In recent weeks the water temperature dropped to 16-17 degrees along the Coffs Coast and this couldn’t have come soon enough for most beach and rock anglers. They are at last getting amongst large schools of quality tailor from most the headlands and breakwalls punctuating our rocky stretch of coast.
I enjoyed an exciting lure session on tailor recently with kilo-plus fish moving into the wash at the southern end of our local beach. Using my 10ft high speed overhead outfit I was able to cast a 60g chrome lure just wide of the trench that ran along the edge of the rocks. I let the lure and line belly settle on the sand for a few seconds and then wound considerably slower than I would if chasing tuna or mackerel. The tailor hit the lure deep in the water on nearly every cast. The hour before sunset was the most productive time for big fish and, as is often the case with tailor or salmon on lures, staying connected to the jumping and head-shaking fish was a challenge in itself. My high speed 6:2:1 overhead may have been an overkill on the lure retrieve, but staying tight to airborne fish is easier when you can regain line quickly.
Anglers chasing large jewfish will also welcome the schools of inshore tailor. These anglers will be dusting off the heavier gear over the next few months and instead of throwing beachworms around for school jew, they’ll hurl fresh slabs of tailor eastward in search of a 20kg-plus trophy fish. If you’re planning to target big jew, give yourself an hour in the arvo to spin up three or four tailor and then find a good high tide gutter and be prepared to hang in there for the hour or two either side of the peak. If there’s no weed around, about a metre or so of swell, and no moon or plenty of cloud, so much the better! My mate Grantly Gray also reckons that shallow water jewfish hate lightning, which can be a real pain as we move into Spring. Come to think of it, I’ve never really enjoyed standing on the beach with a three-metre composite rod during a lightning storm anyway.
Offshore fishermen have continued to make the most of a good run of inshore snapper, kingfish and samsons, with slow sinking baits and berley producing plenty of solid fish. Anglers fishing the deeper reefs from 30 to 80 metres have been catching some absolutely huge pearl perch, with plenty of 2-3kg fish making it back to the cleaning tables.
Over the deeper reefs parrot fish, wrasse and teraglin are keeping the boaties occupied, although I often wonder how some of the regulars get through all the fish they catch in a few weeks of settled sea conditions. It’s a shame that some anglers kill their bag limit of reef fish every trip just to give it all away or illegally sell it. On a positive note I did hear of one regular snapper fisho who let a 6kg red go the other morning. He already had a good catch of plate-sized fish and didn’t want to kill the big breeder that snaffled one of his floaters.
In the estuaries there are still plenty of bream on the chew with the floating and fixed leases, overhung trees and half-sunken snags producing fish up to 1.5kg. Mike Colless, Dave Rae and myself have fished the Bellinger River, Nambucca and Kalang River in recent weeks, coming home with good mixed bags of bream, flathead, trevally and the odd school jew. Best lures have been tiny plastic grubs in brown or blood red with 1/16oz jigheads, 9lb leader and 6lb gelspun line providing the perfect delivery and terminal system. The run down from high tide is the best time to chase bream on lures in our rivers. Don't be afraid to throw over the tops of racks – lures are cheap and so are the thrills!
At present the downstream waters of most estuaries are running very clear and it’s not easy to get fish to commit to a bait or lure. Even luderick fishermen are finding the clear water is putting the fish off the bite, and when this happens you need to fish the deepest and most stirred-up water you can find. To do this you can either head further upriver until the water clouds up or fish closer to the ocean and hope there's a bit of bump pushing into the estuary. Livebaits are currently the only way to con a big dusky into giving away its position. We fished at Urunga recently and it was like an aquarium with people snorkelling in crystal clear water in the deepest part of the river.
The next few months will produce plenty of fun on blue swimmer crabs, so get your witch’s hat traps sorted out and keep your tailor heads – they make the best bait of all.
Bass fishermen will be testing the upstream waters this month. The deepwater lily beds will be the first place that schools of travelling fish will hold up on during their movement upriver. Fish won’t be as spread out at this time of year so once you’ve located them hang around and pepper the snags and weed fringes with soft plastic grubs and spinnerbaits. The alternative to deep daytime fishing is after-dark surface luring which will be at its best in the top end of pools with a bit of running water flowing into them.
All the rivers along the Coffs section of coast have good bass water near their top ends, but if you're really keen on getting amongst some better fish I recommend a trip up the Clarence River. Launching your boat at Copmanhurst is a good place to start fishing. If you're a bit more adventurous and portable, a trip to the Gorge Country by canoe could see you casting lures into deep pools full of bass waiting to head back upriver on the next flood.
1) Anglers fishing the deeper reefs from 30 to 80 metres have been catching some big pearl perch lately.
2) The deep pools of the Clarence Gorge Country will be full of bass over spring.
3) Mike Colless with an early season bass.Reads: 501