Things chill out
  |  First Published: June 2003

Things certainly have changed around here in a month. Since my last report, the water temp and colour has gone from royal blue to winter green, virtually overnight.

This has seen many of the exciting pelagic species head north again, but it’s also meant a few other species have become increasingly active. But if you’re looking for billfish out the front of Trial Bay Jail, forget it – it’s just over-sized mackerel tuna, sharks and, if you’re lucky, a cobia.

Up north on the mackerel grounds, the cool water has slowed the bite considerably. Don’t get me wrong, there are still spotted mackerel but instead of five to 10 fish a day, you may get only one to three. I did hear of one beauty last week going 10kg, so they’re not all rats. Spotted mackerel are notoriously fussy critters, often biting freely one day and shutting up shop the next, and with the water lingering around 22°, they’re playing even stranger games.

There have been reports of Spanish mackerel around Coffs Harbour, so we still may get a few show up around Scotts and Grassy heads. There are a few south of us, so we can expect a return run in a few weeks or so. But as far as Spanish mackerel runs go, this has been well below average, with only a handful of fish caught for the whole season.

Another fish to head through that should be making a return appearance is the cobia. They went through in pretty good numbers in April and most averaged 20kg to 25kg, so we can expect some screamers in a month or less. The first signs of their return are already here, with local charter boats scoring six nice fish between 14kg and 27kg the other day. As usual, the fish are just off the jail, on the 11-fathom reef. They’re not biting freely all day, though, preferring to feed for a short period around the tidal change, particularly the high. They’re certainly strange fish with strange feeding patterns.

Return of the king

Fish Rock has finally got some kings. It’s been pretty lean pickings there over the past month but it now looks like a few good schools of fish of 6kg to 10kg have called the place home. Winter is prime time for kingfish around ‘The Rock’ and hopefully we’ll see some rippers turn up like last year, when 15kg to 25kg bruisers belted poppers and livies with gusto.

Around the headlands tailor have started to show. I picked up a few around Gibraltar and Green Island last week, and I suspect North Gap Headland and the Jail Wall should house a few co-operative fish very soon. Since the netter pressure has been reduced markedly on them, I suspect their numbers will increase yearly up and down the coast. This season should be an improvement over the last, though time will tell.

Bream are also building in numbers along the ocean rocks, providing plenty of fun for those flicking pilchard cubes into the washes. It’s also good fun from a drifting boat, but keep one eye on the fish and one on the waves behind you! And it won’t be too long and they’ll start to pour into the Macleay River, providing many anglers with some fun fishing along the lower walls.

The Macleay River is running a little hot and cold at present. The usual Summer fish, like flathead and whiting, are reacting to the cooler water and slowing down a tad, but the bream and luderick are just kicking into gear. There are still a few bass biting from Smithtown up-river. Mixed in with the bass are flathead and bream. Makes it pretty interesting flicking small lures and flies around in the brackish water.

My prediction for the next few weeks is an increase in kingfish numbers around Fish Rock and Black Rock, good numbers of bream around Green Island, and plenty of tailor around most the southern headlands.



With the weather cooling, local anglers are turning their attention to species like snapper. Todd Fisher caught this 2.6kg model just wide of Grassy Head. Fingers crossed for a good season!


The author’s brother, Alan, with his first lure-caught bream. With bream schooling up around the local headlands, we should see a few good schools enter the Macleay River in the next few weeks.


Spotted mackerel were quite small by usual standards this season, but compared with last year’s appalling run, no one’s complaining! It will be very interesting to se if next season’s run is much different since the ban on ring netting in southern Queensland.

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