Time for the longtails
  |  First Published: January 2010

As our country cousins rejoice in the best rain in a decade or more, we anglers on the coast are praying that this February will be dry.

After two consecutive Summers of flooding rains – just as the warm offshore water kicked in – surely this year we can catch a break.

February on the Clarence Coast is always met with much anticipation by local anglers; this is when the longtail tuna turn up en masse.

I will field countless phone calls this month from the land-based game brigade, all asking the same thing: “Are they there yet?”

When the North Wall at Iluka turns it on, normally after a good southerly blow, it can be as good a place as any hot spot on the east coast to bag a longtail tuna.

Spotted mackerel will be around in their greatest numbers this month.

The inshore reefs around Woody Head and the area south of Yamba called Freeburn Rock will receive the most attention and hopefully some of their larger cousins, Spanish mackerel, will also make a show.

The warm water should come in close in February and bring some small black marlin in range for the average trailer boat fisho. If the bait is present on the Nor East Corner, it is as good a place as any to start.

I am certainly aiming to be slow trolling some live, fat, juicy slimy mackerel around there myself this month.


I have made mention before in this column of my belief that big female flathead numbers seem to be on the increase as thinking anglers will brag (almost bass like) on how they return all their big fish to the water.

A local mate, Mark Mulligan, grew up in Yamba when it was mostly Melaleuca scrub. Mark's father owned large parcels land there and ran the Calypso Caravan Park for many years.

Mark spent much of his youth living within a kilometre or so of the Middle Wall, a well-known big flathead hot spot.

When I met him a few days after one of his regular scuba dives on the Middle Wall, something he’s been doing for the past couple of decades, Mark was still agog at the prolific numbers of really big flathead.

Mark said on each ‘normal’ dive it was nothing to see six or so 80cm-plus crocs lounging about on the rock shelves. But this time, he said, it was more like 50, with the odd one nudging that magical metre mark!

With nothing but Green-driven gloom and doom, it’s not often today we get to hear stories of a species on the increase but it seems in places that flathead could be one such species.

After two good seasons on the prawns, the commercial river trawlers seem to be heading for a dud one this year.

The season kicked off in early December and after a couple of digs it was apparent the prawns were far too small. The fisherman met and decided to voluntarily close the river for a week.

The following week saw no real change and the decision was made to close the river to trawling until January 4. Kudos to all involved; there was a time when they would carry on regardless and riddle many tubs of prawns to get one saleable tub.

It is this sort of forward thinking that will help to maintain the industry when we are all put further under microscope, especially when you consider that this all took place in the lead-up to Christmas when prices would be very attractive.

For recreational anglers, the suspension of trawling has been a boon, I have never seem bream around in quality and numbers at this time of the year since I have lived here.


The bream and whiting can be seen chasing the small prawns around in the shallows and those who love to chase these fish on surface lures have been in their element.

February is also the best month to chase a feed of whiting on the beach.

Any gutters around Brooms Head and Back Beach that run parallel to the beach are good places to start on a making tide.

Cicadas are at full noise this month and with water nudging 30°, the bass will be geared up to smash all surface lures on offer. I will be strapping my trusty old Coleman canoe to my 4WD, throwing in a can of Aeroguard and heading for a favourite creek.

This is also a great time to have a look at some of the impoundments in the area. Clarrie Hall and Toonumbar dams will be hitting their straps about now.

The window of opportunity to catch bass on the surface in dams is small, but now is that time.

For all the latest info call in and see us at Big River Bait & Tackle, 16 River St, Maclean or phone us on 0266451834. Country service with city prices.

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