Well worth the effort
  |  First Published: September 2003

WE SPOILT North Coast anglers may be finding harder to climb out of our warm beds , but the results are well worth the extra effort.

I’ve probably put in as much effort over the past few months as I would in the balmy conditions of Summer and there have been only a few days when I’ve returned home having caught very little. Most days, it’s good numbers of estuary fish on lures, some quality snapper on the northern reefs or a few cranky kings heading south.

Fishing around these parts in the cooler months usually means kings, mulloway, bream, luderick, tailor and snapper, mostly in good numbers. Perhaps the slowest action of the lot is on the kingfish but this is primarily due to very little current. The old saying, ‘no run, no fun’ is spot-on when you’re talking about yellowtail kingfish. But most days around Fish Rock and Black Rock you’ll find a few fish, though you’ll have to work for them if the current isn’t running.

Some good reds usually fall to lightly-weighted floatline baits on the northern reefs at this time of year. It’s all a matter of anchoring on some good gravel country and feeding out a steady stream of berley. Then slip a virtually unweighted piece of pilchard, tuna or squid on a 5/0 hook down the trail. It may take a while for the snapper to find your berley but, once they do, you can expect fun and games for a few hours. Once the action dies down, up-anchor and repeat the process somewhere else. It’s good fun and certainly one of the best ways to consistently catch quality reds.

The Macleay River has been fishing very well lately, with good numbers of bream in the lower to mid sections of the saltwater reaches. Most of the action has been between the mouth and close to Smithtown, so do some exploring along the deeper rock walls up-river and see what you find. There have been plenty of dusky flathead up-river, so expect to find a few of them if you’re drifting baits or working diving lures along the walls.

Reports of a few Winter bass have filtered through from anglers fishing Smithtown and beyond. They can be real hit-and-miss at this time of year, but if you put in some effort working the tides with spinnerbaits and diving lures, you should score a few. Try some of the purple AusSpin spinnerbaits – they’re usually one of the front-runners around these parts.

If you’re using small soft plastics, don’t be surprised if your ‘bass’ turns out to be a bream or a lizard, as both species regularly find their way up into the brackish and even freshwater reaches and neither can’t resist a well-presented grub.


Speaking of freshwater reaches, some parts of the Macleay River suffered extensive erosion problems following the major flooding in 2001, when thousands of cubic metres of soil washed into the river. Bass Kempsey (a local fishing club), local landholder Ken Griffin and the Commonwealth Government have joined forces to protect and enhance a severely-eroded 300-metre stretch of riverbank at Bradbury Mountain. The Commonwealth has provided $6800 funding for the project, which has been matched in cash by local business and private supporters.

Initial work commenced on the site in July, with Bass Kempsey members erecting a silt stop and temporary fencing. Remedial earthworks were completed only last weekend in preparation for the revegetation of the area, which will comprise planting around 6000 native trees and shrubs.

This is a pretty mammoth task considering the extent of the erosion, but once completed it should stabilise an extensive section of riverbank for many years to come.

This sort of work is invaluable for the overall health of the river system and will ensure not only that the bank holds firm for many years to come, but will provide quality habitat for fish like bass to prosper. All those directly involved should be commended for their efforts.


Put on the woollies and hit the headlands as the tailor run hits full swing. Ian Beesley caught this 1.5kg model on a metal slice cast back to a headland.


Just a tiny section of the major soil erosion at Bradbury Mountain, on the Macleay River, where 300 metres of riverbank was cut away during the 2001 floods. There is an extensive bank rehabilitation project under way there.

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