Changing of the guard
  |  First Published: May 2005

Things have certainly cooled down since last month’s report with many of the exciting warm-water speedsters heading north again and a few cool-water critters just starting to show.

Perhaps the first to leave were the spotted mackerel. As exciting as the spotty run was, with plenty of fish from 3kg to 5kg plus quite a few nudging 7kg, the run was one of the shortest in over a decade.

We’re certainly not complaining, as it’s pretty easy to miss out altogether, but it was surprisingly short with really only a few brief weeks of action.

Around here there always seems to be some form of compensation if one run of fish is particularly short or doesn’t turn up.

This season a good run of Spanish mackerel soothed a few disgruntled spotty fishos, with most around the 7kg to 9kg but a few pushing 18kg. We should see a return run of bulked-up Spaniards in the next few weeks so don’t give up on the macs up off Grassy Head and down south at Black Rock just yet.

I’m predicting (hoping for) a pretty good run of cobia at a simular time, with plenty of fish reported south of us (most around the famous Barry’s Bay at Point Plomer) due to head back in weeks.

Some pretty serious cobia headed south with the biggest up around 30kg. Most were typically 8kg to 12kg so we can reasonably expect some action at Black Rock, Green Island, the 11-Fathom Reef, Jim’s Hole and probably a few mixed in with the mackerel up off Grassy.

At the time of writing there are still a few billfish and wahoo around. Most fish have come from just wide of Fish Rock but I suspect (barring a continuation of warm water) by the time you read this it may be all over bar the shouting.

If it’s warm and blue when you read this, don’t put the skirted lures away just yet; you may still be in with a pretty good chance with both species.

With the warm-water fish slowly heading north again, some classic cool-water species have started to show up.


Surfing up off Grassy Head the other day I spotted a good school of tailor cruising underneath. Some of the fish were around a kilo and were well within casting range with a metal slice or well-rigged pilchard.

When the choppers started decimating garfish all around my legs I decided I’d like to keep all my toes and paddled a little farther up the beach.

Fishing around dawn and dusk is sure to see a few nice bream and tailor landed on the local headlands and there’s a pretty good chance at a jewfish with the mullet just starting to run.

If you can time a tide change just around dark and are prepared to fish into the night with some fresh squid, tailor or mullet heads, you’ll give yourself a really good shot at finding a co-operative jewfish.

The Macleay River is still fishing quite well, though it did go a little quiet over Easter with all the extra boat traffic. But there are still some top flathead about, some nice bream and a mulloway or two if you know where to look.

Fishing on the Macleay, like most rivers, is all about working the tidal changes with a degree of stealth. Noisy boats clanging anchors, chain and idling directly over the fish surely go home fishless.

A quiet, methodical approach will see your success rate jump markedly, whether you’re chasing bream, bass or jewfish.

This time of year, with bream and mullet schooling up in the lower reaches of the system, it’s time to fish downstream towards the mouth. Most of the action will take place in the first 5km of river with the best of it usually once the sun sets.

Bream and jewfish are more than happy to feed into the darkness, and if you’re out there, chances are you’ll score a few fish.


Farther up-river the bass have been starting to taper off a little. With the water-cooling daily they tend to back off the throttle a tad and begin to concentrate more on spawning duties in the brackish zones rather than busting surface lures.

In the past few years I’ve been actively targeting bass in the brackish water. It’s a different fishery where well-presented deep lures usually score the best results.

Most of the fish caught are over 500g and it’s probably one of the best chances you have a scoring a truly trophy-class fish. Last year I landed bass to 55cm (around 2.5kg) working the deeper sections.

Needless to say, Winter bassing can be a challenge and one of the reasons I’ll brave the cold starts to find a few.

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