Warm weather and warm water have arrived and pelagics with them. January’s not just for the offshore fishos, but also the land-based anglers who catch some amazing fish off break walls at the mouth of the mighty Clarence.
Each year, there are big longtail tuna and Spanish mackerel dragged up the stones for those who put the time in. Catching good livies and looking after them is the key. Floated out on heavy gear, a lot of fish are seen before the hit, hunting the bait down. A good gaff and a good mate who can use it are essential.
Offshore is always busy with visitors to this beautiful area, all putting to sea. On the upside, January has a lot of fish around. This year looks like a big one for our spotted mackerel. Trolling 6” pink squid far back behind the boat at around 9-10 knots from first light to about 9am is a good way to put a few of these tasty fish in the box. In the south, anywhere from Angourie Point to Shelly Headland in 15-30m of water is preferred.
To the north, the front of Woody Head and along the reef break heading north and in the bay itself are the hotspots. None of these spots will be hard to find – if the fish are on, there will be plenty of boats to show you the way. Later in the morning, drifting for reef fish with a couple of float baits on very light wires will produce fish on and off all day.
Take plenty of ice with you when heading offshore, as the early part of the day will produce good surface fish. Quite often the reef fish will turn on late morning and have a couple of hours of hot bite around lunch time after the pelagics are finished. I like to head a bit deeper late morning to the edge of the close reef in around 45-50m, where there are good venus tuskfish and pearl perch as well as good numbers of blue-spotted flathead to fill the box.
Further offshore, the mahimahi will be everywhere there is something that floats or a dirty current line. Trolling is an easy way to get a few and sight casting lures to them is fantastic. Super fast, very acrobatic, and delicious to eat, it’s hard to find a bad thing to say about these fish.
In the estuary, the whiting this year have been as good as I can remember. Many fish push past 40cm in length and anglers in the know get their bag limit in a few hours. Whiting will be spread right through the river system from the Broadwater up past Maclean, in the Lake at Wooloweyah, to the mouth of the river.
For bait fishers, worms and yabbies are the go. If you like a bit more excitement, chase them on poppers over the shallow sand banks. A white or clear popper is the most popular, but if the prawns in the river are dark, try and match that with you lure. Removing the treble from the rear of the lure and replacing it with a couple of XXS assist hooks will lift your hook-up rate greatly.
Be sure to put out some crab dillies on your way as the blue swimmers have been around in big numbers. You’re allowed four dillies and two traps per person in NSW, but remember to have the float clearly marked as per Fisheries requirements. Mud crabs have also been caught in good numbers as well as good size. You can take female crabs providing they don’t have eggs. Remember, the uglier a crab looks, the better it eats.
Shiny bright coloured shells are usually freshly moulted crabs. When a crab moults, its new shell is about 30% larger than its old one, so consequently there’s less meat. If the shell is rusty coloured with barnacles on it, there’s a better chance that the crab will be bursting with meat. Keep a close eye on your traps, as there are a lot of share farmers out there who for some unknown reason think it’s ok to harvest from other people’s traps.
Flathead haven’t slowed with nice fish being taken around the Broadwater, Harwood Sugar Mill and Joss Island at the entrance to Lake Wooloweyah. Troll hardbodies on first or last light with a pink or muddy coloured lure in about 1.5-2m of water to produce fish will little effort. Working soft plastics and small hardbodies off the shallows into the channel as the tide starts to ebb will allow you to cover a lot of ground and find the fish.
I have a theory that when you catch one good flathead, one comes to his funeral. Don’t take a fish and then move on. Keep peppering the same spot, as another fish will come to where the fish was just caught. Quite often, 3-4 fish can be taken in the one spot in a matter of 15 minutes.
Summer holidays in our part of the world are really busy. There will be a lot of people out on the water both in the river and at sea. Believe it or not, some won’t even be fishing! How weird. A little bit of patience and a bit of etiquette goes a long way when fishing in close quarters. A big dose of common sense should keep you alive. Remember, the water is there for everyone to use and enjoy and we would like to see you leave here as happy and healthy as you arrived.
Call into my shop, Marina Boat & Tackle, right in the marina when you arrive. We’ll be more than happy to give you the good oil on what’s happing and where.Reads: 230