I'm fortunate to have visited and fished at many places around Australia. Everyone has their favourite place, a place where they feel most at home, most a part of. For me that place is Yamba. It has a bit of everything, a family connection, great fishing, great beaches, a relaxed atmosphere, a great climate and probably one of the best located pubs in Australia.


Photo is of Yamba Main Beach taken from below the lighthouse

The fishing is generally excellent. Bread and butter species such as whiting, bream, flathead and blue crabs are very common. In the river, those that target them can catch good jewfish, bass and even mangrove jacks. There is also a very healthy offshore fishery with snapper and pearl perch for the bottom fishos and tuna and both spottie and spanish mackeral for the surface fishos. I love fishing for many of these species, but for me Yamba will always make me think of the humble blackfish.

It started for me in about 1981 during what must have been the end of term 1 school holidays. We lived in Gunnedah in north western NSW at the time, and my mum was going to a residential school for the holidays. Dad and I decided that a fishing and camping trip was in order.

We had a fishing book called "Roughley's Fish and Fisheries of Australia". It was a great book with beautiful drawings of fish, and the old man and I had read the thing from cover to cover. I had also been intrigued for some time with these blokes we'd see at the coast with the big bags of stripey fish. So we grabbed the "bible" and read the section on luderick. A fair portion of the text talked about the Clarence River fishery and the Yamba middle wall. Dad had an ex -digger mate in Yamba and it wasn't far across to there from Gunnedah. So, Yamba it was and what a fateful decision it would turn out to be.


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Dad had been to Yamba before in the 50s, so he knew what to expect. I immediately fell in love with the place, the breakwall, the lighthouse, the fantastic main beach. The best part was that on the way into town on the first day, we had to cross a number of small channels, all of which had people fishing from the approaches, with floats!

We didn't have much idea about what we were doing when it came to fishing for blackfish, but one thing we did know, was that we would need some weed for bait. The bloke at the tackle shop in the main street put us right pretty quickly. In those days just below the lighthouse there was the remains of a quarry filled with water and green weed all around the outside. There was also some green weed on the adjacent rocks.

So, we rocked up to the Oyster Channel bridge with our weed and our makeshift blackfish gear. I seem to remember that I had a small surf rod, a fibreglass Daiwa of some sort, a very cheap and nasty Ryobi eggbeater, a few floats and terminal gear and maybe a landing net. There was another bloke fishing there, I thought he was old at the time, probably in his thirties (isn't it great to be young) and he was a great help. He showed us how to rig and get the float sitting right in the water, and how to get the bait to look as natural as possible.

There were fish there right from the start, the float would dip, dip and then I would strike much too hard and the whole rig would come flying back at me. It was incredibly frustrating at first, but encouraging to be getting bites. My old man was laughing the whole time, he was a great help ! It took two days but I finally hooked and landed my first fish on a late afternoon, after the sun had passed the horizon. I'll never forget that first blackfish, it was that black-purple that river fish get when they have been over weed and rock for a while. The fish was hooked and so was I.

Yamba is still a very special place. It is a lot busier than it was in 1981, but still a very relaxed NSW coastal town. I am very glad to say that the fishing is still excellent and the blackfish fishery particularly so. You can catch blackfish in Yamba year round, they are scarce in the estuary during summer, but the action around the ocean rocks more than makes up for the lack of river activity. The fish from the ocean rocks in summer are above average size and weight with1kg fish being the rule rather than the exception.

The majority of people that fish for blackfish around Yamba, do so during the winter. This is when the fish are available from the Turner's wall, the middle wall, the gantry and even as far up as Gorman's restaurant. It is great for everyone from kids to pensioners as the fish are hungry and accessible and there is room for all. My favourite spot during winter, particularly the July school holidays, has to be the T-piece. This is a rocky outcrop that juts back into the river from Turner's wall. It's rocky and reefy and falls away onto sand. During the run-out tide, an eddy forms on the ocean side forming a really nice spot to throw some berley into. You need good footwear and good gear, as it's a rough place to fish and slippery, and once you hook a fish it can be very difficult to get them out. It's one of the few places where a landing net is a must have.


Photo is from July 2010 - landing a decent blackfish from the T-piece- Rod is a Pacific Composites

GP3145 Reel is Okuma Aventa Pro, Great example of why a long slow taper and centrepin fit the bill

 Be warned though, if you fish for blackfish at Yamba, you will have to learn how to use Black Magic. It's a type of weed that grows in the sugar cane canals, and is black and not unlike steel wool. The first time you see it you will think "how am I supposed to get that on a hook and keep it there" ! The answer is to use a half hitch above your hook and not to get too fussy. It really does pay to have some black, green and a bit of cabbage when you fish the lower estuary of the Clarence River as the fish can change feeding habits during the one tide. At the T-piece they will bite on black weed on the run out tide, with the fish getting bigger and hungrier as the tide gets lower, especially if there is a bit of colour in the water. Then, when the cleaner ocean water starts coming in half way through the run in, all of a sudden they will start taking cabbage baits.


Photo is of a handfull of "Black Magic" a must have for Yamba blackfish at times

 The T-piece is really only for people with a bit of mobility, it's slippery and uneven and you really need to be able to cast a centrepin well and have really good control of your float. Also quite often you have to fish it with a couple of others, so it helps to be able to fish cooperatively with other fishermen, which again, requires good skills and float control. The breakwall, however, gives just about everybody a good shot at catching a few fish from easy to fish positions. The wall from about half way out, right to the T-piece fishes well during winter, May through August. Cabbage is the generally the best bait, but again, sometimes it pays to have a bit of black weed. When fishing the wall, it pays to fish a bit heavier as you have to lift fish some distance when landing them, unless you have a long handled landing net.

At times the fishing can be good in the backwaters of the lower estuary, next to the Francis Freeburn (a tug tied up at the Calypso Caravan Park) ) is a good spot, as is the Gantry (where the fishing fleet ties up). These spots can be hit and miss, but it pays to give them a shot if the fish aren't turning up elsewhere.


Photo shows the bay behind the Calypso , the tug is absent, but this wharf near the head of the bay is a top spot

There are also some very good spots further up into the estuary and these give land based fishermen some really good access to reasonable blackfishing spots. Most are around the bridge approaches. Oyster Channel bridge, the rocky point just upstream (old ferry approach) and Romiaka Creek bridge are all worth a shot, and tend to fire out of season, I think this may have to do with fish moving back up into the estuary after the winter runs. Another place worth a go later in the season is the rock wall that borders the river near The Tavern, which is at the end of Shores Drive. The entryways to the man made quays can fish quite well at these times.

The Clarence Estuary is brilliant for the boat based fishos. Personally I don't much like fishing from the boat for blackfish, but many do, and very successfully from the middle wall and Collis' wall and from places such as The Sleeper further up the river. I have even seen boats doing quite well at the T-piece, but you really need good anchoring skills as the tide really rips past it. This July just past (2011) I had a great session fishing from the T-piece while some very nice blokes were fishing the T-piece in a big punt. They were ripper blokes and let me fish in thier burley trail, and even chucked me a bit of nice green weed when the black weed I was using wasn't working.


Rub-a-dub-dub Three men in a Tub - 3 Very Happy fishermen Fishing the T-piece from a punt

run in tide berleying hard, July 2011 after a pretty decent month of rain.

 The ocean rock fishing during summer can be quite spectacular. Yamba point is the pick of the entire area. There are some very serious fish living off Yamba Point. I haven't cracked a 2kg fish yet, but it's only a matter of time. I have weighed a couple in at 1.8kg, and have dropped a couple that were bigger, but a genuine 2kg fish is a real possibility. There are some very safe rock positions to fish next to Pippie Beach. This can be difficult fishing, it calls for good float control, good quality gear, long rods and good footwear. Cabbage will generally take most of the fish you will catch between the beach and the tip of Yamba point. As you get nearer to the point, there is the chance of getting floats stolen by some pretty big drummer. Don't be afraid to fish right in close to the beach, the fish will bite in a couple of feet of water. This is actually good advice for the whole of the Yamba Point rock platform, at low tide good quality fish will sit in little potholes if there is enough wave action to keep the water clouded up. The very front of Yamba point is probably my favourite place in the world, but not always fishable, it depends on the seas. Further north there is a flat rock and as you look north a huge reef that is almost exposed at low tide. At times the flat rock can be good to fish, but requires some long drifts, so it pays to have a decent reel.

When there is any sort of sea running, Yamba point can be a bit exposed. Craigmore rocks ( which lie between Main Beach and Convent Beach) take their name from the Craigmore holiday units which sit just above the rocks. This can be a really good spot in a southerly and is generally protected in anything but a howling north easterly. It can be a tricky place to fish, as the rocks here, end abruptly onto sand, and the fish usually sit right down above the sand. It really is a nice option to have though, if you are intent on catching a feed of blackfish and the weather isn't cooperating.

A few Yamba tips. You can usually find enough green weed and cabbage around Yamba Point, Turner's Beach rocks and Craigmore rocks. I have never cracked the code on finding supplies of black magic, but you can usually buy some at the tackle stores, if not, there is a house at Palmer's Island (on the way into Yamba) that sells big bags of green and black weed for $3 a bag. One bag would usually do me for the school holidays.

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