally bites were around the entrances to smaller feeder creeks and had all the hallmarks of the jewfish bites that occur in the manmade surrounds of Narara and Erina Creek down on the Central Coast.

With a bit more rain, the Autumn bass season should be good with plenty of big fish hanging around the upstream reaches of the Nambucca, Bellinger and Clarence systems. For me, the call of the rocks is too strong to be doing much else over the next few months. I’ve got a bad attack of pelagic fever and my new Daiwa SL50HS high-speed overheads and Loomis SURs are in for some heavyweight bluefin and mackerel work on the ledges from Iluka to Hat Head over the next few weeks.



Mike Semmler with a tailor and a juvenile queenfish spun up from Mutton Bird Island.


After rain there are always plenty of trevally on offer for lure-casters.


Predator and prey: Mangrove jack and herring.

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