DESPITE minimal rainfall for several months now, bass anglers along the Coffs Coast are enjoying a particularly fishy start to the new season with nearly all of the coastal creeks producing solid fish to 48cm on a variety of lures including grubs, hard bodies, surface chuggers and fizzers.
Mike Colless and I fished one of our favourite mangrove jack possies one recent afternoon and with the jacks failing to turn a reel in anger, we decided to take advantage of a peaking tide, cut our downstream losses and head up-river into the fresh in search of bass. Within minutes of moving across a broken weir and into the fresh, I scored a 45cm bass on a small green Knol’s diver. The fish scoffed the shallow-diving lure from beneath an overhanging branch. Although it took the lure deeply and didn’t fight very well as a result, it was a beautifully conditioned bronze battler that was obviously thriving in the recently gazetted recreational fishing area.
Not to be outdone, within minutes Mike put in a great prospecting cast to the back of an evil-looking deepwater log pile and was rewarded with the hook-up of the trip on a 46cm fish that gave a great account of itself, almost shredding the 20lb leader as it powered beneath and along a horizontal log.
When you live and fish on the North Coast it’s hard not to take for granted the quality of the scenery and the bass that are in the upstream stretches of nearly every creek and river. Tidal-water bassing is incredibly exciting, in terms of the bass you catch and the sheer variety of fish that are on offer. From early Spring to late Autumn, bass, jacks, trevally, bream and flathead are always a possibility.
Offshore there have been plenty of snapper, kingfish, pearl perch and samson fish on the bite, with the reefs to the north and south of the harbour producing the best fishing. Anglers launching down near Urunga and Nambucca Heads certainly have the pick of the inshore reef systems. With some fairly tricky beach launching required to get out, it’s not hard to understand why the southern reefs are so lightly fished.
The biggest snapper and mackerel consistently come from this stretch of the coast, with most of the best fishing occurring within a kilometre of the shore in less than 50 metres of water.
Fishing inshore areas is always exciting, with a variety of lightly weighted lines combined with heaps of berley producing quality snapper up to 10kg, samsons, kings and jew to 20kg and mackerel to 30kg. Best baits for snapper are cut or whole pilchards, while samsons, kings and jew love live yellowtail and the mackerel are partial to live pike or slimy mackerel. Most of these bait species can be caught over the backs of beach reefs using baited bait jigs and a little berley.
Farther offshore there has been some really warm water circulating just inside the continental shelf and game anglers have been enjoying a good run of yellowfin tuna to 40kg, with enough striped and blue marlin around to make pulling around a big pusher lure a worthwhile proposition. Most of the bigger yellowfin have been taken on live slimy mackerel that have been ballooned away from the boat in combination with a strong berley trail.
On the beaches we've had a good run of tailor through early Spring, with fish to 1.7kg coming off the northern beaches. The best way of targeting tailor at present is to position yourself on the rocky outcrops on the ends of most beaches and use this position as a base from which to cast a metal lure to the back of the surf line.
Fishing from the rocks allows your lure to be in the strike zone for the majority of the retrieve and, unlike casting from the sand, it does not require a super-long cast. When casting for tailor I find that a 35g to 60g high-speed lure works really well, although the retrieve rate does not have to be anywhere near flat-out tuna or mackerel speed.
Spinning for tailor is all about letting your lure achieve maximum sink onto the sand and then varying the lure speed on the way in, trying to mimic a fleeing or injured baitfish. Staying connected to tailor on metals is not easy and using the speed of your reel to keep the line tight when fish are jumping is the key to converting hook-ups. Remember to take only enough tailor for one or two meals – they are at their best for eating when left in a chilled fridge for 24 hours and are definitely not a fish that's worth eating after being frozen.
On the rocks the run of solid pigs has continued with fish to almost 4kg causing havoc amongst anglers who are undergunned to handle these weed-eating bulldozers. When fishing for pigs, 15kg line on a large sidecast or overhead reel and a six-wrap rod is the best starting point. And 1/0 double-strength hooks and a wide foot stance are all part of the equation. Best baits for pigs include cunjevoi, peeled prawn and bread.
In the lower estuaries we are getting a good crossover between Summer and Winter species with schooling luderick and bream mixing in with good populations of flathead and whiting. Early Spring has provided a surprising number of mangrove jack and trevally in the lower estuaries, with keen lure anglers landing some big fish to over 50cm around the better snags and rock walls.
The rail bridges that cross nearly all of the creeks in our area have been fishing well for jew. I did hear of a couple of construction workers who nailed a brace of solid schoolies from one particular bridge during their lunch break. The bait was live herring.
Over the coming month we should start to see more and more action in the creeks on bass, jacks and trevally. Once the cicadas get into gear, the bream will move into the upper reaches and start to take small surface lures. Around the ocean rocks we'll see more and more action from jewfish on lures and pelagics on live bait and lures. Christmas will see an early run of black marlin and hopefully the mackerel will put in an early appearance this season.
The beaches are starting to produce dart and whiting in ever-increasing numbers.
Chad and Mike Hastings with a quality drummer. Don’t let yourself go out undergunned for these weed-eating bulldozers.
Mike Colless with a Springtime bass that ate a Jitterbug surface lure well after dark.Reads: 597