Don’t tell anyone we told you this, but we’re about to disclose what is probably the east coast of Australia’s best-kept secret. Don’t go telling everyone about it, but if you get a chance you absolutely must visit Yamba, on NSW central coast.
Yamba is located at the mouth of the Clarence River, the biggest river on the east coast of Australia; hidden well away from the busy Pacific Highway. Being 20km from the highway makes sure that there isn’t a great deal of through traffic coming into the town. A popular spot for visitors from the Gold Coast and Brisbane, it’s far enough away to feel like you’re on holiday, yet close enough to get to by check in time if you leave at breakfast. In fact, it is the perfect long weekend getaway for keen anglers living just north (or south) of the border.
The Clarence River mouth is home to two small towns, one of which is Yamba, the other being Iluka. Now if you’re standing on the banks of each town, you can see the other, yet it is a 40km drive to get there. The only shortcuts - by ferry, by boat, by kayak or to swim. They are both beautiful little places completely happy to stay small and unmolested by developers, and when you visit, and you will; you will understand why.
Fishing is real business in town, however the village charm, unspoiled beaches, and beautiful national parks deliver one of the most unique experiences for the whole family.
Yamba is lined with affordable accommodation options, with the most impressive being the BIG4 Saltwater Caravan Park which is set on 130 acres of pristine parkland running alongside the Clarence River. The accommodation will cater for everyone you want to take. If you are camping alone, they offer a good availability of waterfront camping spots. They offer large grass and slab powered sites, as well as large grass unpowered sites in two different camping areas. Most of the slab sites are extremely large which means they’re more than suitable for people with anything from caravans and motorhomes to tents and camper trailers. The best part about the caravan park from my point of view, is that they have free kayaks for the guests – I took the whole family and only needed to take one yak for myself.
The fishing itself on the Clarence is beyond fantastic. There are so many lakes and channels that run for many kilometres inland off the main stretch, providing perfect water for even the timidest kayak fishing lover. One thing to remember if you are travelling from Queensland is that you need to have a fishing license to fish in NSW. These can be purchased from the bait and tackle shop in the main street, or the servo. A 3-day license will cost you $7, a week long one $14 or because you need just one small reason to return, pay the $35 for a yearly license.
Here are a few of the best spots around Yamba to fish. Firstly, if you head out of the river system, and the seabed a few hundred metres out on the north and south of the mouth, the bottom is rocky with drop-offs and bommies where you will find yellowtail, cobia, bonito and if you want to use these for bait, a large snapper will be your day’s prize.
One great spot on the river for big whiting, flathead and GT’s is where the drain flows into Oyster channel near bridge as you come into town. On a low tide you can wade the area along the oyster channel side and it’s a great spot for catching yabbies.
Palm Terrace boat ramp area has heaps of big bream, and some of the biggest blackfish I’ve caught, as does the deep river section near River Road. The locals use a very specific bait for the blackfish known as “black magic”. It’s a black weed that the vegetarian fish just cannot resist. You can find it in the drainage canals through the cane fields, or buy it from the bait shop. You’ll be able to pick up the odd snapper in here as well. My first time in here, I caught 2 decent size fish. Sharks are known to be in these waters, and are a lot of fun to catch.
HARWOOD ISLAND CREEKS
If you head upriver from the caravan park around the bend towards Harwood Island Bridge, you’ll see three creek openings on the western bank. These shallow creeks are a great spot to check out because the fish here won’t be spooked by boat noise, because boats can’t get in there. Big flathead, bream and school mulloway are found here – best on a high tide.
PALMERS ISLAND ROCKWALL
This spot is on the eastern bank of the river just as you round the bend on your way to the three creek entrances mentioned above. You can catch decent sized bream on the drift here.
Browns Rocks is a very well-known area for big bream. It’s a popular spot with the competition fishermen heading here when the Australian Bream Tour is in town. It can be very busy at times however, but there are plenty of other great spots close by.
BIG4 SALTWATER BOAT RAMP
There is often bream, and flathead caught right off the front of the boat ramp in front of the caravan park, and if you paddle up river and work the southern bank you will nail some big flathead.
There is a deep channel on the North-West bank that holds schools of bream and mulloway – test your luck on either side of high or low tide. There are also plenty of good sized flathead to be found around the lower South-West edge of Freeburn Island.
Lake Wooloweyah near Yamba is a top spot after heavy rain. Lake Wooloweyah carries a lot of Flathead and Bream and is also very popular for crabbing.
Everyone has their favourite spots to yak, and if your home base is within a short paddle from those places, like me, then you tend to hit those spots more than you cook hot dinners. I’m based smack bang in the middle of Palm Beach on the Gold Coast, and for me especially, I love estuary fishing. My location is truly blessed because I have two great tidal creeks within a very short distance from my home, short enough a distance that I don’t even need my car to load the yak on top. I hook it up behind my bike and ride the same distance north or south from my home depending on the tide. I have a couple of yaks I use, a Mirage Pro Angler 12 and my custom home-made two-seater timber and fibreglass 6.5 metre monster. It’s not that great for offshore, unless I attach the outrigger, but in the creeks, it’s a dream to float in, and spacious enough to bring any size catch home.
Tallebudgera Creek really is a great spot for fishing, whether you are after some serious fish. Cruise near the mouth of the to bag a few flatheads. The bridges have deep holes, where you can catch some seriously big fish.
I have caught everything from everything from GTs, Mangrove Jack, Cod, Barracuda and even a few small sharks, and you’ll come home with a full bag if you have the patience. Most of Talle creek is accessible and parking is ample further upstream. There are plenty of blackfish around the bridges, and if you take a spear with you, it won’t take you long to land some dinner. In the upper reaches of the creek during the summer months bass are also plentiful. Mangrove jacks take a bit of patience in a kayak, but they are very satisfying to catch. It’s best to try and catch them in the warmer water, during summer and both.
If you are persistent with the bridges in Currumbin Creek, there’s bound to be a good fish or two on your line. If you get down there early in the morning before the sun gets too high, you can cast up on to the shallows banks to land some bream.
The pumpkinseed minnows seem to work a treat in Currumbin creek for both bream and flathead. Out front of the RSL is a great sandy spot for catching whiting, and worms work a treat here for that. There are also plenty of gar in the creek, which are great bait for out on the palmy reef. I just love Currumbin Creek, and my favourite fishing in the creek is without the yak, donning a snorkel and the home made Hawaiian sling spear and hunt for the blackfish (also known as the luderick, black drummer or pig are easiest to catch on the low tide.
PALM BEACH REEF & MERMAID REEF
PALMY REEF - One of Queensland’s most thrilling sports fish are the Spotted Mackerel, and my local Palmy Reef is one of the best spots to catch these supper fast fish. Head out from Currumbin or Tallebudgera creek, throw an anchor and troll. The reef is about 1500 metres from the beach. In a kayak, once you nail a spotted mackerel, your work will be cut out for you. They are fast and can catch you off guard, but you will enjoy this spot. The best time for mackerel fishing is between January and May. There are many popular ways to target mackerel including spinning metal lures, trolling lures, and live and dead baiting. Yakkas and Slimies are perfect for landing a big Spaniard. Mackerel can be boat shy, and they have excellent vision, so make your bait as natural looking as possible.
MERMAID REEF – Much the same as Palmy Reef, Mermaid Reef is also a hotspot for mackerel. You’ll get a good run of all three species here with Spaniards up to 30 kilograms caught often. Average size for Spotties and Schoolies is around 12kgs.
CLEAR ISLAND WATERS
If you are keen to catch some bass, there are plenty of great locations on the gold coast to do so, but my favourite would be Clear Island Waters. It’s part of the Mudgeeraba Creek system, located in the middle of a housing estate. The best part of this spot, is that the waters are regularly stocked with Australian Bass by the Australian Bass Association. Most of the fish here are small, but there are some larger fish up to 50cm caught every now and then. You can also get some really big bream in here, my biggest was 42cm. It’s a really easy spot to fish in a kayak, because it’s so easy to launch.
JACOBS WELL AND JUMPINPIN
Jacob’s Well is pretty much just a huge boat ramp. It’s also a place where you can catch some enormous flathead. Jacobs Well leads to the Pimpama River and what seems like infinite networks of creeks, channels, islands and gutters that could take months in your kayak to explore. This is good because this place isn't exactly a secret. The parking lot is always full and the standard rule at Jumpinpin is using bigger bait will almost always get you a bigger fish. The waters are full of whiting, bream, tailor and flathead and you chase mangrove jack and mulloway, and every now and then you can bring in an Australian salmon and barramundi as well. It’s also a great place to catch some massive mud crabs and sand crabs.
GOLD COAST SEAWAY
The notorious Gold Coast Seaway is great for catching everything from flathead, Garfish, crabs and squid. The walls are home to mangrove jack, jewfish and with the canal estates, full of bream, flathead, and mangrove jacks. It can be dangerous in a kayak, so know your tides, and keep an eye on changes. If you love snorkelling as much as I do too, it’s a great place to see some fine looking tropical breeds as well as a brilliant spot for spearing.
The Gold Coast has so many amazing waterways and reefs, that are full of fish worth paddling for.
There is no doubt that Noosa is one of the best holiday destinations in Australia. It has an amazing climate, it has a broad range of activities for the whole family and a very broad range of budget through to high end accommodation. Noosa is located around 150km North of Brisbane, but travelling there will take you a minimum of 2 hours on a good day. If you’re not familiar with the Bruce highway, heading North from Brisbane can become an unpredictable carpark anytime between 6 and 10 am and 3 and 7 pm on any day; so, if you’re looking to get there fast, think again. Although the destination is worth the trip, it’s best to set at least 3 hours for your trip, and anything less is a bonus.
Fishing around Noosa is good any time of year and there are so many great options for land based fishing, boat and kayak alike. In Noosa, for kayak fishing there are 2 great options. The main option is the Noosa River, and it’s a very complex system of lakes, creeks and the river, so most of this article will be about that, but the 2nd option is Laguna Bay and it’s many small reefs.
The lakes within the Noosa River include Lake Cootharaba, Lake Cooloola, Lake Cooroibah, Lake Como and Lake Weyba. Kin Kin Creek and Teewah Creek are the river’s two major tributaries.
Everywhere around, there are plenty of bream, flathead and whiting however there are many other piscatorial predators to catch. The most common sport species around the area are bass, mangrove jack, GT’s, tailor, jewfish, and for the lucky few there are the odd threadfin salmon and barramundi caught.
The Noosa River extends roughly 40km from Noosa into the country side where the water turns fresh. 6 shallow lakes join the river and are the main reason this system is such a completely diverse environment.
If you are looking to head out to sea, the bar can be treacherous, but once you get out, if you concentrate on the reefs in Laguna Bay you should have some luck. Kayakers can launch on Main Beach, if you don’t want to attempt the bar. Trolling with a squid wrapped whole bonito, gar or pilchard produced excellent results for me. Spanish mackerel are prime targets for trollers in Laguna Bay, but I didn’t catch one.
3 x Snapper, 1 x Maori cod, about 25 medium sized bonito, 1 Mack tuna and several undersized Spotties were among my haul in the one weekend, so it was worth the paddle out.
Noosa is home to some of Queensland’s best offshore fishing. Popular locations include North Reef, Sunshine Reef, Halls Reef and Barwon Banks however not all are reachable by kayak.
THE NOOSA RIVER
The Noosa Everglades, aka the upper reaches of the Noosa River are a great spot for just about every type of outdoor activity you can think of. From camping hiking to mountain biking and fishing, it’s the perfect destination for the keen kayak angler.
There are loads of wild bass, and mangrove jack are also caught regularly in the tea tree coloured waters. It has everything that nature can give for a fishing nirvana, with everything from deep holes to fallen logs which creates the ultimate environment for what is some of the purest Australian Bass I’ve ever caught. There are however, posted warnings about bull sharks in the upper reaches as well, and I can vouch for their presence; catching one in the first 10 minutes of throwing anchor in a deep hole not far up from Harry’s Hut. The water up here is very dark, and it hard to see submerged logs, so if you’re running an electric motor in the upper reaches, take extreme care.
Speaking of electric motors, there is a northern cut-off point for powered vessels which lies about 10km up-river from Kinaba Island however, it is still fishable for another 22 kilometres by kayak.
Lake Como is salty during the drier months and is quite hard to fish, however the occasional big Jack can be caught when the water is warmer. The best time for fishing here is after a big rain, because it desalinates the lake, bringing bass, spangled perch, and eel tail catfish.
Lake Cooloola is not very easily accessible and is rumoured to hold some massive freshwater fish, because of that. Getting there will be a mission, but it might be worth the trip. If you can get your yak there, good luck with the fishing. I’ve never tried myself.
Kin Kin Creek flows into Lake Cootharaba around Kinaba Island. Bream, jacks, bass and tarpon are most commonly caught. Tarpon are easy to locate with their air bubble trails, and they school in very large numbers up here.
Lake Cootharaba is a 12km long, salty lake that only averages about one metre deep. I’ve caught some well-sized mangrove jack in here as well as a good haul of bream and trevally, however one of my travel buddies landed three threadfin salmon in half an hour, when I caught nothing.
THE LOWER HALF
The runs between Lakes Cooroibah and Doonella are teeming with bait fish, which draws in the predators to the deep gutters. Lake Doonella is shallow and hard to access, but when you make the effort to get in there, the flathead are monsters, and in large numbers.
Weyba Creek twists northbound from the Lake Weyba and flows into Noosa Sound. It features false structure, deep mangrove lined channels and sand flats. It’s not my favourite spot, but worth a mention if you want to land some good-sized bream all year round. Woods Bay is the most popular angling location in the river where I recently caught a couple of tuna and a cobia.
There are some amazing places in and around Noosa for fishing, no matter what type of catch you’re after. The river is fun, but the mozzies can be a bit hardcore. The ocean is great as well, but the bar is treacherous. However, there isn’t a trip I have taken that hasn’t ended with a solid feed at the end of the day.
Every kayak fisherman’s bucket list should include this little gem hidden deep in the diverse Victorian wilderness. The Grampians National Park is a 1,672 km² nature reserve featuring the iconic Halls Gap in the North, to picturesque Hamilton in the South, across to vibrant Horsham in the West and historic Ararat in the East. It also features several picturesque lakes within its heart and surrounds.
From Melbourne it’s about a 2.5-hour drive on the Western Highway bypassing everything until you hit Ararat, where you can follow the signs to your accommodation.
There are many very comfortable accommodation lodgings in and around the immediate area like Stawell and Halls Gap and there are plenty of BnB’s scattered throughout. Do your homework and find one with good access to either Lake Bellfield, Lake Fyans and Lake Wartook (or all of them) and your kayak will be in the water in no time.
The only public caravan park and campground at the lake is the Lake Fyans Holiday Park which hosts vans, campers and has cabins and houses for rent. Easter is the busiest time here and most accommodation is pre-booked because of the Stawell Gift (Australia’s Richest Footrace). Long weekends are also very hard to book if you don’t get in early.
Renowned for producing trophy-sized trout, the Grampians offers a diverse range of fishing opportunities. All impoundments allow you to fish from the bank, in a boat, kayak or canoe. Whether you’re using the fly-rod, lures or bait the fish like them all. The three main catchments in the Grampians offer a very similar fishing experience, however each have their own quirks and regulations that differ from the others. The most popular for fishing is Lake Fyans, and it features some of the best trout fishing in the country.
A 5-minute drive south of Halls Gap will get you to Lake Bellfield. The lake is home to some beautiful big browns and rainbows, as well as Redfin and large blackfish. In here though, a little-known secret is that it has been stocked for the last few years with Chinook salmon, which are just great to catch. Lake Bellfield feeds the entire Grampians and Wimmera Pipeline, which is the lifeline of agriculture across the region. Combustion engines are banned on Lake Bellfield, so electric motors or paddles are the only way you can get around here.
A 20-minute drive up through the steep, winding landscape from Halls Gap, Lake Wartook emerges huddled into a steep valley. Made in 1887, this remarkable water catchment falls within the Mt Difficult Range. there is a 5-knot speed limit for boats here. Browns and rainbow trout dominate the catches, but the lake also holds a large population of Redfin with plenty around the 2kg mark.
There are never any crowds here and I’ve always come back with plenty of solid fish from this lake. It has great shelter from wind and has deep water on the wall, fluctuating shallows from stump strewn sections to weed beds and it really is a great place to fish.
One of the best kept secrets of the Grampians region is the inland sanctuary of Lake Fyans. Lake Fyans is well celebrated for producing trophy sized Brown and Rainbow Trout with good sized Redfin (English Perch). Boats, kayaks and canoes are the best way to fish here. A 10-minute drive from Halls Gap, Fyans holds good numbers of Brown and Rainbow trout and some of the best Redfin in Victoria. Known for its reliability as a fishery and its incredible beauty and the Grampians Ranges provide an extraordinary backdrop for this already amazing lake.
Like on most trout lakes, the early bird gets the worm. A pre-dawn start should produce some great fish, whether you are trolling, casting or bait fishing. The most exciting part of your day will be seeing these glorious fish soaring out from the water before the sun comes up, and if you’re as lucky like I was on my first morning paddling out to find a sweet spot, what I reckon was easily a 1.5- 2kg beast landed right on my lap. Although, it startled me so much it ended up back in the water and I almost went with it.
I love to flat line troll with the rising sun, and change it up to deeper divers once it gets a bit brighter. I like to mix up the lures and try for a trout off the surface or Redfin down deeper. Changing up the swimming depths is important as trout and redfin can be very erratic. I have had a lot of luck trolling with these same methods later in the day as well, however the best fishing comes when it is overcast and cooler.
If you are using bait in here, one word of advice is use Mudeyes. Mudeyes are the final larvae stage of the dragon fly, and these trout find them irresistible. Other decent options are live minnow, gudgeon, scrub worms and power bait. For catching Redfin use gudgeon.
With most of the surface area being open water on the lake, the shallow areas that show rushes and trees above the water line are the prime spots to flick plastics and lures. Rainbows can be very sensitive to splashes in their zone and disappear until they feel safe, and you will only catch them when they don’t know you are there.
If targeting Redfin, the method I used here is gudgeon fishing the bottom. May to August are the best months to target the big ones, and working the deep water or weed beds should see you smash some of the 3kg monsters Fyans is famous for. I caught three that were over the 3kg mark within the space of an hour.
RULES & REGULATIONS
Fishing licences are compulsory when you are fishing in the Grampians region, and there are many regulations to follow. Licences can be acquired at many places in the region, or you can purchase them online before you go to save you some time.