Spotties, jacks – does it get better?
  |  First Published: February 2005

Those chasing mackerel experienced some real quality fishing over the holidays and should continue to do so this month.

This is a dramatic change form the past few years when bag-limit catches where rare. Shark Bay, north of Woody Head, has seen most of the action with quality spotted mackerel up to 5kg. With water hovering around 25° and big schools of baitfish, this should be a good year for chasing mackerel.

Bag-limit catches (five per person) have been quite common, with some fishos returning to the cleaning tables after only one or two hours of fishing. Those who have continued to fish have found some quality snapper on the bite right under the mackerel – the only problem is getting a bait down deep enough to reach the snapper.

Live or fresh pieces of slimy mackerel are the gun bait for these snapper so if you have a good morning on the mackerel, have a fish down deep and you might get an exciting surprise.

It’s that time of year for the surface action to really heat up with the usual species like bream, trevally and tailor all likely targets.

But for those who want a little more excitement, try mangrove jacks, giant herring, night jew and longtail tuna on surface lures. Jacks have been taking a wide selection of lures with Maclean, Oyster Channel, the Esk River and Sandon River all producing. Some fish to 3kg have proven a handful for those fishing too light.

Flies are also producing good results with Chris Rigg, of Yamba, landing mangrove jacks and school jew on fly.

Those fishing the flats have been regularly tangling with giant herring. Chrome spinners and surface poppers worked with an erratic jigging action have worked best but when these fish are hungry you can throw just about anything at them.

Large sandflats (at least as big as a football field) adjacent to deep water are most likely spots to find giant herring. Feeding time is usually the start of the run-out tide when the bait is forced off the flats. Once the tide drops the fish usually move to deeper water and the bite slows down.


The longtail tuna have showed up and the Iluka breakwall is one of the best spots to sight-cast for them. The wall has more than 400m of good fishing so there is plenty of room. The biggest advantage the wall has for sight-casting is the ability to position yourself in the middle of the wall to allow you to see fish approaching from both directions.

The wall’s height enables you to see fish approaching from about 100m away, giving you time to put in an accurate cast. Any poppers over 50g in a fluoro colour or green work fine. Metal spinners, especially if they have light green on them, also are good. Make sure you have line capacity of at least 400-500m because some fish can make a first run of 300m.

Blue swimmer crabs have been going well with bags of 10 to 15 per session and they have been full and juicy. For success set witch’s-hat traps in 3m of water and follow the crabs’ movement on the tides daily. The best time is a big run-in tide in the morning when the clean water pushes up the river.


1) Chris Rigg, of Yamba, has been terrorising the Clarence mangrove jacks on fly.

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