Sea change lifts kings, reds
  |  First Published: November 2005

It’s been an interesting month at South West Rocks. Earlier in the piece, cool, green water was common along much of the coast but slowly the green water has thinned and now it’s clear and becoming warmer daily – all good news for us fishos.

The cool water, while certainly not fishless, is a far cry from the beautiful blue water synonymous with this part of the coast.

While it’s ideal for some species, this cool water is pretty well useless for others. One of the main species to thrive in the green stuff is salmon. Since the ban on netting in the southern half of the State salmon numbers have near-tripled up here in recent years.

Strangely, many anglers complain about them. Personally I can’t see a fault with fish that average 3kg, take lures and flies with gusto and jump like barramundi.

The main gripe seems to be table quality. My theory is if you don’t like eating them, don’t target them and save your complaints when there’s nothing more sporty to catch than green eels, sergeant bakers and red rock cod!

As the water warmed up the salmon parted, leaving us with a nice mix of bream, flathead and school jew in the estuary and some decent numbers of snapper and kingfish out to sea.

Lately I’ve been fishing the river more than offshore, enjoying a steady run of small to medium-sized flathead. There have been a few bigger fish also, with visiting Sydney angler Vic Levitt catching and releasing a 5kg fish on a lure.

It’s good to finally see a few anglers letting these valuable breeding fish go. One large fish can potentially create thousands of smaller fish, replenishing the local systems for years to come.

Thankfully, gone are the days of hero statues for killing big flathead. Today you’re more likely to be glared at and reminded how important these big breeding females are.


With the lack of rain the Macleay River is becoming quite clear. Clear water usually equates to tough fishing, particularly during daylight hours.

There have been good numbers of bream in the river but to get them to bite you really have to think about nocturnal missions. Thankfully, it’s getting warmer so fishing into the night has become far more pleasant.

Those getting the best results are still using light line and lightly weighted rigs, usually fished in conjunction with a light but steady berley trail. It’s certainly more effort than the old chuck-and-hope method many anglers still adopt but the results are infinitely better.

The local jewfish, too, are feeling the pressure of nearly gin-clear water, becoming even more difficult to catch during daylight. Once again the secret is fishing once the sun sets, fishing light and with fresh bait.

Smart anglers fishing the tidal changes after dark are still finding a few co-operative fish but you may have to work for them.

Bass anglers have been doing it a little tough lately. We’ve had some nice Spring weather and the water is warming daily but fish numbers in general have been down on past years.

Most experienced anglers are pulling between two and four fish per outing, occasionally snaring half a dozen. This may sound OK but compared with past results it represents pretty lean picking indeed.

Hopefully it’s just a case of early-season blues and the bass will kick into gear as we edge closer to Summer.


Out to sea the main players have been kings and reds. As usual, head north for the snapper and south for the kings.

The kingfish, while in reasonable numbers, haven’t been overly huge. There have been a few 10kg fish landed but most are in the 2kg to 3kg class, with the odd 4kg to 6kg fish thrown in.

They’re a great size for a meal and a bit of fun. Too big and you get flogged, losing far too many hooks and lures. At the current size you win most battles and end up with a nice feed of legal-sized fish. If you want kings, head to Fish Rock or Black Rock.

The snapper guys are busting a few good fish with the biggest taken this month just over 8kg. Again, those fishing fairly light, floating baits down a berley trail are scoring the better class of fish.

Head up around Grassy Head to Scotts Head and fish depths from 30 metres to 45 metres for best results.

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