FISHING has benefited from recent good rain, which has darkened the water in all estuaries.
Bream, flathead and whiting are enthusiastically taking small plastics and hard-bodied lures around the rock walls, weed beds, overhanging trees and oyster leases on the Bellinger, Kalang and Nambucca rivers. Farther upstream, jacks and trevally to almost 50cm are regularly coming off the bigger snags at the uppermost reaches of the brackish zone but you still need plenty of casting to bend a rod in anger.
In recent days I’ve also heard reports of giant herring (tarpon) to almost a metre jumping off lures presented by bass and jack anglers. Giant herring are a fabulous catch-and-release sport fish which respond well to fly poppers and surface fizzers. Look for the air bubbles giant herring leave on the surface when feeding and cast ahead of them. Staying connected to a fish that spends more time in the air than in the water is another story.
Mick Booth and I fished for seven hours recently for four trevally to 45cm, a 35cm bass and a few undersize flathead. After fishing several kilometres of river, it wasn’t until we reached the last saltwater pool at the base of a natural weir that we came across some good schools of big-eye trevally to 3kg that were driving herring and mullet against the reed beds on the shallow side. Getting out and crossing the bar on foot, we cast our lures into a few hundred metres of freshwater pools, getting several good hits on shallow-running crankbaits and small plastics.
A word of warning to those who swim in the brackish reaches of North Coast rivers: There has been a proliferation of river whalers in most waterways. On some trips, losing bream and bass to sharks is not uncommon and some friends counted seven sharks on a recent bass trip through some popular swimming and jumping holes.
On the beaches there has been a good run of school jew from 2kg to 6kg taking beach worms in deep gutter fringes on sunset and a few hours after dark. Best beaches seem to be north of Coffs with Campbells, Sapphire, Corindi and Station Creek producing classic action on jew, tailor and bream after dark on beach worms, mullet and tailor fillets.
On the rocks there have been reports of jew to 10kg taking large plastics, and tailor chasing metals. Mutton Bird Island has produced a few tailor to 3kg and snapper to 4kg. I spun off the front of the island and scored tailor, bonito and a juvenile queenfish.
The run of good-sized drummer has continued with anglers getting busted up and landing pigs to 4kg on cunje. Best spots to find pigs, jew and tailor are Bundagen, Charlesworth, Moonee and Corindi headlands. Sawtell Headland will fish well near the swimming pool on the outgoing tide with school jew, whiting and bream taking beach worms.
If you are planning to catch a jew from the rocks on bait or lure then don’t bother unless there’s a bit of whitewater spilling over the spot where your bait is. Rock and beach jewies hate clear blue water.
Offshore there have been reports of blue marlin on the continental shelf off Wooli and the odd striped marlin closer to Coffs. There have been no reports of mackerel or black marlin inshore but it should be only weeks before an early run of Spaniards and baby blacks move in.
Bottom bouncers have been cleaning up on good snapper to 7kg and samson fish over 30kg, with good kings, teraglin and jewfish mixed in. Some really big kings, jew, cobia and jacks are coming from the washes around Black Rock, near South Solitary lighthouse. Down at Urunga and Nambucca Heads, the mazes of under fished reefs have been consistent for snapper and pearl perch with plenty of bonito, mack tuna and striped tuna feeding on the baitfish around the reef pinnacles.
Over the next month, catching some live slimy mackerel or yellowtail and anchoring over an inshore pinnacle may prove just the trick on the early run of large Spanish mackerel. In the past it’s only been the free divers that have successfully targeted the first wave of mackerel with most anglers preferring to wait until the main body of spotted and Spanish move in during late February and March. If you plan on chasing mackerel then 20kg to 30kg single-strand wire and 10kg tackle will pull up most mackerel. Good reefs to try are off Moonee and Bundagen.
The State and Federal-sanctioned carnage that goes on every night wide of Coffs at the hands of professional fishermen is only equalled by the misery on the war zone called the Pacific Highway. If you are travelling up the coast, make sure you do it in daylight. If you’re towing a boat or driving a heavily-laden vehicle you can expect to be intimidated and overtaken by dozens of B-doubles and other semis. So-called improvements to make the highway safer have encouraged more trucks to use it, making it more dangerous.
School jew are hungry for live worms on local beaches.
Nathan Atkinson with a silver trevally caught in the harbour – a great kids’ venue.
The bass are now biting well upstream and are taking surface lures.Reads: 1951