Coffs Harbour Fishing Guide

A detailed guide into getting the most out of your Coffs Harbour fishing getaway.

Nov20

Coffs Harbour Fishing Guide

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Coffs Harbour fishing offers visiting anglers a huge variety of species and fishing styles. The beaches, break walls and headlands in the area are well known hotspots, with a wide range of species available. Mulloway, tailor, kingfish and other pelagic species, bream, flathead, plus snapper and other reef fish can all be caught from the rock ledges, with many of these species also targeted by surf anglers on the long stretches of spectacular beaches in the area.

Beyond the beaches and headlands, there are opportunities for estuary fishing in Coffs Creek, Boambee Creek, Bonville Creek and just to the south of the Bellinger River. These small systems hold bream, whiting, flathead and the occasional mulloway. There’s even a population of mangrove jack in these systems that can be targeted.

This section of the New South Wales coast also offers some of the best offshore fishing in the country. Game species such as marlin, wahoo, mahi mahi, large mackerel and tuna are regular catches for those working the surface by trolling lures, while the deep reefs hold excellent populations of large snapper and other reef fish, including pearl perch and tusk fish, along with deep pelagic species like kingfish and amberjack.

Beach fishing in Coffs Harbour
The beaches around Coffs Harbour offer excellent fishing options.

For freshwater anglers, a short drive to the south-west of Coffs is the Bellinger River, which has a good population of bass in its freshwater reaches. There’s also some excellent saltwater estuary fishing in the lower reaches around Urunga and again for estuary species such as bream, mulloway, whiting and flathead.

Rock and Beach Fishing

With miles of pristine beaches, there are endless opportunities for beach fishing around Coffs Harbour. It’s easy to find a quiet spot away from the crowds and the right features for the species being targeted.

The ideal location to look for is a deeper section of water close to shore (a ‘gutter’) with breaking waves on a sandbank behind. This provides predatory fish with a place to hunt smaller baitfish that try to hide out and escape the turbulence of the surf.

fishing gutters Coffs Harbour
Look for deeper gutters close to shore where baitfish hold up.

These gutters can often be fished with smaller estuary gear, especially on calmer days; however, a longer surf rod is beneficial for making longer casts, clearing the shore break and controlling hooked fish in the surging waves.

For chasing larger species such as mulloway, line classes of 20 – 40lb are generally used. Even when chasing smaller species, heavier lines offer beach and rock anglers assurance against the stronger currents encountered when fighting fish. If you are however after smaller species like bream or whiting, 10 – 20lb line will suffice. Either mono or braided lines can be used – Platypus Platinum monofilament is an excellent option, offering controlled stretch and excellent abrasion resistance.
A quality fluorocarbon leader, like Platypus Stealth FC, is also recommended as it becomes near-invisible underwater. Classes will depend on the target species, with 25-50lb recommended for Mulloway and large tailor, 10-15lb for bream and tarwhine, and lighter 8-10lb for whiting.

Young guy holding a Mulloway fish at Coffs Harbour
Mulloway hunt the wash and broken water around the rock ledges, and readily take lures.

Beach or bloodworms are the prize bait to use for whiting, however they will also attract bream and flathead. It’s also common for anglers using worm baits to be surprised when a good-sized mulloway picks up their bait, as it’s a favourite food source for them too.

Lure fishing from the beach is an exciting prospect, especially if schools of tailor are present. Metal lures such as a TT Lures Hard Core Slug can be cast a long way and then worked back at speed through the schools. Soft plastic lures are another great option in the surf, with large paddle tails appealing to mulloway while smaller curl tails work well on bream and whiting.

Tailor Coffs Harbour Fishing
Tailor are a great option to target when lure fishing in the surf.
Tailor fish in bucket – Coffs Harbour Fishing
Tailor should be bled immediately to improve flesh quality.

Fresh baits are always preferred and these can be sourced from the many tackle stores in the area, along with the seafood markets in the harbour district. Flesh baits like mullet or tailor strips are an excellent option and can be cut to different sizes to appeal to small or large fish.

Preserved baits can however still be effective, with pilchards (whole, halved or cubed pieces) working well on tailor, flathead and bream. Whole whitebait are another good option, particularly appealing to bream and flathead.

bream on lures Coffs Harbour fishing
Bream actively feed in the wash around the rocks, and will readily take lures.

The same gear used to fish open beach stretches is also ideal for rock and break wall fishing, although anglers who regularly fish the rocks often use a heavier line class to counter the rough and tumble of fighting and landing fish around rocky structure. When looking to fish from the rocks, safety is number one – if the seas are up, it’s sometimes a better option to look elsewhere or choose a sheltered area such as those on the inside of Muttonbird Island, or inside the Southern Breakwall. For anglers new to rock fishing having an experienced fishing partner, or choosing a day when the seas are calm, is a good idea if possible.

Casting a fishing line into the beach at Coffs Harbour
Look for fish actively feeding beyond the shore break.
Man holding Tailor – Coffs Harbour Fishing
Working the rock ledges with lures is a great way to catch tailor

Drummer and luderick are two species more commonly fished for from the rocks and breakwalls around Coffs. Drummer are targeted with baits of fresh cunjevoi, peeled fresh prawns, or lumps of bread soaked in bait scent. They are extremely hard fighters, and line classes of 15-30lb are often used. Luderick are most commonly caught with green or cabbage weed that grows on the rocks and foreshores. Due to their soft mouths, a long, slow action rod and lighter line is preferred to avoid pulling hooks.

Man fishing with rod at Coffs Harbour

Lure fishing from the rocks is more common than on the beach, with metal slugs again being an excellent choice due to the casting distances possible. Using larger surface stickbaits like the Fish Inc Lures range can see anglers tangling with large trevally, mackerel and tuna.

Soft plastics are another great choice for rock anglers, with smaller curl tail or paddle tail lures used to target bream, and larger jerkbait style tails working well on pelagic species and snapper that come in to feed around the wash.

Lure fishing Coffs Harbour
Pelagics Coffs Harbour Fishing
Pelagics like this mac tuna can be excellent sport from the rocks.

Estuaries and Creeks

The small creeks in and just south of Coffs Harbour are a great place for landbased anglers to fish. The lower reaches and mouths of these small waterways are ideal for fishing shallow flats chasing flathead, bream and whiting. Wading these shallows and casting small lures or lightly weighted baits is a fun way to fish these areas. Look for sandy flats with broken patches of weed and seagrass, and target any areas that drop away into deeper water. Keep the sinker or jighead weight to a minimum, giving the bait or lure a more natural look.

Again, fresh is the better option for bait anglers, with live yabbies (nippers) being the number one choice. These can be pumped on the exposed flats as the tide drops, or maybe available in local tackle stores. Bloodworms and beach worms will also appeal to nearly every species that inhabits the estuaries, as will flesh baits and small whole baitfish such as whitebait.

Lure anglers can use a wide variety of soft plastics or hardbody lures to attract attention, with paddle tails like the ZMan 3” MinnowZ or Slim SwimZ being a great allrounder that will appeal to bream and flathead. Small curl tails like a 2” GrubZ can also bring plenty of interest from bream and whiting, which makes for great sport on finesse tackle.

Light spin outfits are ideal for these small estuaries. A 6’-7’ 2-4kg spin rod, 20 or 30 class spin reel and light braided or monofilament line of 6-10lb is more than capable. In these shallow clear waterways, a good fluorocarbon leader of 6-15lb is always beneficial, hiding the line from wary fish.

Bass

The brackish and freshwater stretches of the Bellinger River, located around half an hour drive south-west of Coffs, offers bass anglers the chance to tangle with this prized Australian sports fish, which can again be targeted on both bait and lures.

Areas to look for include deeper holes and drop-offs with overhanging vegetation, providing shade and cover for both the bass and the aquatic species that they feed on. After rain, bass will also move up into the flooded edges in search of drowned insects.

For bait anglers, live insects such as cicadas and grasshoppers are very productive. There can be plenty of fun had for the kids chasing them down too! Other good live baits are grubs, snails and the good old garden worm, all of which can be collected in and around the water’s edge and local bushland. Again, fishing baits around the flooded edges after rain can be effective. During the heat of the day, fish baits in the deeper holes or under shady stretches of the riverbank. Small baitfish like bony bream are another option that often appeals to larger fish in the area.

Man fishing in Coffs Harbour riverbank
Cast into deeper shaded sections of the riverbank for bass during the heat of the day.

For lure anglers, the warmer months are the ideal time to try for a topwater bite from bass. Very early morning or late afternoon when the light is low is the best period of the day for this, with lures such as a ZMan Finesse FrogZ or small poppers being cast in tight to overhanging trees and worked back in an erratic fashion, making for spectacular surface strikes. Choose days with high temperature and humidity to increase your chances, particularly in the build-up to a late afternoon storm.

Bass on surface lure – Coffs Harbour Fishing
Bass become active surface feeders during the warmer months.

Offshore

Offshore fishing around Coffs Harbour is nothing short of sensational. A huge variety of sought-after species inhabit the area, offering boating anglers plenty of opportunities to tangle with some very big fish. For visiting anglers, there are some excellent charter operators who offer half and full-day fishing expeditions to chase large pelagic and reef species.

Far heavier tackle is required offshore, with line classes in the 25-60lb range being the norm. A stout 5’-7’ 8-15kg overhead or spin rod is the starting point, with many anglers opting for even heavier outfits. When chasing large surface species like mahi mahi, marlin and wahoo, large game outfits are the go, running line classes of 15 – 37kg.

Snapper and Peal Perch Coffs Harbour Fishing
The shallow inshore reefs around Coffs Harbour hold good numbers of quality fish like snapper and pearl perch.

For anglers with a boat but little experience, there’s plenty of shallower reefs closer to shore that holds good populations of kingfish, snapper and other reef fish. Some searching with a good sounder will often show small patches of reef or rubble that can hold surprisingly good numbers of quality fish. Look for bait schools and keep jighead or sinker weights to the minimum required to reach the bottom.

Remember if you are venturing offshore in the area for the first time, be sure to check the weather conditions beforehand, inform the coastguard or others of your intended return time and the area you plan to head to. Even on calm days, the area can be prone to larger waves coming through, so keep your mind on safety and eyes on the water at all times.

Plenty of Fishing Opportunities

The Mid North Coast in and around Coffs Harbour is a prime destination for anglers, offering a huge variety of species to catch, in some of the most pristine and beautiful scenery Australia has to offer. If you are travelling to the area, packing a few rods and some basic gear will see you in with a great chance of catching some quality fish.

Fish and stay at NRMA Darlington Beach Holiday Resort

Our beachfront holiday park is close to all the fishing hotspots the Coffs Coast has on offer. Book a cosy cabin or pull up a caravan and spend your time fishing and relaxing.

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