Pelagics at a peak
  |  First Published: April 2005

Currents carrying water as warm as 25° have finally hit the headlands and beaches along the Coffs Coast and with them has come a wave of pelagic fish activity which has got rock, beach, estuary and offshore anglers reaching for their rods.

Offshore anglers are reporting plenty of spotted mackerel to 6kg and Spanish mackerel to 19kg taking live baits at all the recognised reefs north and south of Coffs. If you're just chasing spotties then a block of pilchards, berley and some 30lb single-strand wire trace should be all that is needed for a great day on the water. If you want an each-way bet on Spanish and spotties then live bait and 60lb wire might be a better option, but don't be surprised if the spotties shy away from the heavier trace.

Boaties are also starting to hook bluefin tuna when targeting mackerel and this is a sign to all rockhoppers that it is time to break out the live-bait sticks and hit the stones. The best conditions for inshore bluefin are on overcast or rainy days, with the less boat traffic the better.

I spotted a pod of really big bluefin just wide of the surf line at Diggers Beach, a great sign that Charlesworth Headland, Mutton Bird Island and the South Wall are worth staking out with live baits such as yellowtail and garfish.

The biggest decision to be made when live-baiting is whether to use wire for mackerel or just stick with the mono leader that the bluefin find so appealing. If a mackerel does take one of your bluefin baits then don't expect to be hooked up for too long. In most cases the bite-off comes before the cork or balloon has moved a centimetre.

I wouldn't put any live bait out at present unless it was attached to 60lb wire; yellowtail, slimy mackerel, tailor, and garfish, pike, mullet and bonito are all on the mackerel menu whereas bluefin seem to like slimy mackerel, yellowtail and garfish.


Offshore anglers have also reported snapper to 7kg, some of which have been taken on live baits set over shallow reefs in search of mackerel. Jewfish to 30kg have been taken on live baits during the late afternoon and into the night, while there are also tuskfish, pearl perch to an incredible 5kgand trag.

Around the washes there have been some excellent tailor over 2kg hitting the filleting tables as well as a reasonable run of just-legal kings that seem to call Pig Island and Split Solitary Island home.

On the beaches anglers fishing the tide changes at Korora, Sapphire, Moonee and Emerald have been getting some school jewfish to 9kg on whole squid, beach worms and bonito fillets.

In the estuaries the bream, flathead and whiting have been biting their heads off on lures and bait with bag limits of all three commonplace. Mike Colless and Russ Williams bream spun the Bellinger River last weekend and released more than 50 bream, most of which were legal size.

Congratulations are also in order to Bellingen local Russ Williams, who with fishing partner Andrew Cowling won the $10,000 winners’ cheque in the country’s biggest bream event, the Bing Lee Australian Open on Sydney Harbour. The second-placed team included my old fishing partner Ian Miller.


I'm sure many of Russ's winning casts, lures and techniques have been tried and tested on the bream, bass and jacks of the Kalang, Bellinger and Nambucca rivers. Russ's winning technique included fishing unweighted plastics; something Mike Colless tipped me off about months ago. Ian Miller also concentrated on fishing lightly, targeting areas where boat traffic had created wash against structure.

Macksville local James Yeung, home on uni break, managed to leave the marlin and wahoo of Trial Bay alone for a few days and has been turning his attention to waters in the Macksville/Nambucca area finding that the flathead and mangrove jacks are more than willing to snaffle his live mullet and lures. I heard that he landed three 40cm-plus jacks in less than 10 minutes in a creek down near Valla.

Local brackish and freshwater creeks have been rewarding lure anglers with bass, bream and jacks taking a variety of surface lures, divers and soft plastics. The end of the Urunga breakwall has been producing plenty of school jew and some bigger fish to 17kg. Most fish are falling to big bunches of live beach worms late and early in the day.

Dale Graham managed to extract a small punk of a jack out of Newports Creek as well as some good bream from his favourite rock possie on Charlesworth Headland. I'll be taking Dale mackerel fishing soon and my only hope is that the patch of green water that has been threatening to show up doesn't turn the ocean into an algae soup. Green water and the red death(red weed) can be the curse of inshore rock and boat fishos.



This feisty Newports Creek mangrove jack went 46cm to the fork of the tail.


This bream from the Kalang River couldn’t resist a popper.


Sawtell Headland is a prime jewfish hot spot, especially when a change of tide occurs an our or so either side of sunrise or sunset.

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