COOLING water and maximum visibility are a tricky combination that anglers have to master if they are to make consistent catches over the Winter months.
At present there are large schools of whitebait inshore with salmon, mackerel tuna, tailor and jewfish feeding freely in water from a metre to 20 metres deep along the backs of beaches and headlands.
Stuart McIntyre had a torrid session on Sawtell Headland when a school of big salmon turned the inshore waters black as they fed on a school of whitebait trapped between the rocks and the entrance to Bonville Creek. Casting 65g metal lures at the school, Stuart spent the best part of an hour hooked up to hard running and jumping salmon to 3kg.
Along with salmon there have been tailor to 2kg and mack tuna to 4kg hunting along the wash lines of the deeper headlands and breakwalls. Good places to prospect for pelagics with metals are Sawtell Headland, the Quarry/Southern Breakwall, Mutton Bird Island, Charlesworth Headland, Emerald Headland and Moonee Headland.
Beach anglers have reported good catches of bream, tailor and jew with North Beach producing good tailor and jew and Boambee Beach producing the biggest bream, to over 2kg. Most of the bream have been taking mullet strips and the jewfish have been taking squid, worms, mullet and tailor.
Anglers throwing lures around the rocky outcrops near the ends of beaches have been hooking plenty of school jewfish, with a high tide in the early morning or late afternoon being the best tide for tossing plastics into the sandy gutters between rock outcrops. Provided there’s enough surface cover created by foam and wash, jewfish from a kilo to 20kg will happily school and feed in a metre or so of water.
In the estuaries luderick and bream are to be found in good numbers around the tidal entrances.
Anglers throwing lightly weighted nippers, mullet gut or mullet fillets around the breakwalls on the rising tide after dark have been catching bag limits of big silver bream. During daylight hours these same areas on the Kalang, Bellinger and Nambucca Rivers have been great possies to chase luderick on cabbage and string weed, both of which can be collected at low tide around the ocean rocks.
Farther up stream there have been plenty of bream hanging around the oyster racks, snags and overhanging trees. Anglers throwing soft plastics and hard-bodied lures have found that floating or unweighted baits are working well around high tide while the run down is when the weighted plastics are proving most effective.
Extensive numbers of floating and fixed racks can be found in the Nambucca and Kalang rivers, while the Bellinger and Kalang have the pick of the snags and overhanging trees. Bream anglers have also been getting consistent by-catches of flathead, school jewfish and the odd spawn-run bass.
At this time of year freshwater fishing becomes difficult with clear water and a lack of insect activity sending fish down deep to feed. Those fish looking up for a meal will be holding tight on cover, a situation that requires pinpoint lure casting accuracy if fish are to be induced into a strike.
Productive fishing can be had using deep plastics around the drop-offs, cliff faces and weed beds. Not all bass head down to the salt to breed and provided you find areas where current aggregates food, then there should be plenty of bass fishing on offer right through Winter.
If you’re prepared to brave the cold, then we’ve found that night fishing with surface lures can be particularly productive over the cooler months. When surface-luring after dark, focus on weed beds and areas where shallow running water meets deeper pools.
As I write, inshore boat anglers are still catching spotted and Spanish mackerel over the same reefs that over the next few months will become prolific snapper grounds. On the North Coast snapper range in size from barely legal up to 10kg, with most of the better fish taken on floaters sent down berley trails.
Dave Rae reports that the snapper have started to move onto the inshore kelp beds off Urunga with plenty of small fish mixed in with quality table fish of 2kg to 3kg.
Anglers fishing the deeper reefs are catching teraglin to 5kg, pearl perch to 3kg, snapper, samson fish and kingfish. Winter is as great time of year to head offshore and send big live baits down deep for kingfish and samson.
The waters off Coffs Harbour have a stack of deep reefs that are rarely fished by recreational anglers and although caution should be exercised when heading the required 10km to 20km offshore, there are some pretty big hapuku and other deep-water critters just waiting to be caught.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be spending a fair amount of my fishing time chasing big tailor and salmon. I’ll try a mixture of metals and poppers and I’ll spend most of my fishing time perched on the safest rock outcrop that will put me within casting range of a good-looking deep-water wash.
Chad Hastings with a school jewfish taken on a soft plastic on the Kalang River.
Billy Livingston gets in on the jewfish act on the Kalang.
Northern bluefin tuna are a handy proposition along the Iluka breakwall, especially when the wash is working and the gars are there.
The author with a lure-munching estuary bream. They’re taking lures in the day and bait at night.Reads: 948