The past month along the Coffs Coast has been a real mix of weather conditions and fish species with plenty of great fishing days during the week for the retirees and holidaymakers and a stiff southerly change arriving on a Friday night for the rest of us.
When the offshore conditions have been settled ,there have been plenty of willing takers, including heaps of jewfish, spotted mackerel, Spaniards, kingfish and a steady stream of snapper from plate sized models to 7kg sea urchin-crushers. The best snapper I’ve heard of was caught by one of my ex students, Pat Scanlon, who with his sister, Nicky, picked up the 7kg knobby on a patch of reef off Arrawarra. The odd lucky angler dropping a live bait down deep has managed to lock horns with some quality cobia, including a few monolithic 25kg to 30kg models that have been snaffling mackerel baits down near Bundagen Headland and around South Solitary Island. This Autumn has been particularly good for jewfish with offshore anglers scoring bag limits of big jew and trag at night on the deepwater reefs.
Just offshore from Emerald and Moonee headlands, spearfishermen have been having plenty of success on Spanish mackerel, jew and kings over the shallow reefs. One arrived back at the ramp with four Spaniards from 14kg to 17kg – not a bad result for an early-morning swim with the sharks. Anglers doing beach launches at Woolgoolga and Arrawarra have been making excellent pelagic catches around the Solitary Islands with mackerel and wahoo to 25kg hitting trolled slimy mackerel and lures around the washes.
Since I last wrote, the beaches have begun to really fire for school jew with late afternoon sessions with beach worms or fresh squid providing memorable captures for young and old. Most fish are sub-4kg and are prowling the deeper beaches around Korora to Sapphire. This stretch has a strong shore dump and plenty of deep water within a comfortable cast. Last week I fished for just over an hour from one of the hundreds of nondescript rocky outcrops that punctuate the coastline. Using cunje for bait, I landed a kilo-plus bream on the first cast and then three 2kg pigs shortly after. With 7kg of fish in the bucket and a casting arm that was barely warmed up, I arrived home with dinner, and my wife none the wiser that I’d slipped out for a quick cast.
With plenty of late season rain we should be in for more excellent beach, rock and breakwall fishing for jew. Live mullet, fresh tailor fillets, beachworms and basic lead-head feather lures should get you into the fish. My tip is to try some of the smaller beaches and headlands around Sapphire. If you’re after a big jewie, Campbells Beach would be a good place to start.
We had to work pretty hard around the floating leases on the Nambucca River with 2” Atomic Fat Grubs for seven bream and as many small flathead. The bigger bream have not moved this far up the estuary but as the freshwater starts to recede, the bream will travel farther upstream and an exciting Winter of soft-plastic-throwing will unfold. Mates Mike Colless and Mick Booth fished the Bellinger River while I was in the Nambucca and they found the brown water had a similar effect on the bream, with only a few quality fish co-operating.
Bass fishing has been a non-event due to local flooding but as river levels return to normal, I’m sure that the weed and lily beds will provide exciting fishing over the coming months on surface lures, divers and plastics. Local sportfishing guide Dave Irvine has been getting among the fish in the Bellinger in recent times with exciting mixed bags of bream, flathead, bass and estuary perch keeping his clients guessing.
This month will be your last chance to wrestle a jack from the upstream snags. A good high tide between midnight and dawn and some finger-sized poddy mullet will increase your chances.
LBG anglers have been doing battle with some solid northern bluefin tuna, with the South Wall producing most of the action. Mutton Bird Island has also seen for some good hookups, including a solid Spanish mackerel which was lost at the gaff after an extended battle on 10kg tackle. The bait was a live pike.
Anglers fishing for bluefin baits on the North Wall got a surprise a while back when an air ambulance misjudged the approach to Coffs airstrip and slammed one of its wheels into the side of the breakwall. How it got back into the air and didn’t crash into the yacht masts and trawler rigging on the other side is a mystery. Why a plane would be flying three metres above sea level is also an unanswered question – maybe the pilot was a fisho who just got a bit too distracted by some serious bait showers! The bluefin are ranging from 10kg with the odd 20kg-plus fish. As the water cools the larger fish will become more prevalent.
We’re still getting big schools of mullet moving along our beaches. Closer to the river mouths, snowy sea bream and luderick can be spotted in large aggregations inside the surf line and over the first few hundred metres of the deeper channels.
The entrance to the Kalang River at Urunga has produced some excellent jewfish. anglers have also locked horns with jacks and estuary cod to 10kg. Dave Rae has caught and released three big cod in recent weeks, all on live mullet aimed at big jew. The best luderick I’ve heard of in recent times was a fish of 1.7kg from the South Wall at Coffs, although if you’re after numbers of big fish, you can’t go past Boambee Creek, the V Wall on the Kalang or the Golf Course Wall on the Nambucca.
The author and son Kurt getting into the bream.
Melissa Atkinson pumping for nippers, a prime bait for Winter bream and blackfish after dark.
The author with a Bellinger River bass. The recent fresh should keep them well downstream.
A small but welcome jack for this visiting Sydney fishoReads: 1999