Cool but productive
  |  First Published: July 2004

THERE’S been a noticeable temperature drop over the past few weeks on the land and in the water.

It looks like we’re settling in for a few months of chilly pre-dawn starts, cool to cold days and chilly nights.

While I’m certainly no fan of Winter, I’m more than happy to put up with the cool starts if it means there’s a reasonable chance of scoring a quality fish or two. And, thankfully, around these parts the cooler months are just as productive as the Summer, though you will be targeting completely different species.

The cooler months to most North Coast fishos spell blackfish, bream, drummer, groper, tailor, kingfish, snapper and mulloway.

It’s also a time of year when the estuaries really come alive, often teeming with luderick and quality bream.

The large influx of blackfish and bream also draws out the bigger mulloway. Sure, there are some good mulloway to be found over the warmer months but there are plenty of bigger fish active once the water temperature drops and the bait supply increases in size.

So Winter’s not all doom and gloom, there are plenty of top-quality fish to be found. The worst part is simply getting out of a warm bed when the alarm goes off.

Other than that you can expect many fun days wetting a line over the next three or four months.

So what’s been happening? Well, three of the past four weeks have been very productive, with some good cobia up to 27kg, snapper up to 7kg and a few stubborn kingfish up to 12kg coming in.

The last week of the May was absolutely hopeless, with most anglers returning home fishless day after frustrating day. It’s a strange thing when the fish simply shut up shop and, no matter what you do, they simply won’t bite.

Thankfully it was only just over a week and the most fish seem to be feeding again.


Now that the spotted mackerel have well and truly headed north again, most boat fishos have been heading north off Grassy Head to fish marginally wider reefs for snapper, pearlies and assorted reef species.

Like I said, some nice fish have been caught, especially by those moving around quite a bit in depths from 30 to 45 metres. It really doesn’t matter whether you’re off Grassy Head or way up off Scotts Head, so long as you work the reefs over with quality bait covering plenty of water as you go.

Those heading south towards Fish Rock and Black Rock have run into a few nice kingfish. The kings have been there for quite some time but, frustratingly, they’ll often bite only when it suits them, usually when there’s a little current running from the north.

Some day’s they’ll be interested only in slimies; others it’s yellowtail. Some days they won’t hit anything other than sauries; others it’s tiny baitfish the size of match sticks.

Kings are great fun to chase, fighting well and tasting pretty good on a plate, but they can be very frustrating critters when it comes to matching the hatch feed-wise, and then landing the obstinate buggers!

The estuary systems on the North Coast really come to life during the cooler months. At the time of writing the remnant mullet schools are running and, very shortly (and hopefully once the greedy beach haulers leave), the bream and luderick will start to move.

Last year the netters thankfully left just prior to the luderick and bream runs and we had both species thick as thieves in the lower Macleay for many months. In fact, last year’s bream run was the best we’ve had for 11 years, showing how destructive the out-of-state netters actually are.


Over the past seven months I’ve been having a ball catching and releasing mulloway on soft plastic lures. I’ve kept only six or seven and released more than 75 very healthy jewfish up to 12kg.

So to hear that the beach haulers netted 37 jewfish right at the river mouth the other day just makes me sick.

It really makes you wonder why we bother letting fish go, only to see them netted the second they venture too close to the river entrance.

I guess it’s a moral decision and one I’ll continue to adopt, and hopefully enough of the fish we release will have a decent shot at spawning before ending up lining the pockets of a shameless netter.

On a more positive note, local bass anglers farther upstream are still having fun flicking small lures around. The fish haven’t ventured too far down yet so if you’re keen to play with a bass or two, try around Kempsey bridge up to Greenhills.

Fish deep and slow for the best results with spinnerbaits, 3” grubs or deep-diving minnows.

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