A lure angler’s guide to the Tweed River
SECTION: Northern NSW
WITHIN the coastal plains and mountain ranges of the east coast of Australia there are many large estuarine and river systems. Many of these are within the borders of NSW, with the Clarence, Richmond, and the Hawkesbury being some of the most notable.
Further north into the Sunshine State, the Burdekin and Herbert rivers are a couple that spring to mind. There’s always the Brisbane River, but it leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to being seriously fishable water.
There is one more notable river though – the Tweed, right on the border of Queensland and NSW. It’s not as big as the other rivers I’ve mentioned, but in the region it’s one of the largest and is completely fishable from its mouth to its uppermost limits. There are few better systems to fish if you want to hone your bream luring skills.
The river itself contains most of the habitats that bream like. You can fish river mouths, rock bars, weed beds and tranquil brackish backwaters, and they all hold good concentrations of fish at varying times of the year. These locations also require the use of varying techniques to fish them optimally.
One of the good things about catching bream in a variety of locations and seasons is that it allows you to increase your understanding of the behaviour and movement of the species. This knowledge is vital if you want to increase your catches and have fewer days when you go home fishless.
When it comes to consistent catches, I’ve found this form of habitat to be the number one option on the river. The best place to begin is the stretch running from Barneys Point down to the river mouth. It’s known as the Fingal Reach of the river, and holds some of the best fish in the system. It also has the advantage of being fairly well sheltered in most conditions. You’ll also find the same type of structure at Chinderah, but it can be a bit more difficult to fish due to the Tackle File
A modern bream angler’s arsenal of tackle is quite expansive these days, and on the Tweed you’ll have the ability to give most of it a good work out. My current rod of use is 6’6” in length and in the 2-4kg range, and with two of these rigged on the deck it allows convenience in matching the outfit to the location and the technique being used.
Soon to join these will be a couple of its larger 7’ brothers, that’ll see me covered for just about all technique and lure options. It’ll also mean I want have to change lures on the one rod so often.
By all means this approach isn’t mandatory, but it certainly makes the job a lot easier.
Line wise 4lb Fireline is pretty much the benchmark and you’d be hard pressed to find anything better. When it comes leader material well the choice is a little less clear cut. There’s a lot a good options, but the most important consideration is to match the leader size to the conditions and the location your fishing.
Now when I’m choosing the lures to put into the tackle bag I usually take a good assortment of small hard bodies minnows and soft plastics. Hard bodies wise I usually go scrambling through the stowaway looking for one of three, either a Predatek MicroMin, one of the new Halco Sneaky Scorpion, or the old faithful Rebel Crawdad.
If fishing structure and walking these guys over timber I usually remove the middle treble, it certainly goes along way to minimising the number of times you snag up.
There’s a lot of soft plastics to choose from these days, but for me I can’t go past Ecogear, with a heavy preference for the small Grass Minnow. It’s a fantastic little plastic that is just perfect for drifting along rock walls and floating in under pontoons and jetties.
On thing though I never leave home without is few small surface lures. Working one of these across a dark little rock bar can be a highly entertaining and rewarding way to finish the day.tougher terrain and heavy debris that makes up the wall.
Moving up into the Terranora arm of the river, you’ll find substantial rock walls around the Boyds Bay Bridge area. This location can be very popular with bait fishing anglers, particularly during Winter. The Dry Dock area near the Tweed Bypass Bridge also has a smattering of structure, and upriver from here into the Cobaki Reach there’s a highly productive rock wall near the bridge that runs across the river. This location fishes well for jacks during Summer, and is a great place to chase bream all year round.
When it comes to techniques to fish these locations, there’s possibly nothing better than a jighead-rigged soft plastic. These are highly effective lures, whether drifted along the shear face of the wall or gently hopped down the sloping face, and they’re equally at home when worked across the rock bars throughout the river.
The most prominent bar is at Barneys Point, which is a fairly expansive area with steep bommies and large pinnacles of rock rising out of the deep. The area is also prone to deep swirling eddies, and the regular appearance of larger species such as trevally. While these swirling waters can be difficult to fish at times, there’s a substantial amount of structure out of the direct current that’s equally as productive.
You’ll find many other rock bars scattered throughout the river. Between Barneys Point and Murwillumbah there are many to be found, with one of the most visible being at Tumbulgum where the Rous River joins the main arm of the Tweed.
While the Tweed may not have as many pontoons as the Nerang and its tributaries, it still has plenty of moored boats and floating platforms that are perfect for presenting artificials. The Tweed boat harbour, known as ‘The Anchorage’, is the pick of the places for a breaming session. The harbour is also home to a substantial trawler fleet, and flipping and pitching soft plastics and small hard-bodied lures into the gaps and shaded pockets is one of the best ways to seek out one of these well-fed bream.
‘The Anchorage’ is, in fact, the name for the plush residential area adjacent to the harbour, home to many pleasure craft and pontoons. These floating FADs are often heavily coated in algae and vegetation, and when conditions allow you can spot fish chewing their way through the growth. Sometimes you can also hear the sip of feeding fish. Sight casting to these bream is one of the highlights of fishing the area, and comes second only to extracting one of the big fish from underneath its well-shaded and well-stocked veranda.
Not far from the Anchorage is the Boyd’s Bay Bridge. The stretch between the bridge and the quarantine inspection station, just to the south, also has a considerable number of moored and anchored vessels. It’s often surrounded by considerable water traffic, however, and is best fished during times of minimal disturbance, such as at dusk and dawn.
This kind of structure dominates the river. For anglers who prefer the more traditional form of bream spinning – casting small minnows at timber and natural structure – the stretch between Chinderah to Murwillumbah is the best place to fish, along with the branches and small feeder creeks found along the way.
Unfortunately, the Tweed River is incredibly popular with water skiers, particularly on weekends and during holidays. To avoid the skiers you can hit the water early, which is a good idea during Summer, or scoot up into one of the quieter backwaters. The Rous is one of the better options and, along with the other small creeks, is a perfect place to swim small crankbaits and surface lures. Topwater lures are a great option during the warmer months, when casts made under the shaded overhangs can bring aggressive and repeated strikes. As well as little bream, you can also expect big, dark, blue-nosed specimens that have been whiling away the years in the slower, more brackish waters of the system.
The Terranora and Cobaki arms of the river also have their fair share of this structure, though in most cases they’re best fished on the top of the tide and the first of the run-out. The relative shallowness of these areas restrict the fish from accessing the structure except on the high tide, so you can pretty much guarantee that the fish are going to get up in amongst the vegetation and timber looking for food. Casting small minnows into the shaded alleys and tight up against the mangrove clumps can often be too much for the fish to resist.
There aren’t as many oyster leases in the Tweed system as there used to be, but they’re still there. The Terranora Broadwater is the place to go if you want to chase bream in amongst the racks and trays. The number of working racks has dropped but the bream are still there, mooching in around the posts and holding in under the rails of the vacant racks. While the Tweed may not have as many bream around the oyster leases as the more southern rivers do, you should find enough obliging bream to keep you occupied and, if all goes well, productively entertained.
The time to really hit the area is when the oysters are being harvested. During this period the processing plant on the northern side of the lake is surrounded by impatient bream, eagerly waiting for falling morsels shucked off the oysters and trays. But even though this is the prime period, don’t rule out having a cast at this location at other times. A big bream would have to look hard to find somewhere better to live than here.
Weed beds can, at times, be incredibly productive areas to work, and in a form that’s quite different from what bream anglers usually experience. The Tweed has some of the best weed bed fishing that I’ve experienced, with most of the weed found in the Terranora and Cobaki broadwaters. Smaller weed beds can also be found near the Tweed Bypass Bridge, and in the main arm of the river near the Tweed Heads Coolangatta Golf Course, located on the opposite side of the river to the Fingal reach. This weeded area and the small broadwater opposite the Chinderah rock wall are great places to target, especially on a still, hot evening.
During glassy low light periods it’s not uncommon to encounter quite large bream mooching their way through the weeds and sandy gaps, actively hunting. Slowly bow waving shallow diving crankbaits and working topwater lures are fantastic ways to get connected to fish, and they’re highly audible and visual to boot. The Tweed has many places where you can try this and, while it might not always be suitable, don’t rule it out as an option. Keep it in the back of your mind and, when the conditions are just right, give it a run. You might just be surprised!
In the Tweed, the bycatch is made up of flathead, moses perch, happy moments, trevally and mangrove jack, just to name a few. And, if you venture into the upper reaches during Winter, you’ll often come across a bass. If you hook up to one of those big breeding females, you’ll definitely have to work hard for your money – especially if you’re fishing light line and close to structure.
Nearer to the salt, the new sand pumping facility seems to have resulted in a lot more offshore species entering the system. Big GTs, cobia and some yellowtail kingfish are some of the more recent visitors to the estuary so, if you’re fishing close to the mouth, expect the unexpected.Reads: 798