Storming towards Christmas
  |  First Published: November 2010

We’re storming our way on to Christmas now – literally.

Typical November-December weather brings calm mornings followed by brisk north-easterlies blowing into the storm clouds that build up over the hinterlands before rolling coastward by mid to late afternoon.

It makes a lot of sense to get out there and do your thing early in the day, before things get too hot, the glare becomes too dominating and the weather takes a turn for the worse.

After a fairly slow, cool and atypically moist start to Spring, the land is finally starting to warm up, with the air over the vast river flats and foothills of the ranges rising to well over 30° as the sun heats it.

The ocean, meanwhile, is lucky to be 21° or 22°, so the cooler, moisture-laden air there rolls in under the rising land air and, voilà, a sea breeze. The rising land air sucks this moisture up thousands of metres into huge towers of cloud, the water vapour condensing into huge drops and maybe even ice crystals.

Sometimes those crystals become up to tennis ball-sized hailstones and these November storms can start to rotate and even join together to become very nasty systems indeed. I watched on the BOM weather radar in 2006 as three storms started to rotate around each other and joined over Maclean, smashing the place to bits. Supercells, microbursts and even tornados (one messed up Dunoon village, near Lismore in 2009) are all on the cards on November afternoons.

Geography and climate blend to make north-eastern NSW one of the most storm-prone regions in the country. We even export our best across the border to hammer Brisbane and SEQ.

So it’s more than a little unwise to be standing out on a wide expanse of sand flat or beach, or floating around on an estuary, holding a few metres of graphite electrical conductor up towards the sky as an evil thunderstorm looms down!

It’s common knowledge that many fish sense the dropping barometer and feed up big as the storm approaches but if there’s the slightest risk of being fried or blown to kingdom come, no amount of fish is worth it.

Bass are frequently eager biters as a storm approaches. Insects, especially termites, hatch out and ride the storm vast distances to populate new territory but frequently end up in a fish’s belly.

The bass are working their way into their freshwater homes upstream of Casino and Lismore and are increasingly dining on beetles, spiders, termites and larvae. The freshwater herring are also doing the same and some of the larger bass will be dining on these baitfish, too.


Back down on the lower rivers, the flathead are in peak spawning mode with bunches of little males gathered around bigger, egg-laden females.

Many of these fish will be up on the flats early and late in the day to soak up the sun and ambush baitfish on the high tide. They’ll retire to the edges of the channels and flats and at the bases of the rock walls when the sun is higher and the tide gathers pace.

School jewfish are also likely candidates this month. There have been fair numbers of smaller soapies thus far this season but my records indicate that the best estuary fish seem to come this month and next, with fish around 85cm and 6kg about the average on 6” soft plastics during the day.

Drop down a live herring, mullet or legal tailor after dark from Burns Point to Wardell and you could be in with a chance at a better fish.

Until the Autumn equinox in March, the morning high tides start to get too big and out of control for lure fishing in the muddy Richmond around the full and new moon. The water turns quite turbid on the upper half of the tide and the fish seem to avoid it.

That’s apart from the whiting. They seem to relish the bigger tides and the strong run, maybe because it’s easier to burrow and grub into the soft bottom for worms and crustaceans.

Bloodworms anchored on the bottom in about 4m of water around Pimlico to Burns Point will produce elbow-slapper whiting on those spring tides. After dark, live bloodworms (or live prawns if you can catch any) are dynamite in the shallows in the main river and in North Creek at Ballina and in the extensive shallows of the Evans River.

Poppers seem to work better for the whiting on the smaller, neap tides and there’ll be the inevitable by-catch of bream and flathead.

The real heart-stoppers on the poppers, though, are the trevally. A mixture of big-eyes (white tips to the dorsal fins) and juvenile GTs up to about 3kg can really get cracking in the lower estuaries this month.

You’ll catch them on those whiting/bream poppers but the best tactic is to throw metal slugs up to 50mm long and crank them like crazy.


Ken and Kim Fitzgibbon at Ballina Marineland have secured a dealership for Australia’s most widely acclaimed and biggest range of aluminium boats, Quintrex. They’ll still be selling Honda and Evinrude outboards and will also be capable of supplying Quintrex’s Instant Boating packages with Mariner engines.

There’ll be close to 20 boats coming as floor stock with a appropriately local mix of Explorers and other small tinnies along with Freedom Sport bow riders, Hornet and Top Ender fishing machines and the ever-popular 420 Dories. Ballina Marineland also stocks Redco trailers, electronics from Lowrance, GME and Humminbird and Minn Kota electric motors as well as a great range of chandlery including all the goodies from the Bargain Boat Bits catalogues.

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