Here’s hoping for mackerel
  |  First Published: December 2009

Fishing in January on the Clarence Coast is all about the offshore scene. Conversations this month will inevitably revolve around southerly changes, water temperature and ocean currents.

Mackerel, spotted and Spanish, will be basis for 90% of the fish talk that will go on in my shop as the punters gear up for the annual run. Last year the season was cut short by devastating floods that hit the Northern Rivers and Coffs Coast hard.

With the Weather Bureau predicting a drier than normal Summer locally, we can only hope they are on the money! The other factor that has this region in the hands of the fishing gods is the ocean current.

The Solitary Islands group was formed by millions of years of the northern and southern currents colliding. This can be a mixed blessing; it can congregate all manner of northern and southern species together, it can also produce the most unstable fishing conditions.

In December 2008 and January 2009, we saw a massive clockwise eddy form from Byron Bay to Coffs Harbour. This eddy sent all the warm water, streaming down the coast from the Tweed area, far to sea. It was out of the reach of the average trailer boat, leaving us very envious of our northern cousins.

At the time of writing there was a large counterclockwise eddy sitting off our region, pushing early warm water onshore. This is auguring well for a good early show of inshore speedsters.

With news filtering through about North Queensland anglers having the best mackerel season in years, we can only hope this continues in the south.

Amberjack, samson fish and kings are being jigged or caught on soft plastics on the close inshore reefs right now, with impressive fish being landed.

Fingers crossed the small black marlin run will eventuate this season. Last year saw barely a handful boated in our region as the cold water held them out wide.


The Clarence River is fishing the best I have seen in many years.

We are enjoying a quite unseasonable run of good-sized bream, no doubt brought about by the number of prawns moving up and down the river.

Normally after a fresh we see the fish arc up on a run-out tide as the prawns run. This time, the fish are gorging themselves on the run in and the run out!

If you ever wanted to catch a mulloway on a lure, there would be no better time than now.

The Browns Rocks area is teeming with hundreds of little soapies. Anglers are reporting 30 or more little mulloway a session. Throw in the chance of hooking a proper model of around 5kg to 15kg and you have recipe for a fun day on the water.

Without doubt, vibration blades (especially our Shake ’n’ Bakes) are accounting for the vast majority of the bream and mulloway. Not many lures can match it with vibes in discoloured water.

A fish’s eyes aren’t much good for hunting at the moment, so it relies pretty much on the lateral lines to locate a feed.


The big lady flathead are already in full swing. The training walls around Yamba are producing plenty of crocs, as are all the rocky points upstream.

It seems each season the number of big ladies is increasing as thinking anglers take only pictures and leave the fillets in place. Let's face it, a 70cm-plus lizard cooks up as tender as a rubber thong!

NSW Fisheries would do well to bring the legal upper length back to 75cm, in line with the Queensland regulation.

Mud crabs are well and truly on the move. Crabbers from Brushgrove down to Maclean and Palmers Island have reported very good early results.

With muddies often fetching around $50 a kilo over Christmas, the commercial crabbers are understandably very edgy and guarded of their traps.

The ‘share farming’ season is in full swing and the pros are quick to point the finger at rec anglers fishing and crabbing in the area. Truth be known, though, it is only human nature: With this sort of coin on the line, their colleagues are also likely to be guilty parties.

This time last year I wrote of my concern for the welfare of the blue swimmer crab population. We have not had a run of any numbers for some years now, but the dedicated crabbers, prepared to set and lift their dillies at night, will be rewarded with a feed.

The cicadas are in full cry this month and the local bass population will be well and truly looking up. There’s never been a better time to wash the dust of those walkers, poppers and fizzers and get a few. If catching bass on surface lures doesn't get your motor running, check for a pulse!

For all the latest info call in and see us at Big River Bait & Tackle, 16 River Street, Maclean, phone 02 6645 1834. Country service, with city prices.

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