Some trepidation
  |  First Published: February 2011

I normally consider February a ‘heaven-or-hell’ month and, given the weather of recent times, I’m approaching this one with more than the usual trepidation.

The raincoats are ready on the hooks by the door, there’s a spare in the car and others in the shed and the boat locker. The roof gutters are free of leaves and the drains in the yard are all cleared and functioning well in preparation for the following four months, the traditional flood season in these parts.

Mind you, we nearly had a major Christmas flood and the water table is now just below (or slightly above!) the ground and it won’t take much rain to produce a big brown monster.

In the meantime, the spring high tides push some ocean water into the lower rivers and the fish tentatively come back in for a while, but they mostly don’t venture too far upstream.

That bodes well if there is a big flood – there won’t be many fish to kill in the rivers when that black water behind the floodgates pours out, because they’ll mostly be able to escape to the nearby ocean.

That’s unless they start heading into the river again and the black water comes down and cuts them off – that happened in January 2008 when the Ballina council scooped up 20 tonnes of stinking carcases and at least five times more were swept to sea.


The best thing about the current situation is, indeed, the current.

There’s plenty of warm water just offshore and enough pelagics around to add some entertainment and colour to offshore catches whenever the bars are negotiable.

For a change, the spotted mackerel arrived in Shark Bay down at Woody Head right on their appointed date, the December full moon, and there have also been enough Spanish mackerel around to get the live-bait trollers twitchy.

If the rain stays away, the mackerel will only get better, especially if we see a few more schools of white pilchards and small slimy mackerel show up. On the other hand, if the ocean turns to chocolate with a big flood, the macks will move on to clearer pastures.

The closer reefs have been fishing well, with snapper to 8kg quite regular catches among the rather plentiful smaller reds. Teraglin, school jewfish and more than an occasional cobia have also added a bit of variety to the fish boxes.

Out wider there’s the promise of billfish, mahi mahi and tuna on the surface and pearl perch, amberjack and big kings down deep.


When there’s been a lot of fresh coming out of the rivers, the bars have been a bit dodgy and there’s been the occasional tree wandering around offshore – worth avoiding!

The beaches close to the river entrances have accommodated many of the river inhabitants at times, with bream, flathead, jewfish and whiting in healthy numbers. Farther from the rivers, dart and whiting have been quite reasonable and shovelnose sharks have been abundant.

Thanks to the murky water close to shore, tailor haven’t been as common as they could be from the beaches and headlands.

The breakwalls have seen plenty of action over the holidays and no doubt will fire up whenever a fresh peak flows through, with jewfish of all sizes and bream the major attractions.

Believe it or not, there was a week or two without rain and the Wilsons River system cleared up enough to allow a couple of sessions on the bass, with a few reasonable fish caught.

Toonumbar Dam went off big-time for topwater bass but then a huge amount of rain fell in that area, although not many fish would have gone over the spillway this time around.

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