Anglers along the Coffs Coast have been enjoying the pelagic action brought their way on the tail of large schools of baitfish such as garfish, slimy mackerel, yellowtail and small tunas, which have brought big pelagics like mackerel, bluefin and yellowfin tuna and marlin inshore.
Ryan Ward hooked more than he bargained for last weekend when a larger than average kingfish slammed his live garfish bait off the Southern Breakwall. Unfortunately, after a spirited opening fight the hook pulled and Ryan was left wondering.
Other anglers live-baiting from Mutton Bird Island and the South Wall/Quarry have reported hook-ups on kingfish to 10kg, bluefin tuna to 18kg, mack tuna to 6kg and Spanish mackerel to 17kg.
There have also been schools of bluefin feeding on garfish along the back of the beach inside the harbour, making live baiting from the end of the Coffs Jetty a viable big-sea alternative to the rocks. However, some sort of sliding cliff gaff arrangement will be needed to land your fish.
Mixed in among the bigger fare are some pretty solid tailor to 2kg, although how a chopper survives among a sea of bluefin and mackerel always puzzles me.
Anglers fishing from boats have reported great catches of spotted and Spanish mackerel with all the inshore reefs off Third Headland, Bundagen, Boambee Headland, Macauleys, Korora and Moonee producing fish.
Anglers in bigger boats trolling baits and lures around the South Solitary Lighthouse have reported mackerel to 20kg, yellowfin tuna to 15kg, black marlin to 80kg, sailfish to 35kg and wahoo to 15kg.
Catching live slimy mackerel is pretty easy at present with the Park Beach Bommie being the most popular spot for initial bait-gathering. We fished Whitmores Reef, off Boambee, a few weekends ago and there were large schools of slimies to be caught while fishing for mackerel.
The wider reefs near South Solitary Island also can produce a better class of live bait that is more suitable for trolling than the smaller slimies found inshore at Park Beach.
On the beaches there have been some good jewfish to 22kg caught from Sapphire and Hills Beaches, with the first high tide after nightfall producing the big fish. Stuart Macintyre did battle with a big jew that took his beach worm bait from Hills Beach and after a 15-minute fight he rubbed the 10kg line off on the edge of the gravel drop off that runs the full length of this deep and fishy beach.
The biggest jew since I last wrote was caught on a whole fresh squid bait just after high tide on Sapphire Beach. Anglers casting worm and fresh fish baits from Sawtell Headland have also reported good catches of school jew to 6kg.
Most fish are taking baits under whitewater in the first three hours after nightfall. The first half of the run-out tide from Bonville Creek also gets the Sawtell Headland jew onto the job.
With so much action happening in the ocean, the estuaries tend to get neglected by many anglers, myself included, but those who have fished have found bream, flathead, whiting, mangrove jacks and trevally more than willing to eat lures and bait.
Lure anglers in the Bellinger River have been getting some very big bass above the township while the bream, bass and bull sharks have been keeping everyone busy from the butter factory down.
One local I spoke to released 30 bass above Thora during the week and another angler fishing lower down released 10 bass over 40cm in one session, all on surface lures.
Anglers chasing mangrove jacks have also been mixing it with some seriously big fish over 50cm with the Upper Kalang, Deep and Bonville creeks the pick of the big-fish spots.
The next month should see the best of the inshore pelagic scene with some seriously big jewfish getting involved once the mullet start to run.
This is also the time when our perceptions about where fish are prepared to go in search of an easy meal will be turned on their heads. Expect to see more pelagics such as mackerel, bluefin and sharks inside the mouths of estuaries, along the backs of beaches and behind shallow headlands.
After the chaos: A solid Coffs jack beside the boat.
A family bass trip on the Bellinger River provided this 47cm beauty.
Mike Colless spun up this bream on the Kalang River under the Pacific Highway at Urunga.Reads: 3479