Rains bring action
  |  First Published: October 2004

I HAVE never given such dismal reports as I did for the last two months. I depressed a few potential visiting anglers, but the reality was the fishing around South West Rocks stunk for months. Thankfully, in the past few weeks we’ve had some desperately-needed rains, not enough to end the gripping drought but enough to put a tiny bit of colour in the Macleay at low tide.

It’s amazing the difference a “tiny bit of colour” actually makes, especially when the water’s been running gin clear for months. Fish that have been biting only under the cover of darkness have actually fed, albeit cautiously, during daylight hours. Anglers hitting the breakwalls with frozen baits are pulling a few nice bream again. Flathead drifters are finding the old lizard keener to grab a passing bait, so all is slowly returning to normal on the mighty Macleay River. Let’s just hope we get some more rain to keep the whole show going.

I had a few mates come up over the past month, staying for a week and hoping to pin a few mulloway on soft plastic lures. Both crews came before the rain and they struggled to raise a few fish. I put in some serious effort and we managed four fish to 10kg for one week, and three jews to 12kg the next. The way the fishing had been I was happy to find any co-operative mulloway, so to run into a few better class fish was very pleasing. I suspect now the odds of finding a mulloway or two will increase, and the results should jump again as the water slowly warms.

With the weather and water warming daily, more recognized Summer species such as flathead are becoming very active. Most folk hitting the water are returning home with a few nice fish. There have been a few bigger fish caught too, with one crew from Sydney pinning a few up to 3.5kg using soft plastic lures aimed at bream. Most anglers are finding fish between Jersyville and the river mouth, but I suspect there are flathead spread much further afield, especially on the tidal flats between Jersy and Smithtown. Spring is a great time for chasing flathead, so if you fancy a feed of lizards, hit the water over the next few months.

Bream numbers are still fluctuating. One day you’ll find a school and bag a dozen or so nice fish, and the next day it’s like fishing on the moon. They definitely like following the bait schools around, but the trouble is the bait is constantly on the move with the tides.

Out to sea it’s been tailor that have saved many anglers from a fishless day. Usually productive places like Fish and Black Rock are near fishless, with only a lucky few finding the odd kingfish or snapper to take home. I really don’t know what’s been happening at both locations but there have been virtually no quality fish for many months. Hopefully some new fish will arrive soon.

Those anglers heading up to Grassy and Scotts Head have had some good days on the resident reds. Last week some good fish around 6kg came in. Most boats had a few snapper, plus a mixed bag of other tasty reef fish. The afternoons have been more productive, but there are still fish to be had during the morning sessions.

Anglers trolling small metal lures just wide of the headland washes between the gaol and Smoky Cape are picking up tailor. There’s a lot of potentially good water down there, so it’s a case of dragging lures until you hit a patch of co-operative fish. I tend to prospect around by casting metal spoons into the wash rather than trolling, but trolling is a quicker way to find a few choppers. There have been some nice fish taken too, with most during my last headland spin going over a kilo. A few were closer to 2kg and put up a good fight on light spinning gear.

On my last trip south looking for tailor I had a 150kg dolphin chase one back to the boat. I tried to lift the 1.2kg chopper into the boat but the leader snapped, and the dolphin inhaled it boatside in the blink of an eye. I was feeling pretty bad as he swallowed the 100mm popper the tailor took, and the guilt really set in when the dolphin suddenly broke the surface and started flicking its head back and forth trying to dislodge the lure. To my amazement the now mangled tailor, still sporting the surface lure, flung free and the dolphin simply swam off looking for something less spiky to eat.

With the extremely dry conditions over the winter and spring period, hardly any bass ventured downstream to spawn. I think the most fish I caught in the brackish water this season was two. Compared to other years where 10 to 20 fish was the norm, it’s a little worrying that so few fish have travelled down river. I guess with all the netters now working the Macleay where the bass like to spawn, it’s probably a good thing! Next season may be back to normal with typically cold, wet winters helping many bass to head downstream.


1. With the clear water most jewfish taken lately have been caught after dark. This 11-kilo fish was taken just on dark on the south break wall.

2. Tailor have been biting well along the headlands, with fish like this 1.3 kilo model being quite common.

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