Fish on the move
  |  First Published: December 2010

‘BC’ and ‘AC’ conditions apply to the fishing tactics this month – Before Christmas and After Christmas.

BC fishing is laid-back, interesting and holds the promise of the Summer ahead, while AC, one has to form strategies or make concessions to deal with the holiday crowds.

Both sets of conditions can certainly have their moments.

BC, it’s all about the water, the weather and fish on the move. The current out wide should be churning and blue from the north, with tropical game fish like mahi mahi, black marlin, wahoo and striped tuna.

If southerly winds predominate, the blue water will be in close; if the north-easters howl, inshore waters will likely remain cool, green and murky. However, there’ll still be teraglin and jewfish on the more prominent reefs, especially on the build-up to the new and full moon, along with a smattering of snapper.

We’ve had unseasonable rain all Winter and Spring so it’s difficult to think things are gong to change now.

Evans Head was pelted with 394mm of rain in October with 223mm falling on just one day, while Ballina got 317mm for the month. Weeks later, there was still a dark plume churning out of the Richmond mouth on every ebb tide and the surf on beaches from Broken Head down to Evans Head remained murky.

We need either a mini-drought or a strong push of current to clear things up.

An initial pulse of spotted and maybe Spanish mackerel is a faint possibility in late November and again just before Christmas if the clean, warm water moves in with early baitfish. Sea gar will mean Spaniards and white pilchards will attract the spotties.


Regardless of ocean temps, the estuaries will have warmed enough for mangrove jacks to be active, along with increasingly mobile packs of giant and big-eye trevally.

The estuary systems are just starting to establish themselves after the rain, with clear ocean water not getting much past the first mile or so of the rivers. Upstream, it’s still chocolate on top but there could well be a slug of salt water underneath harbouring bream, school jew and flathead.

If you see pro prawn haulers or river netters active, even in murky water, there’s a fair chance your lures and bait will work in the same locations.

Some of the best BC fishing is for those jacks, which should become quite active early this month as the daytime temperatures finally get above 30° and kick up the water temps. Work the rock bars and rock walls with hard or soft lures at sunrise or sunset and you’re in with a chance; put out a live prawn, herring or poddy mullet and you’re as close to a sure thing as you can be in fishing.

During the brighter parts of the day, look for water out of the main run that provides shade, such as rock overhangs, sunken timber or even the shadows of buildings. Baitfish will gather there and the predators will be nearby.


After Christmas, if you still want to have your chosen spot to yourself, it’s a matter of getting up before the sun rises or heading out just as it’s setting.

Provided you’re set up for it, low-light fishing over Summer can be dynamite. Many fish venture into quite shallow water under cover of darkness, casting off their inhibitions and feeding hungrily over shallow flats that would be barren during a sunny day.

Those fishing from the bank at night must guard against sandflies and especially mosquitoes. Ross River and other nasty viruses are common in this region, especially in a wet season such as this, and can ruin a year or more of your life.

An inexpensive head light and a more powerful torch are necessities but don’t shine any light into the water, you will spook the fish. You need good footwear, too – local snakes like death adders, roughscales and even browns are nocturnal over Summer.

Remember, the new laws require everyone in a boat under 4.8m long at night to wear lifejackets, and kids under 12 must wear them day and night.

Correct navigation lights should be displayed, too, with the red and green side lights and all-round white light illuminated when motoring along or drifting, and the all-round white light lit when at anchor. The lights are particularly important when there’s high traffic on the waterways – be seen and stay alive.


Whether you fish the rivers or the beaches, if recent catches are any indication it’s going to be a great whiting season.

Fish of 30cm to 40cm have been common off the beaches, where live beach worms have been the gun bait. The small fish, and those pesky little dart, will bite all through the day but the elbow-slapper whiting are best at first and last light.

In the rivers, live beach worms, squirt worms, bloodworms and even the freeze-dried Dynabait worms will do the job, with the best whiting action during the stronger tidal run.

In the deeper water blade lures will also work, while the poppers and walkers also score well when the rivers are reasonably clear.

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