With Easter this year falling very late, there’s every chance there could be some exceptional fishing over the holiday break.
The days are now growing shorter than the nights, triggering many fish to feed up big in preparation for spawning and migration, yet the water offshore and in the rivers should still be warm enough to keep a wide variety of fish active.
Apart from a few days here and there, we’re still waiting for a decent chance at the mackerel and this could be our time.
Freshes and upwellings have messed up the water quality from Cape Byron south and the bait schools have been conspicuously absent for the majority of the season.
I can’t remember a season when the normally prolific slimy mackerel schools were a complete no-show and now everyone is pinning their hopes on the autumn run that normally hugs the shore and sits in the sheltered bays in between southerly changes.
The upwellings usually provide plenty of nutrients to kick-start the baitfish pyramid, and the runoff from local freshes and floods to the north should mean a good starting base.
Some schools of whitebait and frogmouth pilchards are starting to form but they’ve mostly been offshore in about 30m to 40m.
That’s been good news for the snapper and teraglin, which have been the back-up fishery offshore, and there have been some quality catches of both.
But with mackerel to the north and south of the region, everyone is hanging for some consistent action on the spots and Spanish.
The same murky inshore water lacking in bait schools has made the surf fishing from the beaches, walls and headlands pretty one-dimensional, too.
Tailor have been hanging wide and mostly deep with choppers to a kilo or so mixing with the trag on the inshore grounds because there’s nothing much to eat in the khaki-coloured surf.
Whiting, flathead, bream and stingrays are the main attractions in the surf but I can’t help thinking that as soon as the water clears the whole shore food chain will step up a notch.
The rivers have benefited from a month or more without heavy rain. The unexpected respite has brought clearing conditions in the Richmond, Evans and Brunswick rivers.
However, a heavy downpour and at least one day’s awful weather is part of a typical Easter and you can bet it will happen again.
Because Easter is so late, we’ll also be just about due for the first westerly winds of the Winter ahead, so often part of the weather around Anzac Day.
And when the westerlies begin to blow, the mullet start to run to sea and the bream head down to the river entrances for their spawning and migration.
Hard-gut mullet were abundant in the surf all Summer – unless the beach netters from the Tweed came down and hammered them – but the numbers of bigger predators were disappointing.
There were a few jewfish from 6-26kg caught from time to time but the main predators were the whaler sharks. They raised hell with the mullet, especially after dark.
The river at Ballina provided some rewarding sessions on bait and lures, with flathead almost prolific at times, until one remembered that normally all these fish would be spread out along miles of river.
Unless we get some significant rain in the meantime, the Richmond should fish well to Wardell and possibly even to Broadwater for flathead, bream and school jewfish.
The pro prawners have been working as far up as Pimlico and the crabbers to Wardell so given no big rain, there should be life in plenty of the Richmond by Easter.
While we didn’t get much of a spring-summer bass season, if the rain keeps away we could well find some sweetwater thrills yet. All the freshwater sections have experienced fantastic flows all season so the bass should have been able to travel and feed at will.
The authorities have issued an alert over a recent blue-green algae outbreak at Toonumbar Dam.
That shouldn’t stop you from wetting a line there, though – some of my best sessions there have come when there’s been a film of algae all over the surface.
Fish in it by all means, just don’t swim in it and even avoid stepping in it, that stuff doesn’t half itch.
Don’t forget that authorities are likely to be about in numbers over the Easter break, although you’d be lucky to see a Fisheries inspector in these parts –they’re unfortunately a rare commodity due to generations of government cutbacks.
Interstate visitors would still do well to purchase a fishing licence because there’s always even a remote chance of getting busted.
It’s also worth remembering that if you are licensed and do encounter an inspector and can’t produce your fishing licence when requested, there’s a $75 on-the-spot fine and no grace period to present it at a Fisheries office.
That tricky move was introduced last year and has turned a handsome dollar already. However, I’ve been told the fines go to consolidated revenue rather than to the Fisheries department.Reads: 971