River residents regroup
  |  First Published: July 2004

MOST anglers consider July to be a time when not much happens in the estuary systems around here – think again!

What happens to all those fish which were here over the warmer months? Some migrate along the coast, ultimately moving into another system, moving onto the offshore reefs for the rest of their days or back into the upper reaches of a system.

Flathead are very much a Summer species. But during the Winter there are plenty to be caught in the shallow reaches and broadwaters.

Over the years that I guided on this system it was easy for me on most trips to get anglers onto good numbers of flathead. Using soft plastics in shallow water and along the banks produced plenty of fish, some of the best days bringing triple-digit numbers.

Bream are considered a Winter-only species and those big snowies that migrate along the coast are the main reason we have always thought this.

Take a look at the tournament results from all over the country. No matter the season, anglers are still capable of taking bragging-sized fish.

Mangrove jack are another case. In Summer we experience vastly different water temperatures. Like barramundi, jacks love warm water. They feed more aggressively and bulk up for the cooler months ahead.

If they’re big enough, they make the final transition into adulthood and leave the system forever. The reputation that jacks have comes about during this time, when they are almost unstoppable.

During Winter, however, they are a much easier fish to catch than one might think. On the lighter line classes that most bream and bass anglers are using you might be surprised at the next fish that rolls up out of the depths.

There are locations such as the rock walls at the entrances to bigger systems where jacks can always be found. The Gold Coast Seaway is a case in point.

Mature jacks may take up residence in the washes on the ends of the walls for a few seasons. With the coming and going of all manner of species there is plenty of food available for little energy expenditure.

They are still very difficult fish to extract in the larger sizes but they can be targeted by throwing big plastics or a live or dead whole bait.

In the upper reaches of the Tweed system at this time of year most banks, jetties, rock walls and so on still hold sizeable jacks. Mixed in are other species like bream, and bass.

There lies the perfect reason to fish at this time of year. Many anglers target one or the other but, throw in jacks as a by-catch it’s pretty good.

The same style of lure as you would for bass or bream is pretty standard, as is the tackle. The staff at Fishing Monthly often fish the Tweed at this time of year. Being reasonably close to Brisbane, it’s a quick trip to some pretty reasonable water.

Location is up to you, with every stretch of the river capable of producing good numbers of fish. This time last year a group of Japanese anglers were shown how good the breaming in Australia can be. The morning session producing only a handful of fish before we headed well upstream, where triple figures of bream and some jacks were caught.


Along the beaches, early Winter can produce some spectacular results. I have watched in awe as schools of baitfish have been hounded by all manner of fish, only to return a few hours later to see the last of the netters leaving the scene and the bait school non-existent.

A report filtered through about a big school of bait at Brunswick heads. The school was netted subsequently by one of the local pros who, in doing so, noticed a big school of tailor close by. With the average fish between 3kg and 5kg, these fish would have sent a frenzy through the amateur fishing ranks.

These netted fish maybe fetched $1 or $2 a kilo, the resulting 1000kg not a bad earn for the pro. However, the dollar value these fish would have produced for the small coastal towns, had they been left to continue their migration, could have been enormous.

I remember well the scene on the beaches about five years ago when up to 500 anglers could be seen tailor fishing. This continued for weeks I just don’t see the point in wasting a resource that has a greater value to the community in a broader sense.

NSW Fisheries is embarking on a study of the value of recreational fishing to the State’s economy. I hope that when the resource is valued that perhaps the Minister will factor in the added value to the community as a whole.

Big tailor like those mentioned have a far greater value than the measly couple of dollars a kilo.


Over the past few months offshore results have been pretty consistent with many trailer-boat anglers returning with good catches. A few mackerel and some reef fish makes for an enjoyable day on the water.

This month the westerlies will continue to flatten the seas – a good time for those with limited offshore experience to venture out and have a go. July and August are the peak months for the snapper which breed on the various gravel patches. And judging by the lead-up to the season, the signs are looking pretty good.

With the calm conditions many boats are venturing out to the 24- and 36-fathom reefs, where teraglin and tasty pearl perch can be targeted. Some charter operators offer night trips and this could be a good month to organise such a trip.

The last of the really big mackerel can be encountered this month with live bait the pick.

Over Summer I witnessed massive schools of juvenile kingfish which, by now, will start to show as a better quality fish. The big deep-water jigs are very popular in the washes around Cook Island, where some big tailor and kingfish were produced.

I wouldn’t recommend throwing a $50 jig into rough country – people are catching big fish.

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