As I sit here and type, sheets of rain pour down the cold glass. The boat even looks miserable, covered in water-laden tarps and angled up to drain the incessant rain.
The temperature has dropped from the balmy mid-20s with full sunshine high teens, cold winds and plenty of wet stuff. Oh, goody, it looks like Winter has finally arrived…
As much as I hate the general misery of Winter, there’s no doubt the fishing is quite good during the chill. The main players are kingfish, snapper and mulloway. All three are big favourites of mine and I’ll gladly venture out to chase any of them when the conditions allow. So far this season the snapper and kings have been playing the game, but the mulloway have been a little slow starting.
Before last full moon, the snapper off Grassy Head and Middle Head fired up nicely, with plenty of reports of fish to 3kg coming in. Not only were there good-sized fish around, there were surprising numbers also. Some boat catches reached close to 30 fish, although most managed 10 or so. Considering the best run of reds happens here usually around late Winter or early Spring, we may be in for a good season. I certainly hope so, as there are few more enjoyable pursuits than floating near-unweighted baits down a well-established berley trail and feeling a good red take off with your bait.
Next on the species list for Winter enjoyment is kingfish. There are a few around at present, but a fickle current has seen them playing hardball. Kings are certainly a species that likes a little water movement – in fact the more it pushes, the better they seem to bite. I guess it’s a case of having little time to analyse the prey item, plus healthy competition from a horde of other like-minded kings.
Last trip to Fish Rock a mate and I ran into a reasonable number of kings around 4kg and had a few up to 7kg chase the lures back to the boat. There was virtually no current and the sounder showed some pretty good schools of fish. I’m sure if the water started to move a little, the place would fire nicely so it’s just a matter of being there when the conditions suit the fish.
Before the southerly change and big chill mentioned first off, the near-perfect weather and little current allowed anglers to fish effectively out beyond 60 fathoms. There are plenty of good, lightly-fished reefs out there and if the conditions are favourable, you can expect some pretty impressive results bottom-fishing. A few blokes _ spoke to reported plenty of kings, samson fish, big pearlies and so on so if you’re getting very little inshore and the current’s pretty slow, it’s not a bad idea to head wider and try your luck in the deep water. Considering the fish regularly encountered and the fact the 60-fathom reefs are only 12km off Trial Bay Jail, it’s well worth a run out.
Those chasing bream and tailor along the headlands are scoring good catches most days. The way you choose to fish the stones is up to you, and in recent years I’m seeing more and more anglers forsaking the rocks and fishing the same spots from small tinnies. I must admit that rock fishing is one of my least-enjoyed forms of angling and I’d gladly fish the headlands from a drifting boat.
Whilst the number of fish encountered, and the placed you can easily access, are terrific, there’s certainly a danger factor involved. It’s not the domain for unreliable motors and lousy judgment! If you do have a good at ‘rock slopping’ from your boat, do it only when the seas are below 1.2 metres and there’s a light offshore breeze blowing. And fish only the deeper spots, say three metres or so, and always have one eye looking out to sea for bigger waves. It is good fun and very productive but don’t take the ocean for granted any more than you would from the stones.
Beach fishos are finding co-operative tailor along Smoky Beach mornings and afternoons. Just keep an eye on the netters: One greedy fool last month netted 900kg of tailor, sold the legal amount of 100kg and dumped the rest. Thankfully, a local angler reported the villain, giving Fisheries all his details. If you see anyone netting tailor over the ‘legal’ quantity of 100kg (that’s around three fish tubs full), make a quick call to Fisheries and give them the netter’s name and licence number. Both should be clearly visible on the side of their 4WD.
The Macleay River, particularly around the mouth, has been watched like hawks by the greedy beach haulers camped there. Many a school of bream and plenty of mullet have fallen to their nets over the past eight weeks, but it seems a few fish made into the system because the lower walls are sporting good schools of silver bream, though most aren’t particularly huge. Those fishing lightly-weighted baits along the walls around the tidal changes are consistently scoring fish. Anglers working the deep walls with lures are faring well also, especially around low tide.
With the remnant schools of mullet running, you’d expect the mulloway activity to be quite high, but so far they’ve been very quiet. This could just be a slow season, or it could also be the end result of thousands of tonnes of mullet being removed from our system and many others up the coast. No bait, no predators, simple as that.
If you’re keen to chase some Winter bass, try up around Smithtown. There have been a few nice fish caught (and, thankfully, released) above and below the bridge. If the conditions are right you can catch pretty good numbers flicking lures around the ample bankside timber and duck weeds.
Bream have become quite active prior to spawning in the lower Macleay, providing lure and bait fishos with plenty of fun around the tidal changes.
Fishing the washes around inshore headlands and islands can produce plenty of tailor and big bream at this time of year, just exercise a little caution.Reads: 587