Hotspot: Flock to the Rocks for a yak

A marlin yakside with SWR in the background.

by Dayne Taylor •

Ever had dreams of catching a marlin from your kayak? In this month’s issue of the kayak hotspot, I venture to the mid-north coast town well known for just this, South West Rocks.

Also home to the Macleay River, which runs a 298km course before eventually meeting the Pacific Ocean to the north of the township of South West Rocks, this area offers a very diverse range of options for kayak anglers of all capabilities. Whether you are an avid offshore fisho, or prefer exploring the peaceful tidal estuaries, there really is something for everyone here.

The township is easily accessed via the Kempsey turn off on the pacific highway, and roughly 25 mins drive to the centre of town. There is an abundance of accommodation options available to suit all budgets and creature comfort requirements. Powered and un-powered campsites with great facilities are available at the Trial Bay Gaol campground. This park also boasts access to the ocean via the beach, and is an easy walk to pubs, cafés and restaurants.

If you are looking for some advice on what’s biting and where to go, or simply need to stock up on some fishing tackle or camping and outdoor gear whilst in town, you have two great options to choose from. Rocks Marine Bait and Tackle is located on Memorial Drive, just off the main street adjacent to the ocean. While Outdoor Adventure can be found on the right hand side of Gregory Street heading into town. Mitch from Outdoor Adventure is an avid kayak and SUP fisherman, whose shop has a great selection of tackle and I recommend calling in and seeing him for some friendly, helpful pointers.

If it’s the estuary that suits you most, there are plenty of launching options to be found. The main boat ramp located on New Entrance Road, right near the Riverside Tavern offers safe parking, and ample room to get your kayak in and out of the water. Launching from this location means a short pedal or paddle across river and into the Clybucca Creek, which has sand flats, oyster leases, flooded mangrove flats, and big weed beds full of bream, whiting and flathead.

The summer months offer some great topwater action in these locations, small surface lures such as Bassday Sugapens and OSP Bent Minnows worked across the weed and sand flats will reap you the most rewards. The 3” grub or paddle-tail plastic, such as the Berkley Nemesis or Samaki Boom Bait, are perfect to put a feed of flathead together for dinner. And if bait is more your style, then take the yabbie pump and you will have no problems getting a bucket full of pink nippers on the sand flats.

The Macleay River is lined with deep rock walls, and home to some big mulloway. Fishing deep drop-offs around the tide changes at dusk and dawn will increase your chances of getting connected to one of these river monsters. Live mullet are a great bait, and 4-5” plastics also work well. Expect to stumble across a few XL flathead while targeting mulloway as well.

One of the main reasons people congregate at South West Rock this time of year is for the warm, nutrient rich, blue waters, and the list of pelagic fish species that inhabit it. Marlin, mackerel, tuna, cobia and mahimahi can all be caught in great numbers from a kayak from January through to early winter. This is thanks to how close the continental shelf is to the coastline.

This flathead ate a Zerek Tango Shad while trolling between spots.
The Clybucca River arm has plenty of kayak accessible options to choose from.
Flathead, whiting and especially bream all love an OSP Bent Minnow.
Daniel Lawton with a mulloway taken just after dark in the main river.

Small black marlin are caught here regularly amongst Spanish and spotted mackerel, and the same tackle is more than capable to land both. To get the job done all you will need is a 15kg overhead or spin gear. You’ll need plenty of line and remember to have the wire trace on hand for those toothy speedsters. A live bait such as slimy mackerel or yakka, slow trawled or floated behind the kayak will bring plenty of fish undone. As for lure choices, you can’t go past a Halco Laser Pro or a Samaki Pacemaker to trawl around, and a selection of stickbaits and metal spinners to cast into schools once you find a few is a must.

A fish finder/sounder with a GPS/Map is one of the greatest additions you could add to your offshore yak, it makes finding bait and active fish a breeze, not to mention the joys of being able to mark and go back to these fish or locations.

If you plan on heading offshore, remember to take all the necessary safety equipment and let the local marine rescue know of your destination and your expected time of returning. Another great safety tip, is try to always go out in a group in case something goes pear shaped. No fish is worth putting your safety at jeopardy.

I hope this inspires a trip to the Rocks, and fingers crossed you can land the fish of a lifetime while there.