By early May the mullet have started to leave the river and the travelling bream have poked their noses into the lower part of the estuary to feed along the rocks of the training walls on both sides of the Manning.
They are feeding voraciously before spawning and will eat almost anything – but black crabs, barnacles and prawns in particular cop a hiding. It is a good idea to examine the stomach contents of the first couple of catches to see what the bream have been feeding on.
Of course, mullet pieces are a top bait for bream when the mullet are schooling in the river or travelling up the coast. Some of the mullet spawn in the river and some of these fish move up-river to feed and grow fat, ready to join the spawning run next year.
Anglers are picking up good catches of travelling bream on our local beaches. Our resident fish are only gathering in the lower part of the estuary and have started to form schools that move out towards the sand spit in the mouth of the river and then back along the walls.
Local anglers, aware of their behaviour, have been keeping track of them and scoring good bags of fish to 900g. As well as the bream good catches of flathead, whiting and luderick have been made recently. The heavy rains of late have put a bit of a fresh in the river and this has helped to bring the fish down the river.
If the rains keep up, and the forecasts predict that they will, then we are in for a flood of some significance.
Quite a few school jew have been taken from our beaches in the past month. They have mostly been little fish of 8kg to 10kg but one fish of 23kg was caught from the spit during a recent fresh. Catches of bream have improved with the first of the travelling fish being caught from Harrington and Crowdy Head beaches.
Beach worms, pipis and pieces of mullet have been the best baits. A few boxes of hard-gut mullet were netted on Crowdy beach after the last fresh in the river. They were Manning River mullet that had been forced out to sea by the fresh.
Tailor have been scarce and only isolated schools have been found on the beaches. They are chopper-sized fish measuring from 32cm to 36cm.
The outside anglers have experienced the highs and lows of fishing in the past month. First of all, there were plenty of fish with trag, kingfish, school jew, snapper, trevally, flathead and bonito on the bite. Then the water temperature dropped and a pool of still, black water became trapped on the coast and catches dropped to only a couple of fish per trip.
The water colour has started to improve and when the northerly currents push in on the coast, the fishing will be back to its best.
May is the time for jewfish anglers to put in the big effort and spend plenty of time fishing the high tides in the river and on the beaches and the low tides on the fronts of the headlands.
Beach anglers can zero in on bream from the beaches and training walls in the mouth of the river, while keen rockhoppers can spend some time on Diamond Head spinning for a big tailor.
The latter part of April and most of May should be excellent for jewie fishing, both in the river and from the beaches and rocks. Live bait or fresh mullet slabs would be the best bait.
Of course, if you feel like a good work-out, put out the heavy gear and tangle with a couple of metres of shark. This will build up your muscles and strengthen your back – unless your spine gives out first!
Shaun Greensheilds with a cracker of a Harrington snapper that tipped the scales to 8.1kg.
The author with a 2kg tailor typical of those encountered at this time of year.Reads: 833