Over the next month Coffs anglers are hoping for a continuation of the excellent run of snapper and bream we’ve been enjoying along the North Coast.
With massive schools of snapper moving inshore to feed and spawn on the shallow kelp beds, small-boat anglers have been fishing floating baits in 12 to 30 metres of water with great results. My mate Dave Rae and his family have been living on snapper lately, with berley, pilchards, handlines and Alveys producing the goods for numbers of quality fish to 3kg.
Dave’s technique revolves around plenty of berley of chook pellets, old pilchards and tuna oil, into which he casts pilchard pieces with a small ball sinker running down to a 3/0 hook. Dave usually takes two or three of his kids fishing with him so setting up to half a dozen lines is never too much of a problem – until a school of hungry snapper moves in and mayhem rules, with lines going off in all directions.
During the past few weeks the bigger rivers such as the Nambucca, Kalang and Bellinger have been fishing extremely well for bream. Anglers throwing soft plastics around the floating leases are finding scores of hungry bream waiting underneath the structures. I fished the Kalang River recently with two mates and we managed to extract about 20 bream, half a dozen flathead and a solid GT from under the suspended oyster beds.
At present many of the floating racks have been temporarily lifted out of the water to kill back unwanted parasites and other shellfish growth. Casting your lure or bait near these often festering structures usually brings results on bream that can be seen milling beneath.
The best time to go breaming over Winter will be the run down from high tide, working into the current, fishing deep with 1/16oz or 1/20oz jig heads. Those fishing the deeper sections of these rivers with bigger plastics have also found that school jewfish and flathead to 60cm are still on the hunt for live fish and prawns.
Farther upstream, the bass have been particularly willing, with deep-divers and surface lures fished from late afternoon into the night proving successful on the Bellinger River. Down near the sea breakwalls, there are plenty of blackfish, bream and tarwhine on the chew with fresh or live baits such as weed, yabbies, worms, pipis, mullet gut or pudding bait being a better option than lures.
If you are planning on fishing for bream at night, a pudding bait made from flour, cheese, sardines and cotton wool(to keep it on the hook) is an old favourite of mine and, like mullet gut, it’s bait and berley, all in one-user friendly package. We had an interesting session fishing yabbies and soft plastics over the sand just inside the V-Wall recently, with the small grubs introduced among the bait and berley fooling many of the bigger bream and tarwhine.
On the rocks, tailor anglers have been getting the odd greenback, with ganged sea garfish and larger, lightweight metal lures producing the fish to 2kg around the northern headlands, Mutton Bird Island and the Quarry near the Southern Breakwall.
Jewfish have been pretty hard to come by in recent times with lure anglers working on moonlit nights having some success on fish to more than 20kg. Bait anglers have been getting the odd schoolie on beach worms, although a build-up of dead weed in the more stirred-up corners has made fishing the bottom impossible at times.
On a more positive note, the bigger seas we’ve had recently have knocked a lot of cunje and cabbage from the rocks, making bait collecting easy and stirring up the water to the point where black drummer are often fearless in their pursuit of a free meal.
On the deeper beaches, jewfish have been caught on most tide changes with fresh fish and beachworm baits bringing the most success to anglers who fish by the tide charts.
We fished our local beach a few days ago on the full moon. Unfortunately, a two-metre high tide and becalmed sea conditions sent the local shovel-nosed shark population into a frenzy as they relentlessly demolished our carefully rigged whole squid. The lesson was learnt: Full moons are alright for jew on the beach but not when the seas are too flat.
Over the next month the offshore kingfish and samson fish populations will skyrocket and those fishing live baits in water from 30 to 50 metres will get their arms and backs worked over by big fish of both species to 30kg and, in the case of samsons, over 40kg.
This month should also see the arrival of mako sharks, albacore and yellowfin tuna, with anglers fishing just inside or past the shelf tangling with these exciting sportfish. I’m also expecting the jewfish action to pick up in numbers and quality from the beaches. So far, the jewie season has been something of a let-down.
Megan Rae with a pair of handline-caught snapper from the shallow reefs.
Dave Rae with his favourite Winter target, quality snapper taken with floating baits down a berley trail.
Silver trevally have made their annual appearance on Coffs Coast beaches as the water temperature drops.
Squid is a great bait for North Coast snapper and jewfish.Reads: 556