Let the big lizards go
  |  First Published: November 2009

This is when the big female flathead move down the river and congregate at the corner of the river and sea walls near the fish-cleaning tables.

It is every aspiring angler’s dream to catch a flathead of 5kg or 6kg and when the big females come down the river and settle near the cleaning tables, it is quite possible to catch a couple in one outing.

Quite a lot of anglers are putting these big fish back into the river after a photograph or two but there are some who never learn.

They do not seem to understand that these big mothers produce up to two million eggs each season. This means many smaller flathead to catch in years to come.

The increase in the numbers of smaller flathead has been unbelievable since the Manning was closed to netting below Ghinni Ghinni Creek some years ago.

Prior to the closure of the Manning to netting, every set net on the river would contain at least two flathead of 3kg-plus.

There were not many really big fish in the system years ago.

I lived on Jones Island when I was a kid and a 3kg or 4kg fish was really big.

The professionals used to haul and set nets near where I lived and I saw only one monster flathead netted. It would have been 6kg.

So the fact that up to 100 of these big female fish are caught every Christmas holidays points to the fact that lots of the big fish are not being netted and are growing larger year by year.

And, thankfully, quite a few of those big fish caught are being put back into the system to breed more little flathead.

There are a few greedy people who are not satisfied with one or two big fish. They arrive in the morning and, using live bait, catch a couple of fish for each person in their party and then depart.

In the afternoon they are back again and take another couple of fish. I don’t call these people anglers.


The Manning is producing great catches of luderick and bream for those prepared to spend the time at night to land a bag of fish.

The luderick can be caught on live yabbies fished on unweighted hooks, especially around the inside of the river wall above the gantry.

The bream are taking live yabbies and mullet strips fished from the sea wall.

Flathead and whiting have also been caught on yabby baits.

School jewfish have turned up in the river again with fish to 12kg taken on soft plastics.


Catches have been poor with only salmon showing up in big numbers. There are some big fish in the salmon schools with some going close to 5kg.

A few bream have been taken on the southern end of Crowdy Beach on beach worms but nothing much else seems to be biting at the time of writing.

Tailor are not showing up anywhere in the area and we may not see any until it’s time for the Christmas choppers.

Some blue groper to 6kg have been caught on crab baits from the rocks but drummer have been scarce.


Flathead and snapper have been the main catches for the past few weeks.

Most boats on the drift have been getting bag limits of flathead while those fishing the rocky bottoms and bommies have been catching snapper in from 1kg to 2kg, with occasional fish to 4kg.

December is the time to chase flathead in the river. Bobby-corking or fishing soft plastics will ensure a feed of the school fish while the bigger female fish should be released to continue breeding.

On the beaches, chopper tailor should become plentiful with the chance of a decent jew on a slab bait or a live bait.


One morning in mid-October, at least 200 dead salmon were washed up on Crowdy Beach, scattered along the high tide mark from just past the surf club to the big sandhill near Diamond Head.

Apparently the professionals had a gear failure when hauling salmon for trap bait. There were lots more sick fish in the shallows near the beach and even some in the boat harbour at Crowdy.

Fisheries were informed and spoke to a couple of the crew, who claimed a gear failure. Fisheries told the netters they were not happy about them leaving fish rotting on the sand and that was the end of the matter.

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