Four prime targets
  |  First Published: July 2005

Much of the East Coast has enjoyed a surprisingly mild start to Winter. Late autumn saw day after day of balmy temperatures, punctuated but the occasional cool blow from the south.

The trend seems to have continued into Winter but I suspect our good fortune will soon come to a crashing end. But, for now, it’s certainly a pleasant start to the cooler season so get out there and enjoy it before the real Winter shows its ugly head.

It’s not too often that good weather and good fishing coincide but lately they seem to be getting along fine. And while every species isn’t biting like crazy, there are enough quality fish around to make most outing successful.

It’s all a matter of chasing what’s likely to be in the greatest numbers and this time of year that means bream, tailor, kingfish and snapper. There are certainly other fish biting but those four are your best bet for now.

Probably the pick of them has been bream. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re fishing a wave-washed headland or a quiet estuary feeder creek; sliver bream have been very active indeed.

I spoke to a fellow the other day who told me of quality fish up around 2kg coming off shallow reefs, headlands and bomboras south of Trial Bay.

Anglers casting pilchard baits into the washes around dawn and dusk mostly take these bigger fish. Many are shore-based but there’s a growing band of fishos working the stones from well-positioned boats. The mobility allows you to fish many different spots per session and negates the dangers of bobbing around close to rocks.

I’ve done it a few times and it can be a bit dicey but pick your days, small swell and light offshore breezes and you shouldn’t have too much to worry about.

I prefer to drift around a glassy estuary hunting for bream, flicking small lures into all the likely haunts.

This time of year that usually means the deep, running tidal walls and on the Macleay, with around 20km of stone walls, there’s plenty to choose from!

As you’d imagine, there are not going to be clouds of bream along every wall from the river mouth to Gladstone – those days are long gone – but there are usually enough fish in most areas to make a little prospecting worthwhile. Strike it lucky and hit a stretch of wall crawling with big silver bream and you can have an absolute ball.

Back out to sea, the tailor fishos are pulling some good fish off the stones and on the beaches. This is certainly a good time of year for these sporty high-flyers with plenty of action to be had if you’re prepared to hunt down a good surf gutter or wave-washed headland and fish early morning or late in the afternoon.

While these fish are usually pretty ravenous, they do seem to bite more aggressively on a rising tide.

Most anglers still use traditional ganged hooks and pilchards to good effect. Some track down smaller garfish and a growing band are using various metal lures.

All methods work well, it’s more a matter of using what you’re confident with. Confidence can often lead you to success.

Combine bait and lures with a run-in tide at dawn or dusk and you should have little trouble finding a few tailor.


Snapper anglers have been having pretty good success up on the northern mackerel reefs. With the spotties now gone, the reds have taken up pole position again, harassing schools of small slimies, yakkas and squid.

Those heading up and fishing floated baits of squid, gars, slimies, pilchards or yellowtail fillets, are catching some good fish. There’s definitely a lot to be said about a steady stream of berley and lightly weighted baits.

And there’s more evidence suggesting the afternoon snapper bite is more productive than the early morning starts. If you get a pretty calm afternoon, head up and fish into the early part of the night – you may be surprised at how well the snapper bite.

Although we’ve had some pretty balmy weather over the past few months, there has been a fair bit of swell running. This has made life interesting for those crossing the river bar and while 90% don’t have too much trouble getting out, there’s always someone whose timing and judgment may be a little off.

The Macleay bar is starting to earn a reputation as a boat-killer but, to be fair, it isn’t usually too bad.

The key to a safe bar crossing is not rushing. Take your time and sit back in the deeper water where the waves won’t break and analyse the wave patterns and timing.

Waves usually have some form of pattern; a run of smaller waves followed every few minutes by two or three bigger waves. Some days you may get four to six bigger waves, so count them as they roll in.

The idea is to scoot out once the last big wave breaks, in theory giving you a clean run out to sea. If you’re careful and observant and don’t crawl out once you’ve decided to go, you shouldn’t have too many dramas.

But if in doubt, simply don’t do it. I must admit to having turned the boat around a few times and headed back to the ramp. It’s pretty disheartening but it’s certainly a whole lot better than losing the boat or, even worse, your life.

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