As you drive north on the Pacific Highway and go past the turn off to the town of Port Macquarie, approximately 10 minutes further up the track you will cross over the Wilson River highway bridge. If you’re a keen bass or bream angler I would find a spot to turn around and head back! Once you have changed direction take your first right near the Telegraph Point Club and head down to check this sweet piece of water out, you won’t be disappointed. The facilities at this ramp are excellent. It has very easy access to the water, a clean toilet block, and plenty of room if you have the portable BBQ. The other bonus is you can start fishing the minute your yak leaves the ramp. Got your interest?
The Wilson River starts below Mount Banda Banda. It has an elevation of 554 metres and drops around 559 metres over its 69 kilometres of length. Glencoe Creek and Maria River are tributaries of the Wilson. The section we are going to concentrate on is the area around Telegraph Point down to the Maria arm. This can occupy a half-day or a full day bash in the yaks and still be close to the ramp if a counter lunch is required. The thing I love about this section of river is you can be on the water and catching bass within a few minutes. Like so many waterways, the Wilson really hots up in summer when the cicadas are in full swing. During big cicada seasons, like 2013, the noise is unbearable at times but when you are regularly pulling 20 to 30 prime bass in a session you learn to cope with the singing. If you have difficulty with the noise maybe try some ear plugs!
West of the road bridge is where we chase our bass during the warmer months. You will get them east of the bridge all the way to the Maria River early and later in the season, but you tend to get a lot more bream in this area in the heat of summer. The bream fishing alone can be sensational as the bream are also looking up for a feed of tasty cicadas.
Being pretty much my home base, I only carry a couple of outfits when I fish the Wilson. This season they consisted of two spin rods, one a 6’10 Loomis drop shot for putting lures hopefully under the hanging vegetation and the other is a 7ft Samaki Extreme 4 to 8lb. I find this second rod good for spinnerbaits and also doing some vibe fishing around the deeper bridge water. This blank casts like a demon and has a fair bit of stopping power on cranky bass. I use 1000 size reels, only because this is my preference, and the Stradic ci4’s are proving to be very suitable. Spooled with 6lb braid and 8lb leader they handle the job nicely. Of course there are a lot of suitable rods and reels that will also do the job with some fisho’s preferring baitcaster gear.
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Baitcasters are a good option, however, I tend to use lighter lures 90 percent of the time I fish this area, so my baitcasters are reserved for the bigger rivers like the Macleay where I use vibes or spinnerbaits.
The great advantage we have when kayaking the Wilson is that the bay to the west of the bridge leading to the railway line has a very shallow entrance. The big flashy boats do not like the rocky bottom here so this allows you to enter a fairly large bay, which receives little fishing pressure. Once in the bay the depth varies from two to three metres and has a host of bankside structure to cast at. Believe me, if the cicadas are singing you probably will not leave this area. A point to take note of is even though this bay has a shallow entrance we have come across quite a few bull sharks in there and a hooked bass is prime tucker for an aggressive bully! Like I say to my clients, “The fish we hook do not give 100 percent when we hook them probably because they are not as aware of what is going on, however they damn sure know what is happening when five foot of angry shark is chasing them and they tend to go up a gear.” When I fish this area my usual lures of choice are surface offerings and the cicada imitations are fine. My choice of lures are Austackles Inseckta and the Koolabung soft fizzer.
Both these lures have produced the goods for me on many occasions. Learn to have patience when your surface offering lands in close to structure. Do not be in a hurry to get it out of the strike zone as the fish are looking up and a motionless lure will still get smacked when a fish sees it. When the surface bite is shut down or a bit quiet, as can happen on those real hot bright days, then I will try chubby style lures slow rolled around the snags. My preferences are the Jackalls, Damiki DTSCO, and the Ecodas. All have great swimming actions and all are the rounder type lures. The trick to fishing this piece of water is casting accuracy if you put your lures in tight to the structure you will get results, so get practicing!
There are a couple of fairly deep sections in close proximity to each other. The bridge area is five to seven metres deep and the high bank travelling upstream from the ramp has depths of seven to nine metres. These spots produce bream, bass, jewfish and bull sharks. At times, close to the beginning of the spawning season, the bass gather at the highway bridge and at this time using vibration blades and soft vibes really works a treat. There are still anglers that struggle with vibration type lures, however, once you receive a few tips they are easy to use. Let’s look at a couple of retrieves that produce results.
The first tip is to start with a retrieve using a simple small double hop with a reasonable pause. It’s amazing how many times bream and bass pick these lures up while stationary. The second retrieve is the long lift incorporating a single long sweep of the rod bringing the lure up in the water column and then letting it fall back down. This is a good secondary technique to master and often the fish will take the lure on the drop. Once you have got a few fish this way your confidence will grow and these lures will become a big part of your estuary or river arsenal.
As well as vibes a soft plastic can do the trick and sometimes will do it better, however my preference is the vibes. This is probably due to the success I’ve had on them previously, hence I don’t use plastics as much but I am sure they produce fish. My love of the vibes comes from the fact they cast so well even in windy conditions and you can feel them working while you are fishing them. The fact so many fish find them irresistible may be another reason! My good mate Eddie from Koolabung made a clear polycarbonate vibe years ago to imitate the white bait. Called the X-ray Prawn it has proven deadly and in the last year Josh Lowry from Samaki has also come up with an outstanding soft vibe, the Vibelicious, and the 70mm white bait in that range is also a must have for this deeper water.
East of the bridge can be a whole lot of fun again casting to the edges with plenty of overhanging structure and also a reasonable depth of up to 3 metres. This depth continues until you get up to houses then it shallows off before you get to the Maria arm. The shallows produce some good flatties and is a great place to throw out a few minnow style lures and have a troll. We usually do this on our way back to the ramp and it is a great way to score a feed of tasty fillets. Along the shoreline heading back downstream to your right there is a small island and, although shallow at the entrance, once in behind it you can have some fun on the local bream. Here we cast shallow running lures and surface lures. In this area at the moment you will see a new road bridge being constructed. This will be a great thing when completed with some excellent new structure to fish. I am tipping it will be a bream and bass hotspot in seasons to come.
On a recent expedition with young kayak angler Zac Danby we managed to get bream, bass, and flathead using the already mentioned techniques. Zac was casting shallow divers while I used vibes, giving us a good idea of what was going on. The vibes tended to get the odd flattie while the divers accounted for bream and bass. It makes good sense to try different lures when in a new area as it should not take too long to see what is the referred offering on the day.
Over the past seasons I have fished this area it has been consistent for its summer yakking. It provides a great place to do a day trip with multiple species to target, all in close proximity to the launch site. If you are travelling to fish the Wilson it is probably wise to get an update on the water as this part of the system can take a fair while to clean up after any heavy rains or flood events. Whilst other parts of this system return to reasonable clarity quickly, the dirty water tends to get caught here for longer periods and this does slow the fishing down. That said, when it’s clean all you need is a few of your favourite lures, sunglasses, sunscreen, some drinks and food, and do not forget the camera for when you get that cracking bass or bream. I strongly suggest you put this on your list of destinations to yak. A very relaxing piece of water that will leave you wanting more and probably planning your next trip.