FAVOURABLE weather patterns since I last wrote have allowed offshore anglers to get among the snapper, pearl perch, teraglin and jewfish with plenty of quality specimens coming back to the cleaning tables daily.
Anglers fishing around the Solitary Islands have reported excellent catches of quality kingfish and tailor with the average king over 5kg and tailor over 1.5kg. This run of kingfish, along with samson to 15kg, will continue over the next few months, with the bigger fish more interested in bigger baits such as live slimy mackerel or fresh whole squid.
Rock anglers have not been left out of the action with plenty of just-legal kings, tailor and mackerel tuna making for interesting lure and live-bait sessions from headlands and breakwalls.
My mate Dave Rae has been doing well on the reds down Urunga way with plenty of fish to 3kg feeding over the inshore kelp reefs. At present there are some mighty good fish mixed in with the schools and almost daily someone picks up a 5kg, 6kg or even 7kg snapper on a floating pilchard bait. Dave believes the snapper are yet to reach their potential, so we should be in for another couple of months of exciting fishing, mostly within a comfortable kilometre of the coast.
On the beaches there has been a reasonable run of school jewfish with the tide changes naturally producing the best fishing. I took Mike Semmler from the Travelling Fisherman radio show for a jewie session the other night and we didn’t pick up a schoolie until the very bottom of the tide. A few nights earlier, I’d picked up two fish at sunset and then had to wait another couple of hours for the next bite on the tide change. Feeding periods on the beach over Winter seem to be the change of light (dawn and dusk) and the change of tide (high and low).
Apart from pelagics, the rocks have been producing some excellent black drummer with fish to just over 5kg being wrestled onto the stones. I caught my personal best pig the other day and, at 5.2kg, it was a monster of a fish that ate a massive clump of cunje heart fished on 15kg tackle. During the fight it snagged me up three times and when I got it to the base of the rocks, it was so fat I could hardly drag it up on my doubled-over 3.6-metre beach rod. I then decided to call it quits for the day and was able to feed four people from the two massive fillets I took off the big weed-eater.
Every time I clean a pig it never ceases to amaze me that they have so much brown weed and new-growth kelp in their guts. Maybe an alternative super-powered form of luderick-style float fishing using these two plants as bait may be possible for pigs.
In the rivers the luderick have been biting their heads off with all the river rock walls producing numbers of solid fish to 1.6kg. There have been so many anglers chasing luderick in recent times that it is almost impossible to spin the breakwalls for bream, with most of our luring restricted to the upper reaches of the rivers.
Mike Colless has had some excellent soft plastic sessions recently with the Kalang, Bellinger and Nambucca Rivers producing fish to 39cm. Mike and I went for a bream session around the leases a few days ago and although we didn’t catch more than a dozen bream between us, the by-catch of flathead and a nice school jew made the cold south-westerly day more than bearable.
Mick Booth had one of his most exciting bream sessions on a high tide in some fixed leases down near Nambucca, making non-stop action on hungry bream feeding over the racks. When fishing at high tide, unweighted plastics or the ever-reliable hard-bodied crankbaits will produce plenty of hook-ups, bust-ups and landings.
Bass fishing is best left in the memory banks this time of year, although I have heard of a few bream fishos who’ve tangled with some quality bass in the salt. One fish was caught on a soft plastic within a long cast of the Pacific Ocean. The soft plastic revolution in bream spinning is certainly turning up some unexpected captures, with school jew hiding under shallow oyster leases and bass feeding in the full salt.
Over the next month I’ll continue to target bream around the leases but will also spend a reasonable amount of time throwing slightly bigger shad patterns around the rail and road bridge pylons. This Winter has been particularly productive for school jew in the estuary and these deeper areas with structure and current eddies are exactly where the bulk of the school jew like to hold up during the daylight hours.
Offshore, you can’t really go past the snapper, kings and samsons – all three can be targeted at anchor in water over 30 metres deep and they all love a berley trail and lightly-weighted pilchard or fillet baits. On the rocks you can’t go past the drummer, with cunje and a rising tide being the recipe for back pain.
If you’re after a really big tailor, now is the time to start trying, I’ve been reliably informed of a 7kg fish that came from waters slightly farther north. If you’re serious about big choppers, find a quiet breakwall corner and catch yourself some sea gars for bait. Ganged up and slowly spun around the washes, these sensational baits will always interest any quality tailor, kings, salmon, or jew that may be hunting along the wash zone.
Now’s the time for big samson, like this one, offshore.
There are plenty of slimy mackerel hanging around the Coffs Jetty in Winter – and plenty of youngsters chasing them!.
Scott Johnson with a small schoolie taken on beachworm.
The author with an upstream bream. There should be plenty more heading up local creeks this month.Reads: 583