The power of good rainfall
  |  First Published: May 2004

THE WATERS of the Coffs Harbour region are absolutely alive with all manner of fish life, such is the power of a good dose of rainfall.

Offshore anglers trolling live slimy mackerel have been bagging out on spotted mackerel to a massive 8kg and getting their arms stretched by Spanish mackerel from 9kg to 23kg. Mackerel are now more prolific than they have been during the past few seasons. They have been caught just wide of the northern and southern beaches, on the inshore reefs and around the eastern wash lines of the Solitary Islands. This year’s garfish run has been a good one and these fish, tasty in their own right, are one of the major drawcards for the big inshore pelagics such as mackerel and bluefin tuna.

Many mackerel trollers consider northern bluefin tuna to be bait-stealing pests and I know of two mackerel-chasers who were tied up for about 40 minutes recently when a couple of 20kg blues snaffled their slimies just past the Park Beach Bommie.

If you’re targeting mackerel and don’t want to hook bluefin, try trolling dead garfish, bonito or live pike. Although blues will hit these baits, they’re not as keen on them as they are on live slimies.

A live pike or well-rigged gar or bonito will outfish a live slimy any day. Mackerel of 20kg-plus need something big and tasty dragged in front of them to get their predatory instincts going. Big mackerel are awesome fish to catch and watching them dive-bomb a surface-swimming bait or lure is one of those moments that make fishing the North Coast so special.

On the rocks there’s been plenty of activity with bonito, trevally, tailor and kingfish taking lures in the washes. For those keen enough, there should be some mind-blowing early-morning lure action on mackerel and bluefin tuna.

Those hoping to try their hand at heavyweight high-speed spinning need 15kg line, a 6:2:1 overhead, a 3.3-metrefast-taper stick, single-strand wire leader and 125g casting jigs with a single 6/0 or 7/0 attached. Early mornings around a tide change will bring the most action and don’t discount some of the shallower points and breakwalls, particularly around high tide. Northern bluefin and mackerel will head inside estuary systems to feed and provided there’s enough water and not too much boat traffic, they can become an excellent lure or bait target from shore or a small boat.


Fishing the beaches has been difficult because of the dead weed left high and dry by cyclone swells. Jewfish chasers have been getting some good fish and the dark of the moon has produced consistent action on jew to 18kg. The mullet started to run in late March, a good indicator that baits and lures will work on the inshore jewfish.

Now that the water has some discolouration the beach action over the next month should be hot for jew, bream, tailor, dart and whiting. Boambee Beach is the most consistent bream, whiting and dart producer with North Beach, Hills and Sapphire beaches providing jewfish action.

In the estuary the bream and bass are cohabiting the same stretches of river and most anglers using plastics or small crankbaits are hooking equal numbers of bream and bass. Young guns Billy Livingston and Chad Hastings fished the brackish stretch of the Kalang/Bellinger system and caught and released 17 bass and just as many bream on soft plastics. Ten of the bass caught were over 40cm and the bream ranged from 25cm to 35cm. Mike Colless fished a little farther upstream for eight bass, two of which were over 47cm. There are still plenty of jacks and trevally with a variety of baits and lures producing red terrors to 52cm and trevally to 60cm.

The next month should see plenty of action offshore with the headlands and breakwalls producing mind-blowing action on big tailor, jewfish, tuna, mackerel and sharks. This year more of the mackerel action will move to the northern reefs, taking the pressure off Bundagen to the south, which has been the only reliable mackerel possie over the past few seasons.



The author with a couple of 17kg Coffs kings. Not a bad catch from a 4.35-metre bass boat!


Boambee Beach bream have been plentiful and powerful. They should improve further this month.


A mixed bag of whiting, dart and bream from Boambee Beach.

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