South West Rocks

Cobia fish caught at South West Rocks, Steve Cooper

When it comes to popularity, there are two types of fishing destinations: those that are hot all the time and those that wax and wane depending on the season. South West Rocks is in the first category. For as long as I can remember the area has enjoyed enormous favour as a fishing destination. Moreover, the reason it is popular isn’t just fishing consistency, it’s also the variety of species. Anglers have multiple options of beach, estuary or blue-water to choose from, so even when the weather cuts up rough, you can still fish somewhere.

South West Rocks is 39 km north of Kempsey at the mouth of the Macleay River, which carves its way from the mountains of the New England Plateau to the sea. The original mouth of the river was at Grassy Head, but during a flood in 1893 a new entrance was formed at South West Rocks.

The river mouth can produce big mulloway after a flood, with anglers lining the rock walls at the entrance to fish with live baits and large lures. The river also produces bream, luderick, flathead and whiting. The freshwater reaches of the river are highly regarded for native bass.

Among blue-water anglers, the Macleay River is known for its notorious bar that can make going off shore tricky. However, there is an alternative exit at Back Creek, not connected to the Macleay. The only problem here is that at low tide the creek can be far too shallow to motor along.

Off shore anglers have plenty of options. Some prefer to head north to Grassy Head; other go east around Laggers Point and then south-east to Fish Rock, which is south-east of Smoky Cape. The latter is regarded as one of the best off shore spots along this coast. About 16 km east of the Macleay River entrance, and in 100m of water, is a Fish Attracting Device (GPS: S30.50.534, E153.11.803).

Off shore species caught in these waters include marlin, wahoo, yellowtail kingfish, cobia, dolphinfish, spotted and Spanish mackerel, longtail and yellowfin tuna, and tailor. For those who prefer to fish the bottom, the most sought-after fish include snapper and mulloway.

There are boat ramps at Kempsey, Frederickton, Smithtown, Gladstone, Jerseyville, Stuarts Point, Fishermans Reach and at the New Entrance, near South West Rocks.

Beach anglers have plenty on off er because of the variety of beaches and the fact that they face different directions – Trial Bay Beach, for example, faces west, one of the few beaches on the east coast to do so! Other popular beaches include Horseshoe Bay, Back Beach, Main Beach, Little Bay, Gap Beach, North Smoky and Smoky Beach.  

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