NSW North Coast

First timers fishing the North Coast of NSW are often struck by the incredible diversity the region offers – with four main river systems and many miles of beaches and headands, there are literally hundreds of fishy options as new Kaydo writer Gary (Squidgie) Palmer explains in his debut article for Kaydo.

Call me biased but I reckon the News South Wales North Coast offers some of the best fishing possible so for any fisher planning a trip to our shores I’ll concentrate this article on the Evans River and work my way through all our local rivers as the months go by.
Keith Shepherd with a loverly bream caught of the walls using blades.

Keith Shepherd with a loverly bream caught off the Evans Head walls using blades.

Evans River Bream

First things first – the Evans River fishes very well for bream, flathead, whiting, blackfish and jew the upper reaches also fish ok for estuary perch and bass, its beaches are well-known for big blue nose bream and monster jew fish and although they can be considered a specialist species, these fish are there for the taking.
Jewies are also available in good numbers through the system!

Jewies are also available in good numbers through the system as young Jacko can prove!

The Evans River is a small tributary but I have seen some of the biggest flathead caught here. The best way to land the flathead of a life time would have to be via live bait being herring, yakka’s or legal size whiting. Just lip hook or run the hook through nose of bait and slow trawl. You can’t miss. Best spots for trawling is in boat harbour and also from the ‘bream hole’ up to bridge. If your visiting the area and in any doubt about the lay of the land just ask at the local tackle shop. When trawling I would not go any further up than bridge – but mind you there are a lot of flathead in the upper reaches of river but not quite as big as the lower reaches and now is the time to do it.

Best Tackle for the River

Best rods to use when targeting the big girls with bait are snapper outfits, so any rod in the 10/20lb range with 20lb main line and 40lb leader. Some fishers chose to use use wire but personally I prefer to use a heavy fluro leader with very minimal lead, just enough to keep bait down. The main reason for the heavy gear is to get the fish up quickly and do as little damage to fish as possible. You just want to get a quick pic and let the fish go.

Release the Breeders

Adrian Melchoir with a nice flathead caught on hard body lure released after the pictures were taken.

Adrian Melchoir with a nice flathead caught on hard body lure released after the pictures were taken.

I don’t know many fishers that keep the big girls but if you are one of the guys that fillet and release just think you may have just killed hundreds of flathead by taking that one fish home but it is not illegal to take one fish over 70cm. I’m not into trawling and have not used bait for a long time. Soft plastics and hard body lures are my thing so I drift using most plastics that have a paddle tail. Best plastics in my opinion are the Squidgy 130mm Black and Gold or 130 Squidgy Drop Bear. Yes you can go smaller but for the big girls big it is a case of bait big fish. Mind you I have caught some very small flathead on big lures, with hard body lures many a competition has been won using Lively Lures Micro Mullet in pink or green these small lures have caught monster flathead.

A Tacklebox Full of Lures

I have a range of these lures in my tackle box but I also use Atomic Crank 38 and colour to me doesn’t matter they catch fish without problems just remember you need to work them slow to get best results, most fishers have their own personal lure for catching flathead so I’ll leave it up to you what plastic or hard body lure you use. Rods to use with plastic and hards I personally use rods in the 4/8lb range and 6/12lb all rod are graphite and are pacifically made for softs and hard body lures I never use these rods with bait. The main line is braid in the 10lb or 20lb with a 20lb fluro leader, jig head I use are TT 3/8 or 1oz depending on depth of water and how fast the tide is I personally love run-out tide and fish any deep hole or any area where there is a run off the Evans River has many small run-off areas in the upper reaches with many a deep holes.

Winter Time Breaming in the Evans

A nice bream caught on a Cranka Crab.

A nice bream caught on a Cranka Crab.

In the winter Evans River produces some very big blue nose bream and best way to get amongst them is with cut baits herring, mullet, bonito or garfish. I’d suggest fishing night time – either around the North or South Wall or the Trailing Wall. At night it’s important to fish as light as the tide will allow. Best line weight for this is 10lb mono main with 000 sinker on top of a 1/0 baitkeeper hook. Don’t overload your hook with bait and cast up against the tide and let it drift back to you and take up the slack as bait comes towards you just lift rod tip as you feel bait drag along bottom if you don’t take up slack or lift rod you will get snags and I hate donating gear to the fishing gods, I find the best way is to lift rod as it touches bottom you will feel more this way and when bream hit with rod above your head fish catch themselves.

Heading To the Upper Reaches

Adrian and Author with a good pair of bass caught using Bassman Spinnerbaits - the fish were released.

Adrian and Author with a good pair of bass caught using Bassman Spinnerbaits – the fish were released.

The upper reaches of the river can be a mecca of fish with whiting, bream, flathead, blackfish, estuary perch and bass the best way to find the fish is in a boat and I find drifting with the tide and casting as I go doesn’t matter if you are bait fishing or lure fishing. Casting in front of your drift and slow lift and drop bait fisher best way is to use white pillies either on three hook small gang or with a long shank hook just keep your bait moving you will find you will get more hook ups than just letting it drift. That said, I was bait fishing I would have a bait out the back of boat as I drift just make sure rod is tethered or you might lose over back of boat which has happen to me a few times.

Watch the Tide Range

The thing is with the Evans River the best tides to reach the top end are anything above 1.6 and you should start to venture up at half tide this way you will get over some of the sand bars which are a no go zone on low tide just remember if you are going to drift you will not make it to the top before run-out starts. What I do is head straight up to top end get past ‘the Gums’ which is just past the Black Hole. You will know the Black Hole as it has cabin on its right bank just head another 600mts up and you will come to a right hand bend this is the shallowest end of river once you pass that area you have heaps of deep holes to fish with flathead, bream EPs and sometime big estuary cod.

Venturing into the Fresh

It’s important to remember it is illegal to keep the cod – take a pic and put them back once you get near the top you will come to a Y section to the left is Brady’s Arm which is brilliant for bass and estuary perch. If you venture up there be warned it can get shallow but if you have a sounder you won’t have problems quite frankly it is worth the drama if you love bass and EP fishing like I do. If you fish out of a kayak you will have no problems with any of the river and I think it would be the best way to see all our river system and use it to your advantage only problem I see is if you get onto some of the monsters up at the Blue Hole.

A word of warning though – you may get towed for a long time the Black Hole has seen cobia caught in it!


About Gary Palmer

My name's Gary Palmer, I live on the North Coast of NSW and most fishers up this way know me simply as Squidgie. I have been fish since I was a kid growing up down the South Coast of NSW and cut my teeth on bream and flathead in Lake Illawarra. I've been living up here for over 30 years and have not used bait for many years. Soft plastics and hard body lures are my drug - well they say once you use these rubber bands it's welcome to the dark side. I write for fishing mags and had my own radio show on fishing for a long time until I became ill and couldn’t continue, but still do small reports on radio. I love bass and estuary perch fishing but bream and flathead are still up there for me. I also love blackfish don’t think there is anything better than watching a float go down with fish on. I am a river rat I love fishing rivers but I do fish beaches and occasionally go out in the deep blue.

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