Good water but no baitfish
  |  First Published: April 2008

Finally we have some good blue water after a few weeks when the current was running north and the water 21° and peppermint green. Thankfully now it’s blue and running south with a vengeance.

Still, not a great deal has been happening. We have terrific, long-awaited water but there seems very little in it.

Don’t get me wrong, the fishing isn’t hopeless, it’s just many of the expected seasonal fish have not put in an appearance.

Locals and holidaymakers were looking forward to the inshore billfish run but they really didn’t show. My guess is the endless rain and subsequent floods up and down the coast have kept inshore run of slimy mackerel out a lot further than usual – no slimies, no inshore billfish, simple as that.

I have heard of a few bigger blue marlin caught out wider with one lucky holidaymaker hooking two in the one day and landing the smaller fish of 240kg and dropping the bigger bruiser shortly after it grabbed the lure. At close to 280kg it goes to show there are some serious fish out towards the canyons so don’t muck around with anything under 24kg gear.

The noticeable lack of inshore bait is a real worry. By now we should have good numbers of spotted mackerel on the northern reefs but there’s only been a handful of fish caught all season.

While it’s not too late for the mackerel to show, we are getting toward the tail end of the run. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

A few weeks back there were pretty good numbers of cobia around the 11-fathom reef and down near Green Island but the run has slowed considerably with just the odd fish being caught.

Cobia are hit-and-miss here at the best of times and this season they’re playing even stranger games.

While you’re not likely to find cobia every outing, I’d still put in an hour or so during a normal day on the water. You just never know with these fish, the reefs could be crawling with them the day you give them a miss.

While usually more prevalent during Winter and Spring, kingfish are around in reasonable numbers at Fish Rock and Black Rock. Stories of locals being busted up on 24kg gear suggest there are a few bigger fish around so it’s well worth dropping down sizable live baits to see what’s around.

If the kings play hard ball, there have been pretty good numbers of small yellowfin tuna at Fish Rock.

Trolling bibbed minnows like the 190mm Halco Laser Pro is a good way to tempt these handsome little fish. Most are 4kg to 8kg though bigger fish – and wahoo – can turn up at any time.

This time of year it pays to rig all your lures with heavy wire. I’ve rigged mine with 130lb multi-strand wire. Yellowfin tuna certainly don’t seem to mind and you’ll have a good chance of landing a sizable wahoo.

While there have been virtually no spotties on the northern reefs there have been some quality snapper. Early sessions have produced fish to 5kg in depths below 30m.

The fish have been biting hard around sunrise and slowing to a crawl when the day brightens so go early and fish hard and fast.


The rain seems to have finally gone and the rivers are starting to clear nicely. Months of rain had virtually every river from Taree to Cooktown running chocolate brown but finally they are getting a chance to return to some normality.

The Macleay River is starting to fish well again. Just today I put in a few hours chasing flathead and scored three fish to 6kg in the deeper water.

A move up onto the tidal flats and a change to surface poppers saw mobs of enthusiastic bream belt the little surface plugs.

After months of dead, brown water it’s great to see nice clear stuff pushing into the river again. While the upper to middle sections will be dirty for some time yet, the lower reaches (say the first 4km) are returning to normal and fishing quite well.

Bass anglers are relieved the upper reaches have dropped enough to fish effectively.

The Macleay peaked up in the bass country at 5.6m and only in the last week or so has it returned to safe canoeing levels.

If the fish were fit before the flood, they’re super fit now! Next session up-river you may need to take my jewfish tackle to extract them from the snags. They’ll be fit, cranky and very keen to hit a lure.

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