Late run of gamefish
  |  First Published: May 2008

South West Rocks is famous for its exciting inshore game fishing and usually most of the action takes place during the Summer months.

Summer sucked and, thank God, we’ve put it well behind us. With the cooler Autumn weather things have finally started to improve with some terrific game fish barely a few hundred metres off Trial Bay Jail.

Just last week I was live-baiting a reliable close reef for cobia and was surprised to see a 35kg black marlin slowly swim by. Naturally, it ignored my bait and swam up and took another fellow’s offering!

This year’s run of billfish has been lousy, to say the least, and I’d nearly forgotten about the species until this one wiggled by only a few metres away.

The lucky angler 500m away who hooked it ended up losing it after it wore through his light leader but, nonetheless, it was a marlin.

While patiently waiting for a cobia, I spotted another long, dark shape cruising on the surface only 20m away. You beauty, I thought, another marlin, I’ll just flick a live yakka on its nose and I’ll be away.

It was a good cast, landing right in front of the cruising fish, but there was something weird looking about the ‘marlin’. It swam up, circled the bait and slowly dived.

The 35kg black marlin I was hoping for turned out to be a 20kg-plus wahoo! Considering I was in 20m of water barely 300m off the stones, it was an exciting sight indeed.

Over past weeks the water has improved radically, going from a peppermint-green 23° to a consistently cobalt 25°. This new push of clean water has swept in cobia, wahoo, yellowfin tuna and the odd black marlin.

The current has been running hard south, forcing these exciting game fish right up to the rocks.

If you were keen on LBG fishing, I’m pretty sure putting in enough time in front of the jail you’d be able to spin up a sizable wahoo. And there are not too many spots in Australia where spinning these deep-water speedsters is a viable possibility.

With the good water came a very belated run of spotted mackerel. Locals and visitors alike have let out a big sigh of relief to finally see these northern speedsters on the inshore reefs.

While they haven’t been super-thick, most days if you head up off Grassy you should bring home a feed of 3kg to 6kg spots.

A few good Spanish mackerel have been reported too, with the reefs off Scoots Head the most reliable. A few solid runs of fish swept past Korogoro Point at Hat Head and those with good timing and suitable tackle enjoyed the short but torrid burst of fish.

So finally the offshore scene has heated up close to it’s usual standard, but with the weather cooling daily, who know how long the game fish will hang around.


Back in the Macleay River, more stable water temps and much clearer water have produced a steady and reliable run of flathead from a kilo to 2kg and many of the big females seem to have moved back up-river.

The tidal flats up towards Stuarts Point have been the most reliable for the tasty school fish.

Bream numbers have been shaky, which is quite normal for this time of year. Basically, many of the fish that were biting during the Summer are now very spread out through the system and the new influx of big silver bream is yet to leave the headlands and beaches to populate the river.

In a month or so we should see some great bream fishing in the lower reaches with the deep rock walls coming alive with quality fish – as long as the interstate beach netters don’t wipe them out.

Apparently there have been a few jewfish caught (certainly not by me!) so it sounds like there’s some hope in chasing them again. I’m praying the upcoming mullet run with fire up a few fish but the way the past four months have been, perhaps nothing is going to change.

Fingers crossed something happens as the Macleay River is just not the same without catching her mighty mulloway.

Bass anglers have been enjoying a late run of sizable bass in the rock pools above Kempsey. The seeming endless freshes that raced down the Macleay drastically reduced our Summer spinning but now we get a chance to target these wonderful little fish.

As the days cool the bass get a little harder to tempt and many fish think about heading down to the brackish water to spawn. In a few months the freshwater reaches will prove very tough indeed, so if you’re keen on bass fishing, head up now or wait until the fish move down below Kempsey.

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