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Northern sojourn


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I’m just back from my annual camping trip to the mid north coast where I had intended fishing the backwaters of Macleay River from South West Rocks up to above Stuarts (stupids to some!) Point for those who know the area. It is great estuary that is a maze of channels, sand flats, inlets, bays and mangroves. This year the Macleay was running brown for most of the two weeks, as was the Nambucca just to the north. The beaches were a wipeout with dirty brown water and large seas for most of the time. :1badmood:

Over the years (twenty plus) the family and I have experienced some great fishing. Lizards of 60 cm plus were common and we released several big crocs over 80 cm. These were mostly caught drifting live poddy mullet or herrings. We also caught some ripper whiting on nippers and beach worms. These days I don’t drift live baits (I can’t row my current boat to stay in the channels or along the drop offs and weed beds, not to mention an addiction to softies) but throw soft plastics in many of the same areas, together with some places that are not suited to drifting.

I have noticed a dramatic decline in both the size and number of fish that I catch over recent years. These days a couple of wriggler flathead is about all you can expect from a session and the whiting are less prevalent and smaller too. I reckon I cover more good water than I used to and I know that plastics are deadly on lizards. This year four sessions resulted in only 6 lizards around 40 cm each, and a few hits that we didn’t get to see. I also managed two jewies of about 35 cm and a small estuary cod (a first for me), all of which were dutifully released. I didn’t bother bait fishing in the murk. The Macleay is still open to estuary netting, as is the Nambucca River. :thumbdown: It seems that the pros have all but cleaned the place out. When will our fisheries managers finally realise that we recreational fishers will contribute far more to the economies of the coastal communities than the handful of pros who continue to rape and pillage the waterways? One the way home yesterday I commented to my wife that I used to go away on holidays to catch fish – now I come home to catch them.

The one bright spot is the crabs. Several years back I decided to have a crack at the muddies, having observed the pros disappearing into the mangroves at high tide to check their traps. After trying a few areas with very little result I met a friendly couple at the boat ramp who advised me where to try as their son had caught some there in earlier years. They didn’t bother with them as they didn’t like to eat them. It turned out to be a crab honey hole and I caught 20 in ten days, some of them truly huge. :thumbup: The results have varied a little over subsequent years but this year was a beauty. By the time I left yesterday a friend who I have made up there and I had accounted for 34, including this humungous 2 kg model. We also put plenty of undersized and just legal ones back. All these in our legally allowable one trap per licence. I even managed to bring a couple home - crab linguine for dinner tonight!

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I’ll be back next year but my estuary fishing expectations won’t be high. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. My mate has an onsite van and his family have fished the adjacent beach for 50 years. His father was a fishing addict. I’ve tried to get him onto some lizards on plastics with limited success, although he did hook a large turtle last week that gave him the fight of his life and towed us around for a while! Over a couple of amber ales on our last night he mentioned something about getting into the beach fishing next year. He has a 4 wheel drive that he uses on the beach so we can check out the best holes and move from one to the next. And you know what – I reckon whiting fillets and crabs will make perfect accompaniments!! :biggrin2:

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Congrats mate. You managed to salvage a poor fishing trip with a great feed of muddies. :thumbup:

What a shame you have witnessed such a decline in numbers and quality :(

It sounds like a new opportunity has arisen with the beach option though! Hope to catch up with you again this year,



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