Situated approximately 600km from Perth lies Kalbarri, a Mecca for holiday makers and anglers alike. I am lucky enough to visit this wonderful place at least once or twice each year and have been doing so for the past 6 years. With so many great activities to enjoy I can understand why so many people visit Kalbarri each holiday break, but for me personally, I’m hooked on the fishing this place provides.For years it was always my goal to get myself a mulloway from the cliffs, this may sound simple enough but hooking a mulloway is only the start, trying to gaff one is the real challenge. I tried year after year to no avail until finally; around 2 years ago I hit the jackpot. I caught my first mulloway from the Kalbarri cliffs which weighed in at a perfect 9kg, no monster by any means but this was the start of an obsession which brings me back each year to better my previous fish. Since then I have practically caught a mulloway on each visit which goes to show that this species can be targeted successfully if you know where and how to fish for them. I will now share with you a few of my favourite locations in Kalbarri to chase mulloway and I hope this small guide will help with your success in getting your first Kalbarri croaker.
I will begin with fishing the Kalbarri cliffs; I cannot emphasize on how important your safety is and would strongly recommend going with someone with ample rock fishing experience. You will need good rock fishing shoes and cliff or flying gaff if you want any chance of bringing one up over 3kg. The tackle I use is pretty much the heaviest I can get away with and wouldn’t recommend anything less than 50lb braid with a 8 wrap 12ft rod and a reliable spinning reel to handle heavy loads or if your comfortable with them, an Alvey. Casting distance is not generally an issue but you definitely want strength to stop fish busting you off on the hundreds of sharp bombies that line the ocean floor. The best times to target them is early to mid morning, by midday in most cases it’s generally blowing a gale and can become extremely dangerous to fish the cliffs.
The most important thing to start with is burley; basically this is essential for whatever location you intend to fish. Don’t be afraid to be generous with the burley as mulloway are greedy fish and will fill themselves up until they explode if given the opportunity! I use a simple paternoster type rig with only one loop or single trace coming from a 3 way swivel. I always make sure that the star sinker (4/5 oz) is always on the bottom and the leader containing the 4 x 3/0 ganged hooks always sits above the sinker. The reason for this is that there is less chance for the cliff gaff to snag on the sinker which can happen quite often. The leader material I use is Jinkai 80lb which has enough abrasion resistance most of the time to keep the fish on to be gaffed if rubbing on the rocks. When it comes to bait I have had most success with the humble old mulie but will often cut a fillet of tailor and use this when available and would strongly suggest this especially when targeting mulloway. The problem is you have to catch some tailor first so it’s not always an available option.
I certainly wouldn’t be complaining if I caught a couple of those as a by-catch! After you have caught a few off the cliffs you will know when you’re hooked up to one as they will go for one or two scorching runs then slowly rise to the surface and then its just a matter of gaffing them which is the hard part. I can’t really give any advice on the best way to gaff from the cliffs using a flying gaff as each situation is different and presents new challenges. All I can say is be calm and work as a team instructing the rod holder when to lift the fishes head or where to guide the fish. Having said all that, a lot of luck is involved too but when you finally get the fish to the top, you will be hooked just like me.
The next spot is quite well known to regular visitors to Kalbarri and often the place where anglers have been rewarded with their first mulloway. I’m talking about Chinamans Beach which is based right at the mouth of the Murchison River. It makes sense as to why a lot of mulloway are caught here each year as the mulloway need to enter this area to gain access to the many bait schools that inhabit the river system. Once full they leave this same area to get back to the ocean. This spot is extremely accessible and safe to fish from for the whole family. I would recommend fishing as close to the river mouth as possible as this is where most of the action seems to be. This by no means suggests that they can’t be found down river as many are caught there as well but that’s a whole other article in itself. The best time by far seems to be dusk and well into the night. A suitable outfit would be again a 12ft rod with a reliable spinning reel but only really needing 30lb braid as there’s not too much structure to get busted off on unless you are fishing right up against the reef. The rig I use is a common surf rig used to chase tailor which consists of a leader of about 40cm (80lb Jinkai) down to 4 x 3/0 gangs. The sinker I use at the top of the rig which in most cases is a 3 or 4 oz. star sinker. Snelled hooks are also a good option, especially if live baiting. When it comes to bait in this location you can always rely on mulies, the problem is that this place has recently become over run with hundred of small tarwhine which annihilate most baits within seconds. I have found by using a fresh strip of tailor or mullet will often keep the bait available long enough for a mulloway to potentially take the bait. If worst comes to worst then the only option will be to live bait a whiting which can be easily caught in the same location or at the sand spit a few hundred meters away during the day. A simple aerator in an esky should keep them alive long enough to be used as live bait during the night. Many good fish have been caught from Chinamans and can only recommend putting in the hours and I’m sure it will pay off.
Last but not least we have Frustration Reef. You will need to hire or bring your own dinghy to get across the river which is only a hundred or so meters wide or less in some locations. This has been a hotspot for many years and accounts for a large number of mulloway caught each year from Kalbarri. Seeing you will be surf fishing for these mulloway I would strongly suggest fishing the very early mornings or late afternoons and well into the night at this location. If the wind is blowing, then stay in bed as you will have to work twice as hard to get any fish and most likely encounter sand blasts which are less than enjoyable while fishing. You can either fish on top of the reef if the wind and swell permit or walk north and find a break in the reef and fish from the sand, fishing the later option I strongly recommend. Fishing the top of the reef can be very dangerous even at the best of times. Quality surf fishing tackle is required to fish here and I would recommend a 14ft rod and quality long cast spinning reel loaded with 50lb braid or mono.
It’s important to get out as far as possible behind the breakers for the best chance of success. Some monster fish have been landed here along with sharks which are a common by-catch so it’s best to be safe than sorry and use 100lb leader for all your rigs. I would recommend using the same rig as mentioned for fishing Chinamans as it’s simple to make and does the job well. When it comes to bait, most fish I have seen caught have been on mulies but I wouldn’t go past using a fresh strip of tailor if available. When fishing this location at night always keep a close eye on your bait otherwise the foxes will make a meal of it in no time.
I hope this article has given you a place to start when chasing mulloway in Kalbarri. It is always difficult to try and target a certain fish species in any area, but if you stick to well known haunts and fish the right times and tides that suit that species there’s always going to be a good chance you will get what you are after. Put in the hours and you will be rewarded and always check with Dean at the local tackle shop in Kalbarri as to where they have been biting as you can’t go past local knowledge.