Rocking around the beaches and headlands by Dave Seaman

There is little doubt that Australia is the lucky country. We benefit from a comparatively low population, yet have a diverse coastline stretching more than 25,700km. In NSW the seascape changes from high cliffs and deep water in the south, to shallow fingers of rocks and broken reef around the Mid Coast. The common feature that extends around the entire coastline is the connection of headlands by golden strips of sand, interrupted only by coves, bays and entrances to estuaries.
These coastal fringes also support a transition of angling species with seasonal overlaps, and species uniquely adapted to certain areas. The distribution range of species is often regulated by water temperature, which may also determine the particular food source the fish depend on for existence. Like any scenario, the middle ground is where you will find the greatest diversity of species, and this is where the greatest seasonal overlaps occur.
The Mid Coast of NSW from Seal Rocks to Coffs Harbour is as vast as the species that live and visit the area. While offshore can offer incredible fishing, it is the rock and beach fishing that attracts many anglers to the area at various times of the year. The autumn to winter transition is perhaps the most productive period of the year for the beach and rock angler. The seasonal spawning run of mullet, bream and luderick is underway, and with it come the shadowing predators like sharks, pelagics and mulloway.
Early autumn draws an incredible concentrated effort by anglers for pelagics. Longtail tuna, cobia, mackerel tuna and Spanish mackerel all figure in the pursuits of the land-based game anglers that travel hundreds of kilometres to the local ledges.
Shoals of garfish flood down the coast with the currents, followed by the cobia and longtails. From April to the end of May, it is not unusual to spin or live bait Spanish mackerel from the rocks.
Each year the offshore spotty and Spanish mackerel fishery seems to get better and last a little longer, and this can be a bonanza for the dedicated rock anglers.
The staple targets are certainly the cobia or longtail tuna, but with the pelagic fish come the sharks that ruin trophy fish and devastate anglers.
Any headland that stretches to deeper water is worth a look and Charlottes Head (Seagull), Bennetts Head or Cape Hawke all come into play.
Anglers who fish the rock and beach fringes generally do it to take a feed home. Whether it is fresh tailor from a gutter on the beach or a few rock blackfish from under a rocky wash, there is something for every taste. Except for tailor and mulloway, the majority of species are best targeted on a variety of bait, both bought and collected around the area you intend to fish.
Beach fishing has a charm all its own, and having a stretch of beach to yourself is something special. The comfort of fishing in relative safety from the soft sand, watching the sunrise and catching the early morning tailor bite is something many thrive on. The variety of species available changes with the sunrise, but can make a few hours on the beach very productive. Throwing metal lures to the back of a gutter or waves is the easiest way to prospect for the tailor and salmon that haunt the autumn waters.
Finding gutters to fish may take a bit of investigation, usually a day or so. If you have indulged yourself and have a drone, you can check a lot of potential gutters along the beach from the carpark. I find it generally sufficient to go straight up and just look along the beach from the high vantage point. Alternatively, if you don't have sufficient time to do the leg work, or flight time, you can fish the transition from beach to rocks where there will be current and sufficient calm water to cast a lure or bait. This area attracts the bait, depending on the direction of the swell, by creating an eddy.
A pilchard or garfish rigged on a 3-4 hook ganged rig with a short trace to a sliding ball sinker may be old school fishing, but that's because it works a treat and is a relaxed alternative to actively spinning the wash.
As the sun and the tide rises on the beach, other species like bream, whiting, dart, flathead and trevally come into play. Beach worms are by far the best bait and can often be caught where you're fishing. Alternative baits include yabbies, frozen worm and pipis that can be rigged on a bait keeper style hook, a short trace and a running ball sinker to keep the rig moving with the wave surge.
Another popular rig is the paternoster with two droppers and a sinker at the bottom of the rig. The paternoster is certainly easier to cast and provides a second chance when the fish may be a bit picky, and each hook can have different baits. This rig is great for fishing gutters where the outer breakers calm over deeper water before reaching the shore. While fish like tailor, mulloway and salmon are a chance during the daylight hours, it is best to concentrate your efforts on low light periods and at night to increase your chances of catching bigger fish.
If you like to catch mulloway on plastics, the best tip is to fish the transition zone of rock and beach. In the early morning and late afternoon, fish pass and hang around these areas waiting for the mullet and other bait to pass by. It's also no secret the mulloway like to eat kelpies (wrasse) and other rock species, so fishing close to the rocks isn't a bad ploy for mulloway.