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Inshore reds a highlight
  |  First Published: July 2003



Snapper are about in spawning numbers on the inshore grounds as well as the deeper reefs. However, most fish are small with only the odd knobby.

Berley will help to catch the better fish but sheer numbers of small fish may be frustrating. The answer will be to keep on the move. I am a big fan of light line on the inshore reefs. Early mornings on the reefs south of the Tweed are by far the best. In Sydney it’s nothing to travel great distances to find some fish but here we tend to stick to the areas we can fish within a short distance. The Tweed bar no doubt plays a big part in how far people will venture .

The inshore reefs to the south of Kingscliff are perfect for those into sportfishing with excellent mackerel and reef fishing. Many inshore reefs and headlands are fished by guys on surf skis who manage some great catches..

This month those wonderful big silver sea-run bream turn up. Big bream in schools can be easily targeted on soft plastics. I pray and hope for the day that one of our bream comes upon a big influx of ocean bream. In the meantime, the walls towards the mouth will be where the mature estuary fish have moved.

The flats throughout the system will produce excellent fishing with flathead between 40cm and 65cm the norm. I have in the past 10 years caught plenty of fish from 80cm to 90cm. Soft plastics will catch the bulk of the fish, with bigger tails accounting for the better fish .Plenty of big jacks are caught through the Winter but their feeding periods are minimal, so many hours in the cold can be spent chasing them. The rewards however are the better fish .

The beaches and headlands will fish best on the new and full moons. If you are into tailor, jew or bream these are the best periods. The famous Maggies Hole and Towners, farther north, are producing fish. The gutters have formed up well. If you don’t know Maggies a trip to Hastings headland will soon help you identify this big gutter to the north – plenty of big jew have been caught there already this year.

There is no doubt that the Tweed is blessed: We have eight national parks, with a small marine park around Cook Island less than 500 metres offshore being the only restricted area.

The satellite photos of the Tweed show the enormity of volcanic caldera formed here millions of years ago. With the recent Barrier Reef closures, more concerns about local or regional closures are being touted. There are documents available that show the proposed marine park closures along this part of the coastline. All material is, of course, available from NSW Fisheries, though it can take some time.

This area is facing a period of coastal development never seen before. I urge all those with an interest in the sport, clubs and associations alike, to keep up to speed with what is developing on these fronts. The recreational fishing zones also need support and input from all user groups. It is very simple if you want better fishing not just in your area, but in those you might visit in the future.

The economies of many towns on the North Coast depend on the availability of good fish stocks. We have a new Minister who hopefully will also help create a better fishery on the basis of acting on good information, partly provided by you, the reader.

Finally, I recently won a bass tournament here with a long-time fishing mate. My strategy was to have the best time on the water I could. Along with local knowledge, that attitude gave us a big advantage. When we have fun we catch more fish.

Freshwater

The condition of North Coast rivers has been helped along by the rains leading into Winter. Bass start their migration towards the lower estuaries around the full moon in May and, with the consistent rainfall during that time, Clarrie Hall Dam had water flowing over the dam wall for the whole month. With reports of mature fish being caught along the upper reaches, it is obvious that the fishing in the upper reaches, where the salt and fresh intermingle, should be impressive.

The health of the river should have improved somewhat with the flush of fresh water over a month-and-a-half. With the water clarity improved, small spinnerbaits should prevail. This season the canoe-based angler should experience outstanding fishing, with the river fish in this catchment benefiting from the pre-spawn conditions.

The fish that have escaped the dam will have suffered some casualties but I know that there will have been enough new broodstock introduced into the river to help replenish the natural stocks. It is fitting that catch and release is the order of the day: Most of the anglers who started the restocking movement in this region have their roots in this form of fishing.

There is much to be gained by fishing the many streams, creeks and rivers of the North Coast and this month will be the prelude to a great bass season .

The dam has not lost all of its better fish. There will remain, as always, the late bloomers or those fish whose requirements are to feed and condition themselves before trying to spawn. This was certainly the case for the dam during May. We saw fish move all over the place, from point to point and flat to flat. Accounts of high-40cm fish being caught abound, though there is no doubt the bulk of the dam’s fish are in the 30cm to 38cm range. The Australian Bass Association catch data from the recent tournament there will clearly show that.

However, the one thing this dam has over all others is its beauty and richness. I liken this dam to a big river, rich in flooded timber, small flats, deep drop-offs with sunken timber and more points than you can fish in a day. The bass can, in secluded locations, take on a very dark hue. With bird life aplenty and a distinct lack of engine noise, it is a great place to fish .

The dam missed out on being restocked last year by NSW Fisheries due to low water levels. The recent ABT tournament contributed to restocking in the form of a cash donation and it is imperative to the fishing future of the dam and the river that the stocking this year is of some significance .

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