Usually we start to see some good kingfish and snapper offshore and some solid mulloway and bream in the river this month but it’s just been a slow trickle of action out to sea and in the river.
While the fishing hasn’t been red-hot there are still fish around if you’re prepared to put in the effort.
Those braving the pre-dawn temps have scored some good reds on the northern reefs. Don’t expect large numbers of fish, just one or two solid reds if you’re using lures, and probably double that – although smaller fish – if using bait.
Some of snapper caught have been rippers, though, with a reasonable number between 5kg and to 7kg. With reports of some serious bust-ups there, some bigger fish may be on the cards.
Whether you like them on not, it seems the annual leatherjacket invasion has hit the inshore reefs, with those just off Trial Bay Jail well and truly inundated.
Blessing or curse, I’m not too sure. They taste good and are quite easy to catch, and it doesn’t take long to get a decent haul. They’re also easy to clean and freeze well.
But if you’re after any other species you can expect plenty of bite-offs resulting in heavy losses of terminal tackle.
Hopefully they’ll thin out before the spanner crabs start to show (usually early Spring) because ravenous jackets can strip a carefully baited crab net to little more than a frame in no time.
Kingfish are usually pretty reliable Winter targets with Fish Rock often holding good numbers. This season, however, “The Rock’ just hasn’t fired up.
Sure, there have been days you’ll pull a few decent fish but we’re yet to see a day where half a dozen 6kg to 10kg fish chase your live bait or surface lure back to the boat.
To be fair, Spring is usually better than Winter so fingers crossed the kings hit with a vengeance in the next month or so.
For a change of scenery I headed up to Wooli last month and had a quick fish with editor Tony Zann. It had been a while since we’d caught up (Yamba last Winter, in fact) and I’d promised him we’d pin good numbers of snapper flicking lures on the inshore reefs.
I should have known better, but we persisted in a pretty lousy pre-dawn southerly and managed only two snapper and two pearl perch. The reds were a nice size, though –Tony managed one of 3kg or so and I got a chunky 2kg fish one day and a 4.2kg the next.
The pearlies weren’t monsters, though good eating size and definitely destined for the table. Tony was near salivating as he knocked the fillets off.
Hopefully next trip back I’ll strike some bigger fish and more angler friendly weather.
Back at SWR there are pretty good numbers of tailor on the headlands. Pick a day when the swell is down and head out at dawn or dusk and spin up a few fish.
Metal spoon and slices from 30g to 40g have been the star performers, even outfishing the bait crew.
Most of the tailor have been around a kilo with a few bigger fish weighed in.
The Macleay River has really come to life with blackfish.
Most walls in the lower reaches are alive with fish and anglers chasing them.
On the north side of the river there’s a steady line-up of boats anchored close to the stones and drifting carefully weighted floats with the tide.
So if you like your blackfish, now’s definitely the time to head out and chase them.
Bream and mulloway have been a bit shaky with very few fish caught in the lower reaches.
In fact there’s been little to smile about either species for the past four months. Last month I ran into a few nice bream up towards Smithtown, so perhaps they’re now even further up-river.
Next spot I’ll be trying is Frederickton. At worst there should be a few bass up that way.
As for the jewfish, I’m at a bit of a loss. They have been quiet for a long time, with only the odd fish caught here and there. I’m hoping this is just a bad seasonal cycle and things will return to normal shortly.
The Macleay was renowned for it’s terrific jewfish action but for over a year now it’s been dribs and drabs at best.
Those keen on catching and releasing bass have been enjoying one of the best runs of fish for years.
A sizable fresh just prior to Winter brought a lot of fish down into the brackish zones above Smithtown.
There were a lot of smaller bass (presumably males) and a few more solid specimens grouped together and holding up in good numbers along the deep rock walls, outer bends and bridges.
Most people remembered the closed season and returned every fish.
At least now the season is open again so people can properly target them rather than just running into a few.Reads: 1160