Jacks hit their straps
  |  First Published: March 2004

IN THE ESTUARIES we are now well and truly at the peak of the season for whiting, jacks, trevally, flathead, tarpon – the list goes on. Water temperatures are at their upper limits.

If the month stays relatively dry the fish will remain spread through the system. If we experience flooding rains they’ll be forced into the lower reaches.

This month is great for mangrove jack. They are in top condition and not easy to catch, possessing lightning speed, an aggressive attitude and an appetite that requires them to eat most days, if not more often. With the warmer air temperature and bright sun the fish tend to stay deep in the daytime, but when the sun goes down they become active, often wandering into the shallows to hunt their prey in packs. Wherever there is substantial structure is a likely prospect. Best times are dusk and dawn and best lures are of a size suitable to provide them with a decent meal and will reach them if they stay deep. Trevally will be found in many locations that jacks inhabit and small poppers are hard to beat for GTs.

Whiting have spent much of the season in the upper reaches, with the area around Dinseys Creek providing anglers with some reasonable fish. Light leaders are necessary and quality bait like bloodworms are hard for whiting to resist, especially in the early morning light or evening when things quieten down. Many of the smaller creeks along the coast provide some absolute elbow-slappers. It requires a bit of a look around but quality fish are the reward.

Targeting bream on the surface has to be one of the most fun ways to spend an afternoon. If you have a small craft, the Brunswick River is well worth a look this month. The main arm of the river from the railway bridge down, and most of the upper reaches of the North Arm, can provide anglers with a great deal of fun on light tackle. Heddon Teeny Torpedoes have always been my favorite but Tim ‘The Bream’ Morgan spent many years during his youth with brother Steve fishing this system. He has designed the Smak Skywalker, very similar to the Torpedo and with a pedigree like that you need look no further. Don’t be afraid to cast lures well into the shrubbery – it doesn’t hurt to occasionally stretch your ability.

Most banks throughout the systems hold flathead. Small, shallow-diving crankbaits or soft plastics make it easy to catch a few fish from a drifting boat or by wading the shoreline. Flathead anglers finally seem to have responded to the ethic of releasing the big females; there seems to have been a slight upturn in their numbers last year and this year. Either that or there has been some other influence on their breeding over the past two seasons. To maintain and improve their numbers, please take only what you need and definitely consider releasing those large females.


The mackerel have definitely made their presence felt and this month should prove better. Generally the currents that push down from the north leave the inshore coastline from the Nine Mile Reef. Once this current makes cape Byron, it then pushes back up the coastline to places like Pottsville, Hastings Point and so on. The mackerel follow and with the amount of bait sitting off the coast they’ll be there in good numbers this season.

The Nine Mile Reef and Fidos Reef will also have their share of spots and Spanish. With them will be cobia sitting on the tops and sides of the reefs, or wherever the food is most easily accessed. Towing live slimy mackerel is the top way to catch these fish but a slowly trolled garfish or bonito on a weighted set of ganged 7/0 hooks is just as deadly. The bonito are around in big numbers this month and are easily caught on small slugs cast on a lightweight outfit.

There’s an abundance of small baitfish on the coast, and frogmouth pilchards are the main bait the bonito are chasing. It’s not hard to find these schools, as the birds are always present and the mackerel are usually not too far behind. Remember the bag limit on these fish. It’s a little disturbing to hear of some anglers who have complained vehemently about the lack of these fine sportfish because of commercial pressure. Suddenly they turn to ‘kill as many as you can before they disappear’ types.

Billfish will be about this month on and around many of the reefs. Short wire traces are not a bad idea this month, with the mackerel around. Visit any of the better tackle stores and you’ll see ranges of high-speed trolling lures with skirts and weighted resin heads. Ask for staff assistance on what’s been catching well and in what colours. I have always preferred lumo greens and bright, natural colours on bright days and the darker colours, especially purple, when overcast. This is a great month to be outside enjoying the best part of the game season. Be careful of the bar crossings and always report your location and estimated time of return while outside. Remember to wear a lifejacket when crossing any bar in NSW – it’s law and it may save your life.

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