Chilly nights, hot fishing
  |  First Published: July 2004

WARM water and cold air temperatures have continued to be a feature of the fishing along the Coffs Coast, with beach anglers enjoying the warm water on otherwise freezing nights.

Although I don’t seem to be able to get among them, there have been plenty of big jewfish caught in the deeper gutters with fish over 20kg coming from the southern beaches near Mylestrom and the northern beaches near Sapphire.

As expected, fresh strips of mullet have been the No 1 bait, with tailor, squid and beach worms coming a distant second.

Also on the beaches, there has been a good run of sea bream with mullet and mackerel tuna strips accounting for most of the bag-limit catches. Rock anglers throwing unweighted nippers around the washes have also reported catches of big snowy bream, with the eastward-protruding Charlesworth and Macauleys headlands the pick of the possies.

LBG fishermen have enjoyed a sustained run of bluefin tuna, mack tuna and the very occasional Spanish mackerel. The Southern Break wall at Coffs, Mutton Bird Island, Iluka Breakwall and Korogoro Point at Hat Head have been the prime spots.

At the South Wall and Mutton Bird Island, your best bait option is to carry live yakkas, caught at the Jetty boat landing, onto the rocks. Mutton Bird at times has no bait supply while the South Wall can produce gars on the inshore side and yakkas and slimies on the Pig Island side.

At Iluka gars can be caught on the Woody Head side of the wall, while at Hat Head, bring your high-speed spin gear and leave the live-baiting tackle at home.

Offshore we’ve had a steady run of big snapper that are moving slowly inshore and many fish to 8kg have been caught in the washes around the islands. As the water cools and clears, fishing in water from 20 to 40 metres will produce snapper, kingfish, samson, jewfish and a mixture of surface pelagics including bluefin tuna and Spanish mackerel.

The best spots to try are the kelp beds, using plenty of burley and lightly-weighted pilchard baits on 6kg to 10kg tackle. The reefs off Sawtell and Urunga are the pick of the spots for big snapper, while the broken territory east of Korora and Moonee will also produce big reds, as well as XOS tailor and jew.

Anglers fishing in deeper water from 50 to 100 metres will also get the reds as well as teraglin, parrot fish and the tasty and popular pearl perch. Bullocky, off Coffs, and the Patches, off Sawtell, are popular deep reefs. Dropping live baits such as slimies or yakkas to the bottom on 15kg or 24kg tackle will produce big samson, kingfish and jew.


In the estuaries there has been consistent bream spinning around the floating and fixed leases and rock walls. Mike Colless and I fished the Kalang River, where we caught and released a mixed bag of bream, flathead and GTs.

Billy Livingston and Chad Hastings got among the school jew on the downstream end of the Bellinger using plastic shads around a deep rock wall. Farther upstream there are still jacks, trevally and bass to be found but, as the water cools, this could be the last month for consistent brackish-water luring.

Downstream near the breakwalls there have been good catches of luderick, with some larger flathead and jew hanging around the same areas along the deep channels at the bases of the walls. Divers have been reporting good populations of jew and jacks schooling hard against the breakwall boulders. Casting your bait no more than 10 metres out and putting up with the odd snag will see many more hook-ups.

When fishing the walls for jew, try timing your trip around a tide change and the sunrise and sunset low-light periods. Best baits for jew around the walls are live or fresh dead pike, mullet, yellowtail, slimies or herring.


Over the next month I’ll start to target black drummer around the rocky washes using a 2/0 double-strength hook, pea-sized ball sinker, 15kg line and a sizeable chunk of cunjevoi.

Finding areas were there is a bit of depth mixed in with whitewater will see a willing population of fat pigs waiting for access to the succulent green and red weed that grows deep in the gutters that can only be reached on a rising tide.

To a hungry pig, a fresh – or rotten – chunk of cunje is a three-course meal all wrapped up in one mouthful, something only normally available a week or so after heavy seas.

When fishing for pigs always keep your eyes on the ocean and watch out for the inconsistent but large swells of winter that will wash away all that are in their path.



Over Winter the author spends plenty of time chasing pigs around the local rocky washes.


With drummer like these on offer, it’s a wonder more people on the Coffs Coast don’t chase them.


Dane Atkinson with a late-season bass.

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